New Miss Ja UK can't wait to revisit 'her island'
Janelle Oswald, Contributor
New Miss Jamaica UK, Rianna Simmons-Brown, can't wait to visit Jamaica, but it's not just for the sun and sand.
"The last time I was in Jamaica, I was a child, so I am excited for my homecoming as a young woman," she said. "However, I don't just want to do tourist attraction activities. I want to visit the different parishes, and inner-city foundations and go to schools." Flying the flag for St Mary, her father's parish, the British carnival queen and model was raised in east London. The 22-year-old is the 25th beauty queen in the pageant's history. Passionate about motivating young women to follow their dreams, she said she wanted young people to realise they, too, can achieve their goals and dreams once they put their mind to it.
"Life does not give you things on a platter, but if you work hard, you will reap the benefits and succeed," she said. "Don't give up. Whatever you want to do you can do it!" The Victoria 'Secret' Supervisor, who was sponsored by Kingston Jerk Hut and Your Beauty, revealed her shock after hearing her name announced as the winner.
"So many things went wrong on the day - so winning was the last thing on my mind. The make-up artist didn't come and my swimsuit didn't fit, but, thank God, I was prepared and brought my own costume because I am really tall so standard sizes don't fit me," she said. "When it got to the question round, I was so nervous, and when I got down to the final seven, I thought there was no way I was going any further, but then I heard my name and froze. I just stood there, I couldn't believe it. The girl was trying to get me onstage and I couldn't move."
Laughing, the 5'11" stunner promised to do her island proud.
"I want to be recognised both in Jamaica and the UK, creating a stronger bridge and thus becoming an ambassador," she said. "I promise to represent my culture, heritage, wider Jamaican national and international community, and family." Simmons-Brown also wants to fuse her modelling career and title "by doing a vibrant, flamboyant, Caribbean fashion shoot like never seen before, putting Jamaica on the map".
The second runner-up position was awarded to Jessica Louise Blake, who has a first-class degree in business; she was sponsored by OMG Designs. First runner-up was Jurita Bennett who was sponsored by Mane Divas. Bennett is a media/English secondary-school teacher, striving for her PhD in education. Congratulating her contestants and the current beauty queen, the president of Miss Jamaica UK, June Daley, told The Gleaner "Rianna follows in the footsteps of all my past ambassadors, and I am confident that she will do well serving her role as Miss Jamaica UK."
Daley reminisced over the last 25 years saying her motto is 'keep the Jamaican flag flying and keep flying the flag higher and higher', something the contestants have done successfully over the years.
"The best highlight throughout the last two decades is watching the contestants achieve their goals and not just the winners - most of the contestants as a whole, which is amazing," she said. "My girls have done our nation proud." Echoing Daley is Jamaica's High Commissioner to the UK, Aloun N'dombet-Assamba. The high commissioner, who attended the show, described the pageant as a "significant milestone and a great achievement".
"The Miss Jamaica UK contest has, over these 25 years, played an important role in connecting many second-, third- and fourth-generation young women to their Jamaican heritage," she said. "The contest has brought these young women closer to the country of their parents and grandparents and, in so doing, the contestants have developed a close kinship to Jamaica." She said it also allows them to develop a sense of pride and confidence in how they represent themselves and Jamaica in their daily lives.