Miss Universe Jamaica broadens contestant diversity, strengthens charity platforms
In a very serious attempt to select what many pageant fans have been describing as a Jamaican representative to Miss Universe who embodies stronger Jamaican ideals and greater substance. To also give more young Jamaican women between the ages 18 to 27 who reside outside the Corporate Area an equal chance of realising their dreams at representing Jamaica internationally, the Miss Universe Jamaica Beauty Fashion and Wellness Pageant has this year combed the length and breadth of the island for a wider, more diverse cross section of contestants in their preliminary pageants, adding the inaugural Miss Universe Jamaica East and Miss Universe Jamaica Northwest preliminary pageants to its programme of recruitment. These preliminary local pageants will award their emerging winners spots in the national competition and is a greater step at adding a broader contestant base to the national mix.
Isabel Dalley was crowned Miss Universe Jamaica Northwest and Liane Chung emerged the title winner for Miss Universe Jamaica East. The Miss Universe Jamaica Northwest pageant covers the western parishes of St James and Trelawny and is managed by Michelle Parkes, while Miss Universe Jamaica East relates to the eastern parishes of St Thomas and Portland and has as its pageant manager, Carlyne Thaxter.
Also crowned as a preliminary pageant title winner with a guaranteed spot at the national finals is Candace McLeod, emerging from the Miss Universe Jamaica Northeast, which is not a new instalment in the Miss Universe Jamaica preliminary pageant line-up, but that local pageant made a distinct mark in the beauty arena when in 2014, then title winner Diane Brown finished fifth at the national level. She went on to coach last year's contestants in their runway presentations and is herself departing later this year to represent Jamaica in another international beauty competition.
"The response to the local pageants from the contestant, corporate sponsorship and community levels has been phenomenal," declared national director Karl Williams. "The pageant managers have really brought a new energy to the local level and have conducted their pageants at a high standard this year. They have certainly energised the Miss Universe Jamaica fan base and added new enthusiasm from the foundation level, helping to pave the way for the national programme to grow and execute its functions at a higher level. Also, most important, they have presented preliminary title winners with tremendous attributes, who should compete very strongly at the national level."
The charity platforms have also been strengthened this year to ensure that the pageant's social impact is more positive and far-reaching. Last year, in addition to working with a range of charities relating to road safety and feeding programmes, the organisation's main charity was the GOGETTER (Giving Our Girls Economic Tools To Enrich and Reward) Initiative, which rewarded a Norwich Primary schoolgirl in Portland a full five-year scholarship to Titchfield High School, with funds raised from last year's event.
This year, the GOGETTER Boot Camp programme will be visiting inner-city schools, targeting at-risk girls and will be using Miss Universe title winners to make motivational presentations and to speak with these girls on topics relating to hygiene, wardrobe coordination, skincare, haircare and personal development.
The Miss Universe Jamaica Organisation will also be turning the spotlight on children afflicted with cleft lip and cleft palate here in Jamaica as part of the global focus the Miss Universe Organization is placing on that disease with its partners, Smile Train.
However, the main charity focus this year is the Altruism Award started in 2014. With the Altruism Award programme, each contestant is charged with the responsibility of identifying a social need or economic challenge in their community and provide sound solutions to address these challenges, and, in so doing, enhance the lives of the individuals concerned. The Altruism Award is then presented to the contestant who raises the most funds for her target charity and has the greatest impact on wellness, nation building and the overall enhancement of life and humanity. A panel of adjudicators, who are themselves from established charitable organisations, will make the final decisions and the field of contestants will be narrowed to three finalists, who will make presentations on their charities at a special event during the pageant period. Which the public will be invited to offer their support to the contestants.
"We really want to move this event from the perception of just beautiful women competing in swimsuits and evening gowns, to be viewed as a substantial beauty, fashion and wellness movement, where Jamaican women can still be proud that they are beautiful in evening gowns and swimsuits, but also have a balance to exercise their smarts in practical applications relating to business and corporate affairs, compassion for their fellowmen and contributing in meaningful ways to nation building," continued Karl Williams. "And we know our challenges are many. Last year, for example, we can only but declare as our annus horribilis on all levels of the pageant. However, this year for us is a new beginning. We learnt some extremely critical lessons, which we think have made us much better and stronger and I have no doubt the fans will see the massive difference this year. We anticipate a great year and are looking forward to a brand new and fantastic title winner and we feel it is now more than enough time for Jamaica to claim that Miss Universe crown, and this could be the year."
Miss Universe Jamaica is produced by Uzuri International and will be held at The Jamaica Pegasus on August 27 at 8:30 pm. Main sponsors include JetBlue Airways, Lasco, Tresomme, Lux, St Ives, Curves, The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Cooyah, Hilton Resorts, Jewel Resorts, All Signs Ltd Starlight Production, and Spartan Health Club.