Beauty battles endometriosis
All pageant winners seem to have a story of overcoming great adversity on their way to the crown, and Miss Jamaica World 2016 Ashlie White Barrett is no different.
What differentiates her story from all the others, however, is that at just 20 years old, Barrett has had to endure great pain and has found a way to turn that pain into possibilities.
At 16 years old, when many teenage girls would be busy with school and their social lives, Barrett was in and out of hospital beds. The newly crowned queen had been diagnosed with endometriosis, a prognosis that completely shook her world.
Endometriosis is a condition resulting from the appearance of endometrial tissue outside of the womb and causing pelvic pain, especially associated with menstruation.
"If anyone understands endometriosis, they know that it has a way of affecting you, not only physically, but emotionally as well. It can pop up at any time but is usually bad around the time of your menstrual cycle," Barrett said, explaining that the condition hindered her from grabbing opportunities as they came.
"It was one of the reasons I did not enter the Miss Jamaica World competition earlier. It comes with a lot of excruciating pain, which oftentimes cannot be fixed with a normal painkiller. I've been hospitalised on numerous occasions because of this condition," she said.
Endometriosis can affect a woman's ability to bear children, and Barrett revealed that when she was diagnosed, it was one of the things that stuck with her the most.
"Even though at 16 years old you're not thinking about having children, being told that I might not be able to do so really affected me," she said. "I try not to dwell on that, though, because I have hope, and I believe those are the two things that have brought me thus far and have equipped me with such strength. I am also encouraged by people like Whoopi Goldberg and Susan Sarandon, who also struggle with this condition but are not limited by it."
With that said, Barrett has not dismissed the idea of one day having a family and is currently focused on raising awareness of women suffering from endometriosis.
"I will be working closely with the Miss World organisation and existing charities to raise awareness on endometriosis. It is a pressing issue not only in the Caribbean, but internationally. Millions of women all over the world are affected by it, and I think much more can be done in terms of awareness," she said.
"I will be working with the BASE Foundation, which provides support for women suffering from the condition, from counselling to helping them with much-needed information," Barrett said.
She told The Sunday Gleaner that she prided herself on helping others and expressed gratitude at finally being able to do so on a larger scale.
According to research presented on the website www.endometriosis.com, the condition affects an estimated
1 in 10 women during their reproductive years (usually between the ages of 15 and 49), which is approximately 176 million women in the world.
Barrett is an overcomer and has a message for anyone who has suffered setbacks in life.
"Live life. One of the questions I would love to ask Jamaicans is, 'Are you living, or are you just existing?' Live your life, be inspired, be encouraged, set goals, and remain determined to achieve them - no matter what," she said.