I was working to win, says Miss United Nations 2022
Surprised, excited but not shocked was how Miss United Nations World 2022, Toni-Ann Lalor, explained her reaction upon being announced the winner at the finals in New Delhi, India, on May 7.
Speaking with The Gleaner at the VIP Lounge, Norman Manley International Airport on Saturday afternoon, Lalor attributed her innate friendliness and uncanny ability to connect with people from different cultures, as well as the groundswell of support from her country, as the reasons she took the crown and title.
Listing her mother, grandmother, sponsor Seprod, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and speech and diction coach Ian Andrews among her support groups, Lalor was always confident she would deliver for them.
“I was working to win. I had done all my preparations and was preparing for it mentally. I was looking forward to it,” she recalled. Despite this, at the last moment, she found herself in a conversation with herself.
“On grand night before I went on, I am like, ‘this is your moment, make it count, put everything on the stage’.”
Lalor thinks she scored very high in the interview before the final night, a section which accounted for a significant number of points.
“I thought I did very well because they asked me mostly about agriculture, poverty, hunger and my impact in my community and my country. They asked me quite a few questions that I was empowered to speak about, having had the experience from Miss World, I felt like I was ready but I wasn’t going to count my eggs before they were hatched,” she admitted.
“So when I was called, I was like surprised, excited but I wasn’t shocked because I had been doing the work and so grateful that they (judges) saw it.”
Even though she had participated in international competitions before, the reigning Jamaican National Farm Queen was surprised by how well she connected with the hosts as well as other competitors.
“I have always been commended about my effervescence but being that there were so many people from so many different walks of life, from so many different countries, there are language barriers and the thing that they kept saying is, ‘Toni you are amazing, your authenticity, your way to connect, your love is so warm’,” she said.
“I think the biggest part of it is that I got to connect with people and made friendships. It was my Jamaicanness, honestly and when we went to different places the Indians would take to me so much that the other girls would say, ‘Miss Jamaica, you always taking attention’ so whenever we would get on the bus, they would say ‘Miss Jamaica, today is not your day’ but it was the Jamaicanness that shone through.”
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr, who was on hand to welcome Lalor, applauded the fact that she had always proudly declared herself a farmer, wherever in the world she went.