There's a girl who works down the chip shop who swears she's Miss Wales

When Clare Daniel was crowned a beauty queen, she dreamed of TV appearances and glamorous parties. So why is she back behind a counter serving fish suppers?
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The signed photographs on the wall of a chip shop in a grey pebble-dash council estate in Swansea say it all. ''To all the customers at Eric's Penlan Fish Bar - best wishes and many thanks for your tremendous support, from Clare, Miss Wales 1999.'' The pictures reveal a young girl in a long blue satin dress, her eyes glowing satanically with photographer's "red-eye", and her hand cupped over her mouth in disbelief as she learns she has won the crown.

The signed photographs on the wall of a chip shop in a grey pebble-dash council estate in Swansea say it all. ''To all the customers at Eric's Penlan Fish Bar - best wishes and many thanks for your tremendous support, from Clare, Miss Wales 1999.'' The pictures reveal a young girl in a long blue satin dress, her eyes glowing satanically with photographer's "red-eye", and her hand cupped over her mouth in disbelief as she learns she has won the crown.

Understandably Clare Daniel, 21, thought she had seen the back of the estate when she slipped on the sash in August last year. But far from leading the glamorous life of a beauty queen and becoming a TV presenter as she dreamed, Clare is not only back in Swansea, but serving cod and chips to customers.

''I feel really let down. Last year's Miss Wales, Anna Bartley, co-hosted The Big Breakfast with Johnny Vaughan. And I know she done a lot up in North Wales,'' says Clare. Dressed in a track suit, she picks at a Tesco salad and flicks through a copy of Hello! magazine.

Today, she is having a break from the chippie, and is working at the grocer's next door. Both are owned by her parents, Sharon, 44, and Eric, 47. Her eyes are alien blue, the effect of tinted contact lenses, and her skin is the colour of a Boots foundation tester. She greets customers cheerfully and dispatches them with a sing-song "ta-ra". ''It's not a bad, bad area around here, but you get all the single mums, and things like that, they're all on the Social, and there are little kids running around. They're not a glamorous custom. They can do your head in at times,'' admits Clare, who lives with her parents in the decidedly posher nearby village of Penllergaer.

She entered the Miss Wales competition after hearing about it through a friend. ''I had a phone call the week before, telling me I had got into the last 24. I was so shocked my mother thought I had murdered someone I screamed so loud,'' says Clare.

''I was working at a car rental company at the time. It took the whole of the week to find a gown. It was lovely. It was strapless and right down to the floor, and it was like an electric blue satin. It was wild. I knew it was the one, it was fabulous,'' she beams. ''I borrowed the swimwear from my friend Lisa from Port Talbot. It was a plain black strapless bikini. I've never worn a bather, I just don't like them.''

At the competition, did she declare a desire to work with children and animals, and rid the world of poverty? ''Everyone says that. I planned to say something different from the beginning.'' Instead she talked about her ambition to be a cheerleader for the Welsh rugby team. ''It was something I'd love to do, as well as working on the airlines, and things like that, you know.''

Neither did she weep copiously on hearing that she had won - she left that to her father. ''They made me walk to the front of the stage and my mum was standing there screaming: 'My baby! My baby!' My dad was practically in tears on the mobile. I was in a daze for about five days. It was the best day of my life. My mum still says it was the best day of her life.''

Mark Darlington, of North Wales-based Event Management Europe, which put on the Miss Wales competition, was to be her manager for the year. Clare presumed she would have to leave her job in order to fulfil her duties as Miss Wales, but she had so little work she didn't need to. In July, with her father suffering from exhaustion, she decided to leave the car rental firm and help him out in the chip shop.

''I met Miss Northern Ireland at Miss United Kingdom, and she was doing a law degree and she had to leave it for a year because she was doing four to five jobs a day, being paid God knows how much for each one. She was chaperoned and looked after all the time. I thought it must be like that in Wales, but it's not.

''In the programme it said Miss Wales would win 12 months' exclusive management. But Mark Darlington, my agent, didn't contact me after the first couple of months, and I've been without an agent since probably November of last year. All I had was a week's work in all the shops in North Wales, which is something that Miss Wales does every year anyway.''

There has been some charity work in Swansea, which Clare has had to arrange herself. ''I've had to take time off work, and not been paid for anything, which I don't mind because I'm doing it for my title and country, but it's annoying.'' Neither has she received the £300 worth of make-up which was part of her prize. During her reign, which comes to an end this month, she has amassed credit card bills of almost £3,000. ''There were things I had to have for Miss World and Miss United Kingdom. The dresses are £300 a piece. And there was make-up,'' she says.

How does she feel about working in her dad's chippie? ''It's all right. I know everyone around here and the support I've had from these people has been absolutely amazing. When I was up in London I had huge bouquets of flowers sent to me from the people around here. It was fabulous. But I would have preferred to have been a proper Miss Wales and had an agent, and gone really far and used this as a stepping stone to perhaps break out into radio or TV.

''It's not that I think: 'I'm Miss Wales and I shouldn't be here'. I'm here to help because my dad's ill and I don't care what people think. As long as my dad gets better I'll stay here as long as it takes.''

Nor will she be mincing her words when she crowns the next Miss Wales at the end of this month. ''I have to give a speech about my year. I'm going to say the truth. I'm going to tell them if you get good management you will do well. But I just see it as a complete wasted opportunity. I hope the future Miss Wales can make my dream come true.''

It's a Tuesday evening and the shop is doing a roaring trade in cans of lager, cigarette papers and Lambrini Bianco at £1.31 a bottle. ''She got to do things to make ends meet, innit?'' says one understanding customer with teeth to rival Shane MacGowan's. ''I've known Clare all my life, it doesn't surprise me to see Clare anywhere. I'm not giving you my surname. The only time my family's name is in the paper is when they're in court.''

But her aunt, Kay Andrevics, 45, who also works in the chippie, and who was pelted with eggs and flour by protesters when she went to watch her niece at Miss World in November, is less than happy that she is back. ''I think it's disgusting that she's got to come in to work with us. It's not right that a beauty queen should be working in a chip shop. I'd rather see her on the TV or radio. What's the point of her looking like she does and working in a chippie? Her talents are too good for the fish and chip shop. Everyone is asking why she's back. They wouldn't do it to the English would they?''

Agent Mark Darlington is less enthusiastic about Clare's wasted talents. ''As franchise holder for the Miss Wales competition, I endeavoured to promote each Miss Wales to my existing contacts and new ones. The truth is that I cannot force people to book anyone, and if the individual girl does not have the look, style or attitude that the client wants they simply will not book her. The title of Miss Wales does not automatically bring modelling contracts and TV presenting roles as maybe Clare believes, the looks and talent have to be there already.''

A spokesman for Miss World, which is organising this year's Miss Wales, said: ''We would like to emphasis that Mark Darlington of Event Management Europe is not connected to the Miss World Organisation and will be having nothing to do with the Miss Wales event, or the year of Miss Wales 2000.''

In the meantime, the nearest Clare will get to a life of glamour is the well-thumbed copy of Hello! she keeps under the counter, and brushes with stardom on offer locally. ''Melinda Messenger's boyfriend, Wayne Roberts, he used to live in the same place where I live. And he used to be really good friends with my fiancé,'' she says, her blue eyes growing wider at the very thought.

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