Nashauna Drummond, Acting Lifestyle Editor
Motivational speaker, trainer, image consultant and conceptualiser Laura Butler is now at the helm of the Miss Jamaica World franchise.
Even though she has been associated with the pageant for years, including organising it in 2002, she told Flair that she wasn't certain she'd ever take over the franchise.
"I wasn't sure I would get it as there was an impressive line-up and it was a lot of back and forth discussion with Julia Morley (chairwoman of the Miss World Organisation). I believe I got it because of my involvement and track record in training. She wants something that adds value to the young women. She wanted to ensure that whoever gets it is not just focusing on the business side of it," she said.
Butler has been associated with the pageant for over a decade and knows the runnings inside out. She was a top-10 finalist of the competition herself in 1995 and Miss Spartan Body Beautiful in 1997. She has attended a few of the Miss World competitions and has served as grooming and etiquette trainer to the contestants on numerous occasions as well as a judge. "I've known Mickey (Haughton-James) for years," she said of the man who had held the franchise since 1976. "I've helped train the contestants in preparing them for the competition; have been to a few and I have a very good relationship with most if not all of the titles and have seen it from so many angles over the years."
This insight is what will help her make the competition bigger and better than ever. Among the incentives for this year's 20 finalists are scholarships valued at $5 million from The University College of the Caribbean, London University and Kursk State Medical University, coupled with an intense training package from Fusion Consulting Limited.
"We want to put all 20 women through a very intensive training as if they were the winner because a lot of times we don't have enough time to prep them for the Miss World competition." She noted that this year the competition, which is usually held at the end of November, has been moved up to September and will be this year held in Indonesia.
Butler plans to give the 40-year-old competition a makeover. "Just a revamp, not reinventing the wheel," she told Flair. "But there are some areas we want to improve on. I have handpicked a group of experienced, dynamic individuals to deal with specific aspects. So I'm not alone. It's not just Laura Butler. It's a team."
The decision to take on this task was not made on a whim. "It's a huge responsibility, but I'm passionate about it and what it can do for these young women." She notes that there is great value in the competition for all the young women who enter. "It teaches so many things. The work I am doing now is because of it. If you can stand in front of a Jamaican crowd and survive, you can do anything. If we can touch the life of one individual in a positive way, it's worth it. Look at the persons who have entered in the past and where they are today."
Apart from securing the scholarship fund, renewed focus will be put on the national costume and Pricewaterhouse is on board to oversee the judging process.
Butler said that support from corporate Jamaica has been overwhelming and, so far, approximately $15 million in prizes will be awarded to the finalists of this year's pageant.
"We want to make it beneficial for all persons involved, especially the girls, but also sponsors and everyone. We want to get it as close to perfection as possible."