Kimberley McLeod is first Miss Jamaica Nation
Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
With events like Miss Jamaica World, Miss Jamaica Universe and the Festival Queen Competition already staples on the annual Jamaican pageant calendar, on its debut, the Miss Jamaica Nation beauty pageant did not do enough to secure a place among the must-see shows in the island.
In addition to a late start, low-to-average turnout and absence of even a simple backdrop, the competition, held at the Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston, on Saturday night, struggled from the very beginning.
Although pageant director and general manager for HOT 102, Ken Williams, said Miss Jamaica Nation is not intended to "compete with the other competitions, but to complement them", organisation of the event was below that of the average beauty pageant.
Nonetheless, Williams stressed that Miss Jamaica Nation's objective is to promote natural beauty. The pageant's guidelines define 'natural' as being devoid of the use of any artificial enhancements such as hair extensions, tattoos, alterations to the physique whether by surgery or clothing, fake eyelashes, and coloured contact lenses.
When the event finally began with the opening piece, some of the 13 women seemed to have problems with the choreography. Still, they were applauded for their effort.
They then returned to introduce themselves in the same black leggings and tops worn during the opening dance piece, only adding heels and sashes representing their various parishes. However, the organisation fell down another time, as there was no music while the girls walked, so their heels could be heard clacking against the wooden runway.
And there was yet another mishap when patrons were told to stand for the national anthem, only to be told a few seconds later that the event would continue with the contestants in swimwear, as the singer was not present.
Following the swimwear parade, singer Cherine Anderson took the stage, standing out in her blonde high-top fade hairstyle, mesh black top, red lace skirt with a train and her statement jewellery. Cherine was well received as she sang Rebel and Eagles And Dove, while being expressive, as accustomed, and interacting with an appreciative audience.
Dalton Harris came on later in the show and got good reception for his original song Pauper.
Later in the evening, the contestants stepped out in gowns and spoke about the parishes they were representing. However, some had a few speech problems and, sadly, this became a source of laughter for some persons in the audience.
As the event wound down, Katherine Foster from St Elizabeth got the Most Congenial award, St James' Latoya Thompson was named Most Aware and Yohanna Kellyman was judged Most Photogenic.
It was now down to the top-five contestants - Leonie Daley, Latoya Thompson, Kimberley McLeod, Yohanna Kellyman, and Jerri Graham - who were asked questions by the judges. The ladies handled themselves fairly well.
In the end, it was Kimberley McLeod who placed first and received $200,000, first runner-up Latoya Thompson received $100,000, while third-placed Jerri Graham got $50,000, all the funds going towards their tuition expenses. Some of the other prizes included hotel stays, day passes to Dolphin Cove, an entrepreneurial course, and photo shoots.
Unlike other beauty pageants, the audience seemed somewhat indifferent to the placements, as there was neither applause nor signs of disagreement with the judges' decisions.