17 finalists named for MUJ - Organisers aim to produce ‘compelling’ virtual coronation
The first round of Miss Universe Jamaica (MUJ) eliminations was an emotional one for applicants and the franchise holders, who set out to select 10 prospective contestants for this year’s competition to make a total of 15 with the regional queens.
However, at the end of the day 17 finalists were named, one of whom, Nicole Henry, was still in quarantine and had to participate in eliminations via Zoom. Directors Mark McDermott and Karl Williams both agreed, “It was an overwhelming response,” but at the end of it all, the team saw potential in the ladies selected to take on the challenge of competing for the crown.
Speaking to the finalists following the eliminations, McDermott urged them to be socially aware by dedicating more time to learning more about their island and the goings-on. He emphasised that the pageant was not about the glitz and glamour, or about gaining popularity on social media. He also stated that this would be one of the most challenging years, considering the platform will require them to make more effort to show aptitude and the drive to win.
FIRST VIRTUAL SHOW
For the first time in decades of MUJ competitions, the pageant will not be a live show. However, the organisers aim to produce a compelling virtual grand coronation amid event and curfew restrictions, a taxing task. “Already, we are faced with challenges of pulling everything together,” said McDermott. “We plan to showcase some of the lead-up events, including a challenge on November 1, where we will decide which finalists go forward,” he explained to The Gleaner.
The storied beauty contest has delivered over the years with three of its national queens earning top-five placements and five thriving in the top 10, and top 20 of the international Miss Universe competition since Jamaica made its debut in 1961. In 2010, Yendi Phillipps walked away as first runner-up; Kaci Fennell was fourth runner-up in 2014; and Davina Bennett was second-runner up in 2017.
The reigning Miss Universe Jamaica, Iana Tickle Garcia, was also present at the eliminations. Garcia, who has been conducting a virtual execution of her recycling initiative and a drive to promote lupus awareness, said, “I am excited and feel hopeful for the 2020 finalists; the situation of having to do online-based training means they will have to show more initiative and put more individual work into their development. That in itself will show who genuinely wants to win.”
Regional queens Shanique Thompson, Alexia Royal Eatmon, Samantha Williams, Lineisha Davis and Ashanti Findley also expressed excitement about this year’s event. Competing in the pageant for a second time, Williams told The Gleaner, “I am humbled by this opportunity to be one of the finalists; this time I am ready to put my best foot forward.”
Thompson, Eatmon, Davis and Findley shared that having competed in the regional pageants, they feel confident about their overall presentation; being able to work on their bodies, articulation and walk for the previous pageant stagings makes them more mentally prepared for the finals.