5 Questions with Aston Cooke
Mickey Haughton-James has passed the reins of the Miss Jamaica World franchise to accomplished playwright Aston Cooke and veteran entertainment specialist Weston Haughton.
Cooke is the recipient of 10 national Actor Boy ward, for outstanding achievement in Jamaican theatre and an inductee to the Caribbean Hall of Fame for Arts and Culture. In 2013 and 2016, Cooke, served as board chairman of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. Haughton has produced many of the Miss Jamaica World coronation shows and is the artistic director of the Powerful Women and Men Perform for Charity production.
"I'm excited they've approved us. There were many people applying to be franchise holders; it was not just handed to us. It was a detailed search with approval from the Miss World Organization. It's not a local pass-over," Cooke assured.
The franchise holder obliged The Gleaner's inquisition about this latest venture.
1. Is there a difference between pageantry and theatre?
"Sure. I'd say in theatre, performers take on a role, and in pageantry, the ladies have to be true to themselves. they have to reveal their true personalities and advocate for issues they are passionate about. In theatre, you literally play a role.
2. How important is the Miss Jamaica World competition to Jamaican society at large?
"I can speak to the Miss World Organization. They have as its mantra their 'Beauty with A Purpose', and their significant purpose is seeking an ambassador to represent the charities of the organisation. The Miss World Organization is passionate about service and community work and finding who has the ability to articulate that passion. At the end of the day, it's not about pageantry, but looking for ambassadors who are passionate about issues."
3. Are you aware of the yearly contention as it relates to queens and their skin tones? On the tails of Miss Universe Jamaica's 'Afro-extravaganza' - will the Miss Jamaica World franchise adjust its lens to include more darker-hued women?
"At the end of the day, it depends on who turns up. We want to make the next Miss Jamaica World someone who can reign in her country, not just attend a pageant, come back, and that's it. Miss Jamaica World used to be the person young ladies want to emulate. We try to emphasise that it's not just a beauty pageant. At Miss World, they don't even have a bikini competition. It's about how you articulate your passion and your heart... . It's not how you paint a face on a canvas. We're looking for someone who can jump in the river then jump in an evening gown to go to a function and not just get caught up in a selfie."
4. There are auditions and also scouting efforts to recruit the new queen. How will you (the new franchise holders) undertake recruiting the new queen?
"There's going to be a three-months search, not just sitting and waiting for someone to come in. This time around, we would like to deliberately scout and throw our net wider. I think it has to be a deliberate attempt on the franchise holders to throw the net as wide as you can. She is in the hills of Manchester or in St Elizabeth somewhere. Once she hears we're looking, she'll come forward."
5. What are you looking forward to most as a Miss Jamaica World franchise holder?
"I want a Miss World. I think it's time Jamaica gets another Miss World. I think what we want this time is a Miss Jamaica World for Jamaica first and not necessarily to compete in the Miss World pageant. I'm looking forward to unleashing her to the rest of the world."
When will auditions for the new crop of competing queens begin?
"We're laying out our plan for the media launch on April 18."