BEAUTIES OF JAMAICA
FIRST "Miss Jamaica" contests were sponsored and organised by The
Daily Gleaner during the late 1920s as a strategic promotional
event to boost circulation.
the first contest in 1926, the Editor invited young ladies to send
portrait photographs of themselves. These photographs were judged
by a specially selected group of ladies and a gentleman of St. Andrew
society. From these about a dozen were chosen. The young women were
then invited to meet the judges in the boardroom of the newspaper
to be interviewed. During the next few days, The Gleaner
informed the public that it would be publishing the photographs
of the winner and her runners-up in its magazine section the following
Jamaica that year was Brunhide Spooner of "Eldeweiss" in Cross Roads,
to 1929 when Leslie Fox was declared the winner, the finalists for
the Miss Jamaica contest continued to be chosen from photographs.
In 1930 the contest became public and young ladies were invited
to a tea party at the Myrtle Bank Hotel at the east end of Harbour
Street in Kingston. Stands were erected on the lawns so that members
of the public could see and admire the beauties as they paraded
before sitting for tea in the company of the judges. The winner
was Laurie Duperley.
contests continued to be held at the Myrtle Bank. Winners included
Dorothy Arscott in 1931, Phyllis Hylton in 1932 and Ouida Calneck
in 1933. In 1938 the contest took place at Sabina Park, Kingston.
The winner was Daphne Chin, who subsequently became one of Jamaica's
leading fashion designers. Other early winners were Joyce Trotter
of Swift River, Portland, and Dorothy Arscott.
FIRST MAN HUNT
popularity of these contests influenced The Gleaner to begin
a photographic search for Jamaica's handsome men, married and unmarried.
The invitation assured men that they would not have to parade, as
had been the case for the Miss Jamaica contestants in previous years.
According to the Editor, men should not be shy about their looks
as there was nothing effeminate in having a finely moulded face,
and it was only lack of intelligence that made some people confuse
beauty with effeminacy. The Editor pointed out that the strongest
and most virile of men have had good looks and were not over reticent
about having other people see their handsome faces on the screen,
in books and in photographs. The first prize was five pounds (£5).
the men who entered were Everard Burke, a photographer, and Eric
Coverely, a show promoter and actor. The contest, however, was not
repeated as the public, which was enthusiastic about female beauty
contests, were indifferent to a contest for handsome men.
STACKED AGAINST BLACK GIRLS
Miss Jamaicas included Joy Mott-Trille of Mandeville, Evelyn Andrade
and Leonie Samuels in contest organised by Aimee Webster and Percy
Miller, journalists and publishers of the Caribbean Post magazine.
There was, however, a simmering antagonism toward these contests
as it was observed that except for Daphne Chin in 1938, who was
not a full Chinese beauty, all other winners were from minority
races. Black girls therefore never entered, as they knew instinctively
that the judgmental odds were stacked against them.
Star, The Gleaner's sister paper, sought to correct the
view that beauty of the female face and figure was confined to European
types. The paper organised a series of contests for black, Chinese
and Indian women.
of the winners of the "Miss Ebony" contest subsequently noted that
"black women like me saw that we are beautiful not black
but beautiful, but black and very beautiful".
Miss Jamaica contests were organised by the Jamaica Amateur Body
Beautiful Association led by Ken Rhino and the Jaycees of Jamaica.
The latter, however, found themselves in hot water when they insisted
on sending their own selection as a chaperone to Mitzie Constantine
to the Miss World contest in London, instead of her mother as she
had requested. She was therefore withdrawn from the contest and
was replaced by Erica Cooke, her runner-up.
winners during that period included Judy Verity, Marlene Fenton,
Sheila Chong, Marguerite LeWars, Judy Willoughby, Marlene Murray,
Carol Joan McFarlane (Gore), who died recently, and Joan Duperley.
some years after, it was the Jamaica Festival Commission which organised
these contests. Winners included Yvonne Walter, Laurel Williams,
Karlene Waddell, Marlyn Taylor, Betty Ann Lindo. Ava Joy Gill, Gail
Phillips, Patsy Yuen and Andrea Lyons who was the first and only
Miss Jamaica to wear an afro.
was reported that she complained that black women could never win
the Miss World contest. Comments like these and other concerns led
to a decision by the government to dissolve the Miss Jamaica contest
the following year (1975) and substitute it with a different type
of contest that would select a Miss Jamaica based on creative talent,
intelligence and an awareness of Jamaican affairs and culture. Winners
would be titled Miss Jamaica Independence and would not participate
in the Miss World or Miss Universe contests.
following year, the Council of the Associated Chambers of Commerce
decided that it would persuade the business sector to resume the
original Miss Jamaica contest. The contest was not to be held during
the annual independence celebrations.
1976 Cindy Breakspeare won the Miss Jamaica Body Beautiful contest
and then the Miss Universe Bikini in London. With no official Miss
Jamaica that year, she was entered as Jamaica's representative in
the Miss World contest. She won.
following year Sandra Kong, who also won the body beautiful and
bikini contests, was entered as Jamaica's representative in the
Miss World competition. She, however, withdrew from the contest
because Miss South Africa was also competing. Her decision -- when
it was heavily favoured to keep the crown in Jamaica -- demonstrated
that she would not be associated, even indirectly, with the South
Africa apartheid regime. While she gave up the chance of winning
the title and reaping the financial rewards, she kept her honour.
1978 until recently, the Miss Jamaica (World) contest has been organised
and sponsored by Spartan Health Club since. Joan McDonald took the
crown that year.
Patsy Yuen, Miss Jamaica 1973, placed third in the Miss World contest
that year. The title was subsequently withdrawn from the winner
Marjorie Wallace and, because the runner-up, Evangeline Passual
of the Philippines, could not take up the mantle, Yuen represented
Miss World for most of the reigning year.
Debbie Campbell, Miss Jamaica 1979, also placed third in the Miss
Michelle Harris made it to the top 15 in 1980.
Sandra Cunningham in 1981, was another third place finisher.
Two years later in 1983 Cathy Levy place fourth.
In 1985 Allison Barnett place fifth.
In 1990 Erica Aquart was sixth.
Sandra Foster was fourth in 1991.
Lisa Hanna, in 1993, was our third Miss World.
Christine Straw was sixth in 1998.
who are your favourites? Mine are Evelyn Andrade, Mitzie Constantine,
Laurel Williams, Regina Beavers, Karlene Waddell, Sandra Cunningham,
Allison Barnett, Joan McDonald, Janice Whittingham, Ava Joy Gill,
Marlene Murray and Debbie Campbell.
round dozen. And one who came fourth.