It was an enchanted evening. One by one, each of the ladies – contestants for the 2018 Miss Cayman Islands Universe pageant – arrived at Grand Old House in grand old style ready for the official sashing ceremony. Each lady one wore Long, beautiful dress, as she walked up the steps and into the lounge to meet friends, family, and sponsors, as cameras flashed and videos were made.
It has been nearly two months since the seven contestants, Caitlin Tyson, 24, Gabrielle Watler, 27, Josani Schneider, 24, Keilen Jackson, 19, Nateisha Foster, 26, Tiffany Conolly, 24, and Vanessa Douglas, 20, began their preparations for the pageant, which will be held on Saturday, 11 August at the Westin. All the ladies said that their preparations, including instruction on public speaking from Toastmasters, runway training, fitness, and dance were going very well. Some said they were nervous, but all said they felt quite confident.
During the official sashing, each of the contestants stepped forward, one by one, to have their silk sash, which had their names and the names of their sponsors written across it, fitted by representatives from their sponsors. Then came time for the speeches, which focused on this year’s charitable platform, the Alzheimer's and Dementia Association.
Keilen Jackson said, “The Alzheimer's and Dementia Association was first founded to raise awareness of the public with a focus on Alzheimer’s whilst diminishing the stigma that currently exists. While managing a small caregiving business with my mother, we do see a number of clients suffering with this disease, and because I am so touched by the elders and appreciate all the history and culture about our country.
Gabrielle Watler said, “A month ago I got to experience a life changing event that took place at the South Sound Civic Centre organized by the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Association. The group of people I got to know were unique, outgoing, smart, and beautiful.”
Vanessa Douglas said, “Standing before you is a bold, optimistic and poised twenty year old. I am currently studying accounting at the International College of the Cayman Islands as I aspire to be a chartered accountant and eventually start my own charitable foundation to raise awareness for individuals facing suicidal tendencies.”
Nateisha Foster said, “Two years ago someone who is dear to my heart had a mental breakdown – one of the most devastating experiences for me. I learned that depression and anxiety are not signs of weakness. Becoming the next Miss Cayman Islands Universe will help me improve mental health awareness through art therapy and cooperation with the mental health advocates,”
Josani Schneider said, “Those that know me well know that my heart beats to sweet Soca and a mango or two in the sea is the best remedy.” Speaking about this year’s chosen charity, she continued, “Not know who you are or where you are – I can’t begin to imagine what that must feel like. Yet there there are people in our community who go through this every single day; family and friends trying their best to cope with this new situation that has been placed upon them.”
Next, Tiffany Conolly spoke: “Tonight we come together to welcome, get to know, and appreciate one another. As someone who cares deeply about the youth in the Cayman islands I hope to open an art therapy school – to support those who suffer with mental disorders ranging from depression to dementia. Becoming Miss Cayman Islands 2018 would help me accomplish this goal.”
Caitlin Tyson spoke finally, talking about the positive impact of taking part in a previous beauty pageant, Our Little Miss, when she was twelve years old: “This was following the loss of my father and it was one of the darkest periods in my entire life, but I remember the change that happened within myself afterwards. I regained my confidence and I felt beautiful again. Just knowing how proud he would have been of me. I entered this pageant because I felt it is so important for women to feel empowered in their bodies and to use their voices and go out into this world and make a difference,” she said.