Sacha Walters-Gregory, Staff Reporter
Gemma Feare, the new Miss Jamaica United Kingdom (UK), believes there are limitless opportunities in Jamaica and she is quite open to moving here permanently after completing a master's degree.
"In the future, I would love to live here, what's not to love. I mean you have the weather on your side, the food, the culture, I just love everything about Jamaica," said the 21-year-old, who was born in the UK but comes to island often to visit family.
However, for Feare, it is not simply about the niceties but the belief that real opportunities exist.
"Seeing how my dad has returned to Jamaica, it is something I can definitely do," said the recently crowned Miss Jamaica UK, who also just completed a first degree in business management and commercial law.
Feare entered uncharted territory on December 1 when she won the competition held in London, as beauty pageants were never apart of her repertoire.
"I had been very academic my whole life, so beauty pageants wasn't something I considered at the time because I had my head buried in my books," said Feare who received a first-class honours degree and emphasised that doing well academically holds much weight for her.
"I think it's so important, especially in this economic climate to exploit opportunities that come your way because there are so many," said Feare of her sojourn into pageants. Her father, Derrick Feare, is from Westmoreland and her mother, Angela Bowden, who was also born in the UK is of Jamaican parentage.
Feare wants to take a leaf out of her father's entrepreneurial book and use her business skills. He moved to the UK when he was six years old until deciding years later to move back to Jamaica and open his own auto parts distribution company, Genesis Distribution Limited.
"There are certain attributes that entrepreneurs have, including the ability to take calculated risks, so I believe I have the same flair as my father and it's something I'd definitely like to pursue," she said.
Acknowledging that Jamaica has its challenges, Feare noted that immigrants sometimes do not take into consideration challenges such as racism, which factor greatly in the UK.
"There are certain barriers that you face in the UK and he wanted to pursue a career for himself. He wanted to build a career for himself, be his own dreams and what better place to do it. There are a lot of opportunities over here," she said.
Feare, who wants to be an ambassador and a role model through her new role, said she has always had high hopes. "I've always had my sights set high and I've accomplished a lot," said the well-travelled queen, who has played sports semi-professionally as well as acted.
Feare said she also has an altruistic side, which she gets from her mother, Angela Bowden. That aspect of her life became more sharply focused when she and her mother encountered first-hand the tsunami which hit Thailand in 2005.
They were living in Thailand for over a year, staying in a hotel on the beach in Phuket when the tsunami hit.
"It was in the morning we were actually heading to breakfast when we saw the first few signs, which we weren't really aware of, like the tide coming in really far into the hotel and going back. We could just see the sea moving so powerfully," said Feare who still replays images of that day in her head.
"We had to evacuate to the nearest mountain top, but there was fantastic relief there and that's why I'm a very charitable person. I was anyway but, you know, I contribute to a number of charities and I remember in particular the British Red Cross and other charities coming to provide us with aid. It gave me another angle. Instead of just donating, it allowed me to see first-hand what these organisations do in times of crisis," she said.
"It was fairly horrific at the time; it was horrible to see the devastation that a natural disaster can leave behind," she said of the area which was one of the worst hit.
"That is why I can definitely empathise when I hear about Jamaica faced with Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters all across the world because these things are happening increasingly now. It definitely helped to shape my character," said Feare.
Going forward, Feare will be fulfilling her duties as Miss Jamaica UK, including visiting Albania and Poland. Early this year, she hopes to launch a website to integrate all the charity and business-related projects she will work on. It will act as platform for various projects to bridge the gap between Jamaica and the UK.