After scooping the coveted Mr Birmingham title, Streetly teacher Andrew Stylianou is hoping to use his reign to put the second city – and his Sutton Coldfield home – on the map. Amy Norbury met up with the city ambassador to find out more about his hopes for the role
When competitions like Mr and Miss England come to mind, you may be fooled into thinking they’re nothing deeper than simple beauty pageants. But, insists the new Mr Birmingham Andrew Stylianou, it’s goes much further.
“I think there’s a real misconception around contests like Mr and Miss Birmingham,” says the 24-year-old teacher, from Streetly. “A lot of people think it’s just a pageant and it’s just about modelling but it can be so much more.
“The key part of being Mr Birmingham for me is to be an ambassador, both for the town of Sutton Coldfield, which is my heritage, and for the city of Birmingham itself, putting it back on the map for all the right reasons.
“Standing as an ambassador for the city is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I think the title helps that little bit more. People see that I’m Mr Birmingham and I’m trying to make a positive difference, so they’re taking what I’m trying to do a bit more seriously.”
Victory at the Mr and Miss Birmingham contest meant that Andrew went onto the Mr England final, which was held at Birmingham’s Resorts World in July.
Andrew is clearly so much more than a pretty face. As a head of year at a Birmingham secondary school, he spends his days teaching and managing the day-to-day routines of hundreds of pupils.
“I’ve just seen a tough cohort of Year 11s through their GCSE year; it’s been tough so next year I’m taking on the current Year 9s going into Year 10,” he says.
“Because I started at the school in September, it was hard to eliminate some of the issues students have had over the past four years. Picking up students who’ve had bad habits for four years is hard, and you’ve only got a year to work with them. I’ve nipped things in the bud for some of them, and really turned it around for a few of them, and it’s nice going home knowing you’ve made a difference to those kids’ lives.
“I’ve already started with the Year 9s, getting in there early with them. I’ve had an assembly with them and I’ve been in their exams this week so they know I’m there and they’re learning fast that I mean business!”
Andrew decided to enter the Mr Birmingham contest after his friend, Josh Williams, scooped the title previously. Seeing first hand what the role involved inspired Andrew to give it a go.
“I’d never heard of it before, but I saw the sort of opportunities Josh was getting, and also what he was giving to the city, and it excited me,” he says. “Josh said himself that it came with the title; people took you a bit more seriously and saw you as someone who can make a difference, and that’s how I want to be viewed over the next couple of years.
“I want my plans to be actions and not just words. That’s the thing with me, I’m not just a talker; if I say I want to do something then I’ll do my very best to go do it.”
The competition involved an array of different elements, from the ubiquitous catwalk to social media promotion, charity work, sport and more. And Andrew excelled at each stage.
“I actually walked away with three out of the four titles before the Mr Birmingham title itself, which was just great,” he says.
Andrew was, in fact, named Mr Charity, Mr Popularity and Mr Modelesque.
“I certainly didn’t expect to walk away with all three,” he says. “It was exciting, and it was a great contest to be a part of, but I don’t want people to have that misconception that it’s just about modelling.”
Although he is no stranger to modelling, having done work in the past – in fact, none other than American supermodel and founder of America’s Next Top Model Tyra Banks endorsed his modelling career on Instagram – Andrew is keen not to focus on that side.
“Modelling is almost like a past life for me,” Andrew says. “I did a bit in the run-up to Mr Birmingham, and before the Mr England finals, to promote it which was good, but it’s not really the thing I enjoy most. I really love public speaking and presenting; I do presenting work for I Am Birmingham and I present at Birmingham Pride.”
In fact, his public speaking experience was called into action in his first, heartbreaking, duty as Mr Birmingham; addressing a candlelit vigil in the city’s Victoria Square in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing.
“It was pretty tough; I was new to the role and it was overwhelming under the circumstances to stand in front of that crowd and give my opinion, but it was an honour to speak at the vigil,” he says. “
Andrew wants to use his Mr Birmingham credentials to get even more involved in charity work, both locally and further afield.
“My first big event was called Endeavour, and it’s about endeavouring to make a difference,” he says. “It’s centering around awareness of suicide prevention, homelessness, mental health and helping children worldwide, and we’re raising money for three charities.”
The event, which took place on July 29 at the Quantum Exhibition Centre in Digbeth, featured a whole host of singers and guest speakers, including last year’s X Factor finalist George Windsor, and was endorsed by West Midlands mayor Andy Street.
“We’re supporting Papyrus, which focuses on the prevention of suicide in young people; they’re a fantastic service and I think donating to charities like that is so important,” says Andrew.
“They go out into schools and raise awareness, delivering training to students and staff. Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the country and there’s such a stigma around suicide and mental health issues, but it affects one in three of us so that’s a huge amount of people who need support. If we can raise the profile of charities like Papyrus we can offer support via the internet and social media, as well as helping to ensure the funding is there.
“It’s harder to advise somebody who suffers with mental health issues; if someone comes to you and tells you they’ve thought about suicide but don’t want you to tell anyone then what do you do? That’s why Papyrus is so great, they give you the training on what to say, what to do and how to reassure people. And it comes under the safeguarding training I have to do working in education so the crossover for me is very important.”
Another charity close to Andrew’s heart is Nightlife Outreach, a growing Birmingham-based charity which focuses on mental health and homelessness.
“I did a homeless sleepout with one of their representatives a couple of months ago, which was a really humbling experience,” says Andrew. “Homelessness is a big problem in our city, and nationwide, and I want to do what I can to raise awareness.”
Beauty With a Purpose, which helps children worldwide and is the official charity of Mr and Miss England, is the third beneficiary of Andrew’s Endeavor event.
“It’s a great charity which helps children in poverty all over the world,” he says. “All of the money raised through the Mr and Miss England contest goes to worthwhile causes nationally, which is brilliant. It’s nice to know the money goes to something which makes a difference.”
Andrew’s hard work make the event a success, and he now plans on turning it into an annual fundraiser.
And he’s not planning on stopping there. Further charity events in the pipeline include speed dating nights and a football event. He’s also getting involved in community events, such as helping to give out medals at the recent Sutton Fun Run alongside Miss Birmingham Niamh Conway.
“I want to do as many charity events as possible, and I hope I can make Sutton Coldfield – and Birmingham – proud,” Andrew says.
“I really want to bring our city together, and get more people on board with making a difference.”