It was January 25, 2015 and it was already kind of weird that a pageant that should take place in 2014 was being held in 2015. It’s the 63rd Miss Universe and among other frontrunners, Miss Jamaica Kaci Fennel was favored to win. However, during the final stretch the pageant, when she was called as 4th runner-up, the lowest rank amongst the remaining five, the audience openly showed their disapproval.
To those who were watching on their TV sets, the incident was barely noticeable but to the live spectators inside the FIU arena in Doral, Florida, the boos were deafening. I’ve never heard such a loud contempt and disapproval at the Miss Universe pageant. Well, at least not since Miss USA Kenya Moore was booed in 1993. Till this day, I believe that only the 2015 crowning snafu could beat it.
As rude as it might be, the loud boos were somehow satisfying. Just to be clear, I have no issues with the eventual winner. But that open expression of displeasure was somehow a manifestation of pent-up resentment towards the injustice against Jamaican beauty queens. I don’t believe that the Jamaican sash is weak but to analyze what is going on is a bit like untangling the Gordian knot. Let’s remember that the current Miss World is from Jamaica and she is just one of the four titleholders from the island nation. Yet, despite their successes at Miss World, Jamaica remains crownless at Miss Universe.
There are numerous Jamaican beauties that made indelible impressions at Miss Universe. In 2010, Yendi Philips was an icon. I’ve re-watched the whole show ten times and my conclusion remains the same: Yendi was the star of the night. Yendi owned the stage from the moment she showed us her dancing skills at the opening number up until the final segment where she deftly maneuvered the question about the death penalty. Again, I have no issues about the winner but after Miss Universe 2010, it made me wonder what is it that Jamaican beauty queens have to do in order to be crowned as Miss Universe.
I think the problem of Jamaica is its inability to be consistent in sending top quality candidates at Miss Universe. A sash is basically a brand and if you are inconsistent with the quality, you’ll face branding issues. Another possible problem of Jamaica is its infrastructure. The country has no serious training facilities for beauty queens and the support from top designers is tepid at best. Some analysts would like to think that Yendi could have won if her gown was thoughtfully designed. They also suggested that her overall performance was not a product of the trainings provided by Miss Jamaica Universe organization but rather from her Miss World experience.
This 69th edition of Miss Universe is a litmus test for Jamaica. The country’s flag-bearer in the competition is Miqueal-Symone Williams. She is a well-spoken model with a confident personality that reminds me of the current titleholder Zozibini Tunzi. [Check out her full interview with Missosology below].
In all aspects, I can see a strong contender in her but the weakness of her country is beginning to show. I don’t see any tangible support for her and that’s one of the reasons she is not generating any buzz right now. She can change the current trajectory tough, if her preliminary performance can make the same impact (or even surpass) as that of Yendi Philips, Kaci Fennell and Davina Bennett.
Jamaica can win its first-ever Miss Universe crown but to bring this dream into a reality, efforts in grooming and training must be redoubled. I must say that by default, the cards are stacked against Jamaica at Miss Universe. I’ve seen the biases against the country play for decades now and Miqueal-Symone Williams can only hope that this year, things will fall into place. If she can deliver a strong prelims performance and the judges can see past the name of her sash and look at her strengths objectively, we might have a Jamaican Miss Universe this year.