Laurie-Ann Chin aims for Miss World
Twenty-two-year-old Laurie-Ann Chin has worked her entire life to achieve her dream that has now become a reality - Miss Jamaica World.
It was approximately 10:30 a.m. when I arrived for the interview. A little over a week after, she walked away with the crown at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. She sat on a sofa, ankles crossed, perfectly upright - the way many mothers would love their daughters to sit. She was engrossed in her tablet and, as we arrived, her face lit up with a beautiful smile. In stilettos, her 5'8" frame towered over my 5'7". Her neon-yellow dress was on point for the summer.
She was still coming to terms with her win. She tells Outlook, "I am proud, and it was an honour. I know that I was judged not only for my performance on the final night," said Chin. "This is something that is big for me. I never thought I would see this day," she said, apparently still in awe. She also won the sectional prizes for best figure and two of the fast-track competitions - Beauty with a Purpose as well as Best Beach Beauty. Her tall, lean figure was a clear indication of why she won Beach Beauty. Her Beauty with a Purpose prize was something in which she had invested the last three years of her life.
Three years ago, Chin volunteered with Angels of Love - a charity that caters to paediatric patients. Her eyes lit up and her already pleasant demeanour went into overdrive as she spoke about the charity. Her work with Angels of Love motivated her to start her own charity GLAM - Girls Leading an Aesthetic Movement (an arm of Angels of Love). This helps groom young girls and develops a bonding process while breaking down social barriers. The proceeds raised through GLAM go to Angels of Love.
"I was raised with strong family values. I was told from an early age by my father, 'to whom much is given much is expected'," Chin explains. Though he passed away when she was only 15 years old, this quote is still dear to her and one she lives by. That was not the only thing about her father that stuck with her. Chin's career choice was somewhat influenced by her father.
"I studied the sciences in high school, but my father was an accountant and my brother is in finance. I wanted to be a part of that," said Chin, as she explained why she switched her career choices from the sciences and received her degree in management studies. "When I did accounts in university, I really liked it, and I was very good at it. I thought that it would have been a bit more challenging for me, since it was the first time I was doing the subject but it was not." Her mother has also been very influential, instilling discipline and ensuring that she followed all the rules getting to the top the right way.
"I was not allowed to break any rules and you would think that having two older brothers they would cover for you - no! It was like having two fathers because they looked out for me like a dad. It is something that I have come to appreciate," she revealed with her ever-present smile.
When it came to the competition, however, Chin realised there was still much more discipline to gain. As she toyed with the centrepiece she told Outlook, she recalled how tedious the initial stages of the competition was for her. "Miss Jamaica World is much more than walking across the stage in a swimsuit. It is not as easy as people think. In the beginning, it was a bit overwhelming. You know, sometimes you work and then when you get tired, you stop - no, you have to push yourself there was no stopping," Chin emphasised.
This journey was made a bit easier with her biggest fan - her mother. She was always in her corner to the point that Chin felt like they were in the competition together. "She is my biggest fan and always in my corner," Chin states.
Besides her mother, she also created a bond with the other contestants that helped each other through. She admits that at the beginning of the competition you could tell that the girls were more guarded because it is not east to open up to your competition. But as the training commenced, they became quick friends helping each other along the way.
"When we were in St Elizabeth, at General Colin Powell's Obstacle Course, we had to work together. You are teamed up with a partner and you have to encourage them," she explained. The training camps did not only create bonds between the contestants, but made them learn things about themselves. She learnt that she was afraid of heights. "I did not know I was afraid of heights. We had a wall-climbing exercise, the wall was 45 feet high and it was when I was at the top of the wall and looking down that I realised that I was afraid of heights," she said laughing at herself.
She believed that through the competition she created lifelong friends and now that the competition is over, their friendship hasn't changed. "It is not like I won, so we are no longer friends. Our WhatsApp group is still active and we talk to each other every day, sending quotes and jokes. Encouraging each other - everything."
Her favourite part of the competition was the exposure that she got and what she was able to learn from her fellow contestants. The fact that all the girls came from different parts of the island each had something different to share which opened their eyes to how similar, yet different they were.
"I visited places in Jamaica that I did not know existed. It was like being a tourist in my own country. I will never forget Floyd's Pelican Bar, which is a sports bar in the sea. I loved it and I am definitely going to visit there on my own time and carve my name in the wall (this is something that many patrons are permitted to do on their visit)." She described the sports bar as a little haven in St Elizabeth. She was captivated by the homely ambiance, but what made it extra special, was that after 2004, when the bar was destroyed by a storm, the community worked together to help rebuild it.
She knows that the competition has made her a more rounded individual. She is more confident and has learnt proper time management. "It is all thanks to Laura Butler and her team. Without them, I don't know how I would have done it."
She recommends that every girl who wants to be Miss Jamaica World should go after it. "You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Years ago, I did not know that I could accomplish this. It has exceeded my expectations in every way. It will make you achieve things that you doubt you can. It is not just a beauty pageant, you are an ambassador for your country, a voice for the youth," said Chin.
The experience though not complete, has already changed her life and she looks forward to the year's journey. But for now, she is focused on the international pageant in December. "I am confident enough that I will be ready as I am scheduled to start training soon and I am confident that working as Miss Jamaica World I will be fine-tuned and ready so that I can be the fourth Miss World for Jamaica. It is well overdue."