GROWING UP WITH THE TEEN QUEENS
I was seven years old, when my mom, Janett Sinclair, then popularly known for her column “Advice To The Lovelorn” in the Star newspaper, probably the best read column in the newspapers then – started the Miss Jamaica Teenager Contest. She had already started promoting the Mini Miss Jamaica contest for pre-teens and the Miss Jamaica Grandmother.
With such a well read column appearing in the newspapers in the nineteen seventies, most women, probably, would have been satisfied with that achievement and settled down to enjoy the success. But, not mom.
Always searching for new challenges, she came up with the idea of the Mini Miss Jamaica Contest for primary level children, in 1979. This was followed by the Miss Jamaica Grandmother Contest in 1980, basically for grandmothers of all ages, and by 1981 she was launching the Miss Jamaica Teenager Contest for high school girls.
By this time, Jamaica had already made its name on the global beauty contest stage with Carole Joan Crawford winning the Miss World title in 1963 to become the country’s first internationally recognized beauty; Cindy Breakspeare following in her footsteps in 1976, not to mention a number of prominent runners-up along the way including Erica Cooke in 1964, Ava Gill in 1971 and Patsy Yuen in 1973.
It was a period when the world couldn’t help recognizing the beauty of our women. However, her focus was not on beauty, as she shifted the focus of her contests toward cultural and social attributes, including exposing the talents of the girls and socializing them to overcome fear, lack of self esteem and self pity, and to strive to create an imprint on the national and international stage.
It was a great idea, and it encouraged young girls from all across Jamaica and across classes, races and religions to seek the glory of being Miss Jamaica Teenager, which eventually evolved into the Miss Teen Jamaica, Jamaica’s first competition of its kind.
It has grown over the years, and so have many winners and runners-up who have gone on to achieve much more than they ever expected in their daily lives. I could name a few, including:
Nadine Thomas, Miss Teen Jamaica (1992), who placed third in the Miss Jamaica World contest in 1995 and won the Miss Jamaica Universe competition in 1997. She represented Jamaica in the Miss Universe the same year in Miami, Florida. She also earned an Associate degree in Marketing from the Miami Dade Community College, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Government from the University of the West Indies (U.W.I), and was Brand Manager for a leading regional confectionary company based in Jamaica. She is now pursuing further studies.
Deanna Harris, Miss Teen Jamaica (1995), who was accepted in the Faculty of Medical Science at the University of the West Indies, after winning the Bustamante Scholarship in 1998, graduated with an MBBS degree in 2002. She went on to become a consultant in internal medicine at the Archibald Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S.A).
Gail Davis, Miss Teen Jamaica (1998), second runner-up in the Miss Jamaica World Pageant in 2001, went on to win the Miss Jamaica U.K. in 2005. She earned a Bachelor of Arts (honours) in Mass Communications, and Master of Science in Marketing from the University of Bedforshire, England, and became a lecturer in marketing at the Bedford Education Academy.
Marsha Williams, 1st runner-up to Miss Teen Jamaica 1995-1996 has a successful career in banking and Marcelaine Lawson who obtained her Bachelors and Masters degrees is now an
author (Innerstrength Woman). Sheryl Guy who obtained her Bachelors and Masters degrees is a successful business woman, with a chain of restaurants she owns with her husband Garfield in the United States.
Naomi Cowan, Miss Teen Jamaica (2004), daughter of popular Music Producer/Promoter and MC Tommy Cowan and gospel music star mom, Carlene Davis, is the first queen to compete in an international contest as a Miss Teen Jamaica representative, when she competed in the Miss Haynes Smith Caribbean Talented Queen Pageant in St. Kitts and placed third. She also placed third in the inaugural Miss Teen World Pageant in Trinidad and Tobago. Naomi graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio & Television (minor in Law) from Ryerson University (Canada) in 2010. She returned home for a short time and is now back in Canada to do her Masters.
These are fine examples of young women who got their first break as teenagers through the contest, and who have made significant strides on that platform. I am really proud that this contest was born out of the vision of my mother, or “Auntie Janette”, to create a platform which offered an avenue of upward mobility for the girls and a path to success.
Thirty five years in the life of any event is a virtual lifetime, but I am sure that her vision will not die because of its value and contribution to national life. Let us look forward to the next thirty-five years of our Miss Teen Jamaica queens, and hope that they will continue to wave the flag of achievement and sing the battle hymn of success loud enough for the next generation to hear and heed the call.
BS., MS., MBA.
(Former Miss Jamaica Junior Model).