Wishing Williams well
Former Miss Universe queens show support for Miqueal-Symone
Miss Universe Jamaica 2020 Miqueal-Symone Williams has the support of her Miss Universe Jamaica (MUJ) sisters. This was obvious in the outpouring of love she received from several former titleholders, who, having journeyed to represent their country, wanted to take the time to wish Williams well.
The Jamaican titleholder left the island on Thursday for Florida, where she will compete in the 69th Miss Universe pageant. As Williams’ colleagues and coaches watch from a distance as she prepares to walk on to the platform, the consensus is that her personality will win hearts and votes, and that she will find fulfilment in the role of representing Jamaica. Already Williams is making her mark, having received the Key to Broward County from Dale V.C. Holness, the first Jamaican-American to serve as mayor of Broward County.
Iana Tickle Garcia, who handed over the crown to Williams in December 2020, described the current queen as “an absolute angel”. She is confident that her successor has all the qualities to take the global title.
“I love Miqueal. I have so much hope for her because she’s just so humble, so kind, full of life, and genuine. She’s a star, and I tell her all the time that the most important thing for her to do is to stay true to herself, pour herself into it and make an impact. She is more than capable of becoming Jamaica’s first Miss Universe; I have so much faith in her,” Garcia said.
The former title holder said the best advice she received was to stay genuine and to take the initiative. “In the pageant world and in the real world overall, there’s always going to be a perceived way in which you are supposed to act, think and portray yourself, but there is no universal ‘best’ or ‘perfection’,” she said.
She pointed out that one of the most common and biggest misconceptions people have of beauty pageants is that it is filled with conflicts and confrontations. However, after competing in three pageants, including the local and international Miss Universe competition, Garcia can say confidently that “there are genuine friendships to be made”.
Of the friends she made through the Miss Universe platform, she named Shanel Marie Ifill from Barbados, Tarea Sturrup from The Bahamas, Kadejah Bodden from the Cayman Islands, Bria Ashley Smith from the US Virgin Islands, and Sissie Luo from Guam as some of her closest friends.
“They made the experience even more special, and I left there feeling like I made genuine bonds; and a year and a half later, we’re all still pretty good,” she said. “It’s true that it is a competition, but instead of thinking of it as ‘I need to be better than her,’ think of it as ‘I need to work on my weaknesses so that I am my best possible self’ and then you won’t have a problem with creating friendships along the way. The pageant did a lot in making me into the person I am today, and it makes me feel like I can do anything and conquer anything, regardless of the outcome.”
In no time, after Garcia returned home following her participation in the 68th Miss Universe pageant, countries across the globe experienced mandatory lockdowns as a result of the pandemic. Garcia said it was then that she reflected on the enormity of the opportunity she had been granted.
“I find myself wondering, even now, how I managed to do all of what I did. At the time, during my training, I didn’t really have time or space to slow down and think about the gravity of the situation I was in or how unique it was, or the kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I’d won,” she said.
Sanya Hughes, Miss Universe Jamaica 2002, who declared that Williams is already a winner, had some advice for the current titleholder. “Whenever you smile, ask yourself why you are smiling. This authentic energy will shine brighter than any crown,” she said.
For Hughes, the title means representing Jamaica at one of the highest levels. “When others see you, they see a snapshot of Jamaica, and this is really what I understood of my role as Miss Jamaica Universe 2002. When you meet others, they interact with your brand, and locally I was a part of the Miss Universe Jamaica brand, and while travelling, I was the Jamaica brand,” she told The Gleaner. She added, “This will no doubt impact the things you do and how you behave because, ultimately, you are a role model.”
Hughes and Williams have something in common – both are Pulse International models and are used to criticisms in the fashion industry. Likewise, by virtue of the competition, pageants may pit contestants against each other, testing their mental strengths. “You start comparing yourself to others in every way; I had the wonderful opportunity to feel this happening to me and then make the decision to not compare myself to anyone,” Hughes shared.
Hughes, who continued modelling after her reign and later landed a role as a mermaid in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, noted that the qualities that made her a brand people became interested in were strengthened while participating in the Miss Universe contest. “I had a beautiful moment of self-discovery and strength building during the international pageant. This is where I learned about being my authentic self. That is a win to me; it felt great, and I enjoyed every moment being there,” she expressed.
“It’s hard to believe that it was 19 years ago,” Hughes continued. “I remember both competitions clearly. They were highlights in my journey and, thankfully, have had a very positive influence in my life. [But] I can tell you that even 19 years later, there are people that still observe you through this lens. You will never stop being a Miss Jamaica.”
These sentiments hold true for Miss Universe Jamaica 2014 titleholder Kaci Fennell Shirley, who notably earned fifth place in the international pageant. Fennell Shirley said she had her heart set on representing Jamaica, and when she finally had the chance to, it felt unreal.
“I have many moments where I think about the whole experience (both locally and internationally) in complete shock that I got that amazing opportunity, something I will share with my future children,” she told The Gleaner.
Her advice to the current MUJ was simply to enjoy each moment and learn from each experience, as she believes everything will fall into place for Williams.
“Being your authentic self is what will advance you in this competition. Cream always rises to the top. Just keep your eyes on the prize and create unforgettable memories. Oh, and don’t forget your sanitiser and mask,” Fennell Shirley said.
After a year and a half, the Miss Universe pageant will return with a live telecast of the 69th staging on Sunday, May 16, from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The last pageant was held in December 2019, and its winner, South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi, has worn the crown longer than any other queen.
Sanya Hughes, Miss Universe Jamaica 2002: ‘Miqueal is a winner, so my motivational words are this: You are already a winner. Whenever you smile, ask yourself why you are smiling. This authentic energy will shine brighter than any crown.’
Kaci Fennell Shirley, Miss Universe Jamaica 2014: ‘Being your authentic self is what will advance you in this competition. Cream always rises to the top. Just keep your eyes on the prize and create unforgettable memories. Oh, and don’t forget your sanitiser and mask.’
Iana Tickle Garcia, Miss Universe Jamaica 2019: ‘I love Miqueal. I have so much hope for her because she’s just so humble, so kind, full of life, and genuine. She’s a star, and I tell her all the time that the most important thing for her to do is to stay true to herself, pour herself into it and make an impact. She is more than capable of becoming Jamaica’s first Miss Universe; I have so much faith in her.’