September 22, 2021

Beauty, brains and business

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Cindy_BreakspeareBy Michelle Martin From The Voice

One woman’s dream to reinvent the beauty pageant to include all ages, shapes and sizes

IN AMERICA, the pageant industry is big business. Actresses like Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams and media mogul Oprah Winfrey have all won coveted titles that, some would argue, helped propel them to international stardom.

Although the international pageant as we know it has a distinctly American feel, the first established international beauty contest was founded by Englishman Eric Morley, who in 1951 created the Miss World competition.

Trinidad and Nigeria have both had beauties wear the prestigious crown and, in 1976, Jamaica was firmly put in the spotlight when a young and very beautiful Cindy Breakespeare, mother to Damian Marley, became the second Jamaican woman to win the revered title.

Lisa Hanna, Jamaica’s current minister of youth and culture, became the third from the island to win the Miss World title in 1993.

Simone_FairweatherHowever, in recent years, the beauty pageant, particularly in the UK, has been on the decline with many viewing the concept as outdated, sexist and demeaning to women.

But for one young woman, beauty pageants have always played a significant role in her life. Here, pageant veteran Simone Fairweather, 29, of east London, tells The Voice why she feels pageants are important to African and Caribbean communities, the benefits she gained when she was crowned and why she wanted to start one of her own.


“I was introduced to beauty pageants when I was growing up in Jamaica; first at the annual Miss Jamaica Pageant. Out there it is very popular and I thought to myself, ‘wow, this is something I would like to do when I am older.’ I just love the idea of dressing up, wearing make-up and looking beautiful.

JAMAICA’S PRIDE: Cindy Breakspeare

By the time I reached my teens my family relocated to the UK and that was a real culture shock, as no one seemed to be seriously interested in beauty pageants.

By 2002, I entered my first pageant, Miss Jamaica UK. I wanted to gain experience and learn more about the industry and I came third. After that I was even more determined to learn more and make a career in this industry.

In 2006, I entered Miss Commonwealth Jamaica and I won. It was at this competition that I began to understand what you can do with a title. It’s more than just being up on stage and smiling.

Last year I won Miss Commonwealth Caribbean, and with that title I became an ambassador for Jamaica, but for me I felt like I was representing the entire Caribbean.

Nowadays beauty pageants are so much more than looking pretty. I have to carry myself in a certain way, be up to date on all Caribbean affairs and then you have to learn about the charity that you have been assigned to. It’s a lot of work. Basically, you become the face of the Caribbean.

Once you have won a title, people are pretty interested in it and what it can do for them. For instance a lot of charities like a pageant winner to become the ‘face’ of their charities and help promote them. Also what I have noticed quite recently is that a lot of winners are now setting up charities of their own.

But, essentially, what I am trying to do is to break down barriers; I want to bring the pageantry market into the millennium.

What deters many girls from entering are the restrictions. You have height restrictions, weight restrictions and age restrictions. I want to step forward with something different because in this day and age, height and weight should no longer be relevant.

Oprah_Winfrey_2FAMOUS FACE: Oprah Winfrey

That is why I took on the UK franchise of Miss Global UK. Its an annual international pageant that takes place in Montego Bay, Jamaica, every year and it is based on tourism. It models itself on Miss World, where girls from all over the world enter and everyone is exposed to different cultures. I am responsible for the UK branch.

I have also created my own pageant, which I have called Miss Caribbean Supreme. This pageant is open to all girls of Caribbean heritage and I will be more flexible with restrictions for age, weight and height.

I don’t think this will weaken my brand or make my pageant any less authentic as everyone is beautiful. The emphasis is to get rid of the stereotype of how a beauty queen is supposed to look.

Entering beauty pageants is quite empowering. I think they have come a long way. You feel a real sense of achievement and now it’s all about intelligence and representing the brand. There is a lot more involved than just having a pretty face.”

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