Ashley Mackenzie-White, 28, from Dunedin in New Zealand, who chairs the New Zealand Rose of Tralee organising committee, is due to jet in to Ireland this week with New Zealand Rose, Lisa Bazalo, for next week’s Rose of Tralee International Festival.
However, Ashley herself will be focusing on the Irish Redhead Convention in Co Cork, later this month.
“I am going to Ireland to take out the title of Queen of the Redheads,” Ashley joked.
Bullied at school for having red hair, she dyed it because she thought it was ugly. “It doesn’t hurt now because I am really fierce, but when I was in high school it definitely wasn’t cool... but now I just own it,” she told her local newspaper.
“When I see red-haired children I always make a point of saying: ‘You have beautiful red hair. Do you know how special you are?’ ”
Redhead Convention organiser Joleen Cronin said Ashley, who will be among several overseas visitors attending this year’s event — the fifth gathering of gingerness in Crosshaven — could be in line for their ‘furthest travelled redhead’ award.
Hundreds of redheads are expected to descend on the convention, which is also a fundraiser for the Irish Cancer Society, and which started as a friendly joke between proud redhead, Joleen, and her equally foxy and freckled brother, Denis.
From humble beginnings in 2010, it has since grown into one of the country’s most extraordinary and unique events — attracting over 2,000 people last year.
The weekend-long programme, which runs from August 22 to 24, will feature lots of redhead-themed activities such as the Foxygen stage, featuring a line-up of red-haired artists and performers, including Orla Gartland, Karrie O’Sullivan, Christine Deady, and Rua — a string quartet of natural redheads.
There will be a range of wacky competitions, including the famous carrot-tossing championships, and prizes will be awarded for the best red beard, the curliest red hair, and more.
Festival-goers will parade through Crosshaven proudly displaying their red hair and will also take part in a huge group photo, hosted by photographers Jorg Koster and Jason Clarke.
A new King and Queen of the Redheads, sponsored by Henparty.ie, will also be crowned, becoming year-long ambassadors for gingers all over the world.
Red hair, the rarest of hair colours, accounts for only 0.6% of the global population. Ireland has the second highest proportion of redheads at 10%.
Amid concerns that redheads are dying out, organisers have arranged a special Ginger Speed Dating session, to combat any threat of extinction.
“Redheads are rare and stand out from the crowd,” Joleen said. “A lot of what we do at the convention empowers redheads to be proud of our uniqueness.
“We also give Certificates of Genuine Foxiness for all ‘red-gistered’ redheads and it is wonderful to see attitudes change in a positive way, especially from children who may have been teased or bullied for being different.”