RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | For Arts and Culture (Special Award): Davina Bennett - Breaking barriers and stereotypes
The reach - worldwide; the impact - immeasurable; the pride - heartfelt. There was no missing it, no matter where you were on Sunday, November 26, 2017. Patriotic pride beamed from all corners of the island as Davina Bennett vied for the title of Miss Universe 2017. There were constant updates on all social media platforms and a small congregation outside every bar and shop with "in the moment" reporters updating those passing by.
Bennett took The Gleaner back to a few years ago to her sister's wedding. As is customary, Bennett got made up and ready for her sister's big day. Her shock and amusement manifested in tears when she saw her image in the mirror.
"I cried because I did not know that I could be that beautiful," she shared. This was as a result of her understanding that to be considered beautiful meant that one needed a particular bone structure and a certain texture, and of course, length of hair.
It took years for her to realise that she was, in fact, a queen in her own right and that beauty comes in all shapes and colours. Bennett shared that it was in fact a conscious decision to cut her hair and wear her afro for the local competition.
"I wanted to break the barrier and the stigma," she said.
Bennett took on the role of educating young women on self-worth and self-acceptance. She admitted that it is through accepting herself that she found the courage to parade in front of thousands.
Bennett was ready for a tremendous task - not only the challenge of facing the world, but also taking on the job of maintaining her natural hair. "You know the struggles if you have it, you know how hard it is to take care of natural hair," she chuckled.
Little did she know that she would have empowered so many, giving birth to things such as "afro Thursdays" and 'breaking the Internet' with hundreds of women posting pictures of themselves and their offspring sporting afros of different sizes and colours.
The wave went on to even those who did not have afros who instead posted pictures of the queen herself with beautiful literary pieces expressing admiration and pride.
Humbled, yet driven
Amid the glitz and glamour, Bennett is humbled, yet driven by the fact that she had such a tremendous impact on the lives of so many. Her thank you speech after the competition read, "I did not win, but I got what I was seeking. I won the hearts of many, I got to highlight deaf awareness. I stand as the first afro queen to have made it thus far. I represented my little island, and I received all the love one could possibly wish for."
Though her reign is for a year, Bennett has a number of programmes and partnerships that will go beyond, such as the Davina Bennett Foundation for the Deaf. She is adamant about building her brand and using it to better the lives of whomever she comes into contact with.
The 2017 Miss Universe second runner-up is now an idol to many Jamaican women who are grateful for her representation on the world stage. Though she did not take home the crown, she is treated as a true winner wherever she goes and has earned her numerous accolades. The 21-year-old recipient of the Key to May Pen is humbled to receive The Gleaner Honour Award for Arts and Culture (Special Award) for showcasing the uniqueness of the Jamaican people at the Miss Universe 2017 Finals.