Davina Bennett: Queen of hearts
She captured the hearts of many when her melanin magic graced the stage and won the crown of Miss Universe Jamaica 2017.
No stranger to the stage and the world of poise and beauty, 21-year-old Davina Bennett is ready for the challenge of being the beauty queen her country can depend on to take home the international crown.
But it was not an easy road for Bennett.
Many may know Bennett as a Pulse model who has strutted the runway of London Fashion Week, while others know the humanitarian who established a foundation for the deaf, while others are familiar with her as a second-year marketing student at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus.
"Modelling has always been a dream of mine, but when I went overseas and didn't get signed for the third time, I was disappointed. I felt like it was the end of the world for me at the time, but it didn't stop me from still pushing to be great," she told Flair.
With what felt like shattered dreams, Bennett returned home to pursue her marketing degree. Two months into her studies, she was diagnosed with a ruptured ovarian cyst and had to undergo surgery. This was just the first of many stumbling blocks she had to overcome.
On March 3, Bennett's life was changed forever as she faced what she describes as the worst day of her life. "When I was held at gunpoint and robbed, I really thought my life was going to be taken. I was on the ground, they had guns over my head and everything was taken from me. When I came out of it, I was down and depressed for a few weeks, but I remember thinking that if I lived, there must be a purpose for me. It can't be that I came out of this and did nothing with the adversity that I had overcome," she shared.
Bennett was transformed into a go-getter and woman of vision. "I decided that I have to do something. I always wanted to know what my purpose was, and that experience led me to believe that I'm someone who has a bright future ahead of me, and that I'm here to change lives," she added.
TURNING SETBACKS INTO 'GIVE-BACKS'
Bennett wanted to use her setbacks from modelling to help others, and got on board with Sway Caribbean Modelling Agency as a director and model coach. There she met deaf model Britney Barnes. It was a challenge at first, with Bennett not having any knowledge of sign language, but she was fascinated by Barnes' determination to strive through her disabilities, and was encouraged by her best friend Jermaine Dyer to start a foundation for the deaf.
"Another thing that came into play was being unable to communicate with her. Not having the time to learn sign language in a classroom setting, I decided to develop a sign language app that would help me to communicate and learn the language," she explained.
The app idea fuelled a fire in Bennett as it also brought her to a tablet initiative that allows low-income schools to have access to technology. The foundation has started small but is growing and making an impact.
"I made the right choice and the pageantry tied in at the right time. Everything soaked into one big ball of happiness," she said with a chuckle.
Dyer, who had a lot of faith in his best friend, motivated Bennett to enter Miss Universe Jamaica.
"I didn't think I could do pageantry. I was always afraid of speaking. I was more of a walk on the runway and come off type of girl, but I decided that it was time for a change. I started the foundation before Miss Universe. I needed a platform to have a voice for these persons who need my support. That was my main motivation going in, and what can I say? I'm the winner today," she said with a grin.
Being someone who gets overwhelmed by nerves on stage, Bennett knew she had it in her to win, but was terrified of the interview round.
"I believe it's God. On the day, my mom, who knows I get nervous in front of a large crowd, prayed and made her church pray to take away my nerves. I didn't get nervous until it was time to answer the question, and though people were saying I executed it confidently, the mic was shaking and I felt as if my voice was shaking. I'm happy I was able to pull it together and execute as planned," she told Flair.
Bennett admitted that though she is a model, she has always been an introvert, and the Miss Universe Jamaica franchise has helped her to grow into a more confident person.
She is overwhelmed with emotion and finds it difficult to express her joy at winning.
"This position cannot be explained. Happy is not enough to describe this feeling. To be honest, I've never won anything. I've tried to do things but never got all the way, so I've come a far way. Going into Miss Universe, there's a lot of work to be done. It is a lot to take on but I'm ready to take back the crown to Jamaica," she said confidently.
Creative director: Kimberly Goodall
Photographer: Gladstone Taylor
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