Plus-size beauty queen Madara helps to bring Latvia and Mansfield closer
East and west cultural links are 'mushrooming' thanks to the efforts of a larger-than-life international pageant-winning beauty queen from Mansfield.
Mum-of-two Madara Riley, 35, who is originally from Latvia, shot to fame after winning the Mrs Top of the World plus-size 2020 and Mrs Top of the World Media in the international contest Ms/Mrs Top of the World for the UK.
And since her big wins, she has been busy helping to educate eastern and western European online communities about life in Mansfield and the UK – while sharing tales of Latvian life with people here.
Madara, who champions mental health, autism and parenting, recently posted images of herself in full Latvian national costume to give an insight into life in her homeland.
“Everyone has seen me in the pageant standing proud for the UK, but I thought I it would be nice to show the Latvian costume too,” she said.
"After I won, an artist Vanessa Bandere, with blessings of Latvian community leaders, gifted me a hand-made national crown to show appreciation of connecting our people and cultures.
"I’ve been so busy since my reign started.
"Integration is the big thing for me. Mansfield is my home now, I am a true believer that you should integrate into where you live, take on the language, traditions and customs.
“Since I won, though, people are curious about where I am originally from, what we do, what we eat, what we wear. There’s been a lot of cultural exchange going on.
"It’s been amazing! I tell Latvian people about Mansfield, things like ‘eh up mi’ duck!’”
Madara has also enjoyed sharing tales of her Mansfield foraging adventures.
"It’s nice to put all the fancy gowns aside, jump into my joggers and go out mushroom and wild garlic hunting,” she said.
"It is something I grew up doing in Latvia. When I show Latvian people they are surprised at the varieties we can eat.
"I find Scarlet Elf Cups, St George’s, Morels and Chicken of the Woods. Wild garlic is also in abundance around Mansfield, yet in Latvia it’s a protected species.”
More recently, Madara’s voluntary work has seen her supporting eastern and western European and local families during the pandemic.
Together with the AK Noteikumi Anastasia’s Art of Life organisation – which supports Latvians living in Britain – she helps run a small food bank, handing out parcels of mainly eastern European food to around 15 families from Russia, Poland, Hungary and Romania.
Madara said: “The food comes from an eastern European deli in Birmingham. Often it’s the same food English people would know . . . cereal, pasta, flour, tinned goods or cottage cheese, it just has a foreign-looking label which can put people off, but it’s good food.
"Some are the more traditional foods that foreign or older English people might be familiar with, things like rolled herrings, but it is available to any family who needs food no matter where they are from."To win the crown for the UK has given me chance to speak out and do so many things I am passionate about and to help people.
“I am invited to do a lot of challenges, raise awareness, do speeches, participate in fundraisers, photo-shoots, interviews, blogs and I am very happy and proud to do that.”