The deafening ovation from the audience brought her to the realisation that she had done it. Sandra Foster was Miss Jamaica Universe 1989.
Jamaica was first introduced to the stunning teen in 1989 when she walked away with top honours in the inaugural staging of the Miss Jamaica Universe Pageant produced by Pulse. With Sandra's charisma, good looks and brains, she was just what the judges were looking for.
At the Miss Universe finals in Mexico that year, Sandra charmed the world placing sixth and was the only contestant from the developing world to be selected in the top 10. Jamaica was proud of Sandra but echoed the view of the wider 'pageant watching world' that she had deserved to win the title.
Immediately after The Miss Universe pageant, Sandra was awarded a lucrative contract to promote Mexico and Cancún by Televisa, Latin America's major television station. After handing over that crown, Sandra went on to win the Miss Intercontinental Pageant in Lagos, Nigeria in 1990. She soon embarked on assignments, including gigs with the Jamaica Tourist Board and a record-grossing campaign for Jamaican soft drink brand, Ting. The six figure job, noted Pulse's CEO Kingsley Cooper, "spanned all media and was the first of its kind negotiated in the local market for a Jamaican model".
A year later, the 21-year-old beauty again made front page news when she was crowned Miss Jamaica World 1991. "I didn't necessarily want to enter because I didn't think I would have the same luck twice, but I was encouraged by friends and family members to go for it." She fared better in the competion's international leg of the contest and walked away with the title Caribbean Queen of Beauty, sole Caribbean representative in the final five of the Miss World Contest and third place overall in the competition. She remembers that the best moment of the competition came when she was asked to participate in 'Operation Hunger,' one of the social programmes for the destitute in South Africa, which is assisted by the Miss World Organisation.
Sandra participated in fashion shows in Chicago, Toronto, Grand Cayman and London and was a special guest of the Miss Jamaica (Toronto) Contest organisers during Jamaica Week celebrations. She joined other queens from Latin America at the Baranquilla carnival parade in Colombia and did promotional work in New York for Tower Records.
A chance to give back
Sandra found the travelling especially enjoyable. "As a young ambassador for Jamaica, I got a unique opportunity to reflect on the strength of my own upbringing in such a diverse and multi-cultural society as Jamaica." She embarked on a programme to mentor high school students and was guest speaker at the opening ceremony for Drug Awareness Week. "This gave me a chance to give back to other young people a little of what I gained by being nurtured in our Jamaican society," she said.
A devout Christian and mother of five, Sandra Foster-Mahfood still keeps up with the Jamaican pageant scene and says she doesn't regret her involvement in the industry or the decision she made 15 years ago to leave it behind. "From I was a child I wanted to model and I fulfilled that dream, but now I see everything as steps that the Lord used to lead me to Him."
"From I was a child I wanted to model and I fulfilled that dream, but now I see everything as steps that the Lord used to lead me to Him." - Contributed photos