Jeni Assandey (29) works in dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing. She is Miss Bikini Ire­land and has de­grees in Span­ish and French, Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional busi­ness. Born in the Ivory Coast, she moved to Ire­land when she was 16. She lives in Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - WAKING HOURS - In con­ver­sa­tion with Ciara Dwyer

My day starts at 6am. Four days a week, I go to the gym. I live in Grand Canal Dock and the gym is right across from me. In the morn­ings, I think, ‘Come on, just do it’. For me, it’s all about men­tal strength. That’s the key thing.

I live with a good friend, Sarah. She is French. In the apart­ment, we speak French all the time. I was born in the Ivory Coast, and I lived there un­til I was 16. My mam is from west Cork. She went to work as a mid­wife on the Ivory Coast with her sis­ter, and that’s where she met my dad. If I can get a hus­band like my dad, I’d be sorted. I’ll have to go to Cop­pers or some­where. I’m ex­tremely am­bi­tious. Any­thing I do, I do 100pc. I think that’s why I’m sin­gle. I just get re­ally in­tense about ev­ery­thing.

In the gym, I train on my own. I do a lot of car­dio be­cause I like to keep slim on my abs, and then I do some weights. The gym is open 24 hours. There have been times when I’ve gone at 11pm. It’s so handy. When I work out, I’m so fo­cussed that I don’t even see guys. Usu­ally, I don’t check them out, but there’s a cute guy there, and he can def­i­nitely call me. The gym is my haven. Go­ing there has helped me get through some bumpy times. When I come out, I al­ways feel so much bet­ter and so much stronger. I’ve been work­ing out for years, long be­fore I won Miss Bikini Ire­land.

Af­ter the gym, I have a juice with car­rot, gin­ger, cu­cum­ber and car­rot. I make it my­self. I check my emails be­cause, be­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing, you’re on call 24/7. Then I have a shower and get ready. I walk into work in the city cen­tre. I work in dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing. I re­ally en­joy it, es­pe­cially the chal­lenges that come with it. I deal a lot with cod­ing and Java and video pull­downs. It’s al­ways mov­ing and you’re con­stantly push­ing your­self. I love it.

When I get into work, I’ll have another break­fast. I eat ev­ery three hours. I love my food. A lot of mod­els starve them­selves, but that’s not the way to go. I en­joy my food, and I have a cheat day ev­ery week. My favourite thing right now is ke­bab pizza. It’s di­vine. I work Mon­day to Fri­day, 9am to 5pm.

At lunchtime, I of­ten go for a Chi­nese les­son. There is a school just around the cor­ner from work. It’s a one-to-one class, and I do two hours a week. I have a de­gree in Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional busi­ness. I want to keep up my Chi­nese. I lived in Asia for two years, and I loved it. But I came back to Ire­land when my dad had a stroke. I just wanted to be at home. He’s much bet­ter now, thank god.

Lan­guages are so im­por­tant to me. I think they come eas­ily to me be­cause I grew up bilin­gual — French and English. My first de­gree was in French and Span­ish. I have a Span­ish friend and we speak a lot in Span­ish. At the mo­ment, I’m not us­ing my lan­guages as much I’d like to, but I know that I will, some day. They are part of my skill set. I lived in Barcelona for a year. While there, I did a lit­tle bit of mod­el­ling for the first time. I’d al­ways wanted to try it.

Peo­ple don’t re­alise that you have to be so strong to be a model. It’s not just about looks. It’s about know­ing ex­actly what you want, and be­ing able to take it when peo­ple say things against you. You are au­di­tion­ing all the time for work, and to cope with that, you have to have great men­tal strength. When I was on hol­i­days in Mex­ico, a guy came up to me and of­fered to take some pho­tos. They turned out re­ally well. I don’t know if it was be­cause of the sun or the beach, but they were re­ally good shots. I put them on my In­sta­gram page and Miss Bikini Ire­land started fol­low­ing me. To be hon­est, up un­til then, I didn’t even know that the com­pe­ti­tion ex­isted. I en­tered it, and three months later, I won.

The weird thing is that I had never posted a pic­ture of my­self in a bikini be­fore. But it’s not just about be­ing in a bikini. It’s so much deeper than that. It rep­re­sents all the work I’ve done on my­self from the in­side-out. I’m stand­ing here, say­ing, ‘Here I am, this fierce woman, stand­ing tall’. I’ve been through so much, but here I am. It takes a cer­tain cal­i­bre to do that, be­cause you can’t hide any­thing. In the com­pe­ti­tion, there were a lot of 18-year-olds, but I’m 29. I want to be a role model for other women. It’s not too late to do any­thing.

So many of my friends give up. When they hit 29, they set­tle and they grab any guy. I’ve been sin­gle for three years, and I’m proud of that. I was see­ing a guy, but it wasn’t go­ing smoothly. I couldn’t af­ford any emo­tional dis­tress, so I had to lose him. I have shit to do, and I can’t be emo­tion­ally dis­traught from a guy. You have to pro­tect your em­pire.

Af­ter work, I might do a pho­to­shoot. At week­ends, I’ll go out with my friends and just let loose. I love to dance. I could have fun in the mid­dle of a field. It’s a relief that I don’t go on Tin­der [the dat­ing app] any more. I’m still dat­ing and meet­ing nice guys, but it’s hap­pen­ing nat­u­rally. Right now, I’m so busy en­joy­ing all the op­por­tu­ni­ties which have come from Miss Bikini Ire­land. I’m just back from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic as part of the com­pe­ti­tion.

I try to be in bed by 10.30pm. I love read­ing. My favourite book is

by Paulo Coelho. I be­lieve in God, but I’m not re­li­gious. I don’t be­lieve in rules and reg­u­la­tions, but I be­lieve in love and lov­ing peo­ple and giv­ing pos­i­tiv­ity. I used to read more, but now so­cial me­dia takes up a lot of my time. Since I won the com­pe­ti­tion, I have a fan base, so I put up pho­tos on In­sta­gram, to keep them up to date. You’re show­ing a piece of your life.

Be­fore I go to bed, I wash my face and put on Creme de la Mer. Some­one once told me, ‘Don’t waste money on clothes — fo­cus on your skin, be­cause you’ll wear that forever.’ Maybe that’s why I don’t have wrin­kles.

Grat­i­tude is a big thing for me. As I go to sleep, I thank God for my life. I’m very happy. And I’m so grate­ful for all the op­por­tu­ni­ties from Miss Bikini Ire­land. It’s so much more than a com­pe­ti­tion.

It wasn’t go­ing smoothly, so I had to lose him. I can’t be emo­tion­ally dis­traught from a guy. I’ve got sh*t to do

Al­chemist See je­ni­as­ The

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