I don’t do pageants. That means I DO NOT watch, listen to, or read about pageants. I knew that the Miss Universe contest was pending. The news of it drifted before my eyes for weeks. But, I had no idea when or where it would be held. My focus was locked into a range of current events and worldwide sport.

Yesterday was for another 4th round of the English FA Cup. It was the day of the NFL Pro Bowl. A big golf tournament was ending. Greece was holding critical national elections. The African Nation’s Cup was ending its preliminary rounds, having been relocated due to Moroccans’ Ebola fears to Equatorial Guinea. The ‘storm of the century’ was about to hit the US northeast. Terrorists were creating mayhem.

So, who had time for pageantry?

I got wind that the event was going to be shown live at 8pm on Jamaican TV. But, I was locked into the early evening start of the Australian Open tennis: 12 hours of live coverage began at 7pm. It was Australia Day Down Under, with Melbourne 14 hours ahead. My daughter came to kiss me goodnight. After a normal Sunday of her sitting with her mother in our bedroom all day, life was winding down.

I don’t know what happened next. Maybe, like in ‘Bewitched’, someone sprinkled magic dust. Being Jamaica, I could speculate about Obeah.

Anyway, I pointed the remote at the TV and clicked onto TVJ. The Miss Universe pageant was just starting, and contestants were parading their ‘national’ costumes. I’d known about this part. Miss Canada had hit news streams for her rendition of her country’s national game, and had been seen wearing an ice hockey field.


Oh, Miss Canada

Jamaica’s contestant’s outfit had raised lots of comments, being more carnival-like than many thought befitting of our national costumery. Miss Aruba passed on the stage.

I told my daughter the show was on. She asked if she could watch. Her mother was putting her to bed, but I let her sit with me for a few minutes to see the costumes. “Ooh!” she gasped, as another flamboyant outfit passed. She ran off and I could hear her negotiations upstairs about what channel to watch. Then, quiet. Then, more noise as more costumes passed.

The letter F had arrived. I saw France, then Ghana, then Israel. What was going on? The tennis had started. But, I wasn’t watching it. The Pro Bowl had begun, but I wasn’t watching–we don’t get the main ESPN channel, such is life in the Caribbean. I was watching the pageant.

Miss Jamaica came on in her outfit. I screamed “Yes!” Good Lord!

I’d been following, or trying to follow, the pageant on Twitter, knowing that voting and trending topics were important. But, I don’t do pageants.

I noticed that the level of excitement was high from the start. The flow of tweets from Jamaicans I followed was furious and fast, it was also funny. It was also occasionally serious, touching on the philosophy of such events. But, such remarks went quickly back to wit and irreverence and promoting #Jamaica.

Wait! My fingers were working furiously, too. Good Lord! I was in the stream, flapping and flipping like a salmon swimming upstream, because we’re little and have to outdo the larger countries.


All beautiful, Kaci Fennell

The wit was brilliant. I noticed that many of Jamaica’s highly intelligent #articulateminority were visibly engaged. Several of its well-known journalists were very evident. Some of its literary and cultural icons were evident. But, they were just like the masses, uttering half-Patois, half-standard English interjections. Lawyers. Politicians. Athletes. A good gathering. They were all watching and laughing at each other watching and hoping. The contest was real, though, and as much positive glow was coming from Yardies. Negative views for anyone non-Jamaican were there, but mostly light-hearted on my timeline.

But, the Twitterati was not alone. I saw images of a packed Half Way Tree Square. This wasn’t an Olympics going on. But, people were packing the street. Big corporations were putting out their messages of support, constantly and stridently. People don’t understand that Jamaicans may seem at odds with each other, but rally together to support each other at the drop of a mango from a tree.


Crowded WHT for Miss Universe

The pageant was its stereotypical self. Fawning hosts and hostesses. Strange musical choices, with artistes not quite as expected. It had promotions for itself that seemed awkward. It was a Donald Trump event in a city that has lots of his real estate. Doral had a great golf course, Trump National, and it had been part of the preparatory events. They all got ‘the treatment’.

But, the drama was real and getting to difficult emotional points.

Nerves jangled early as the 88 contestants were narrowed down to 15. The first 8 were named; no Miss Jamaica. Then, a commercial break. What?! No! Coverage came back, after we in Jamaica got another dose of our special brand of awful ads. We even had a break in live coverage for our daily lottery draw. Normal idiocy. Back to Doral. Relief. She was named.

Dutch pot lids went off in my head.

We went through the next phases, of swimsuits and ball gowns. Our girl looked special and best. The studio crowd showed her lots of love. The music went on. The Latin flavor of the event seemed stronger. It was Miami. 🙂

We went through another whittling down to the top 10. Oh, stop, my heart, with your bumpityboom! Sweaty hands! Relief. First name out of the bag…Miss Jamaica. Blow wow! I screamed again. Good Lord! Captured.

The male host got out his stick…a selfie stick. Snap. ClichĂ©.

We had more personal profiles and grimaced. That’s pageants.

Now, we moved into the tough part, the last five. It was a nice piece of drama, but it’s over now. Miss Jamaica got called fourth. That’s it! Agony into relief.

Time for agony was coming. The questioning. This is always awkward and nerve-wracking. Could and would the contestants sound genuine and sensible? It was touch and go.

The first questions came from the judges, professional athletes. Why them? I don’t know the logic. They were the picks or pucks, or whatever. But, they were trouble. Few of them spoke clear English. The contestants and audience struggled to understand them. The answers showed confusion and nerves, and a touch of preparedness. Miss Jamaica said she didn’t understand, and had the question repeated. Smart, I thought: get thinking time. But, the answers about dealing with gender abuse, seemed too vague. Nerves? Oh, boy, she’s not so unbeatable now.

They moved onto other questions, from Facebook, and she had to say what was Jamaica’s contribution to the world. She went ‘standard’, citing Bob Marley and Usain Bolt. Good and bad? Living and dead legends. Things and people that the audience would know. Jamaica, in glowing stereo…type. I could handle it. Nerves seemed under better control, but it’s no picnic being up there on international TV. Job well done. Now, the decisions.

One of our newspapers tweeted results, well before they were coming on screen. What?! Spoiling the TV show. Some annoyance, a lot. People readjusted. The results got pulled. TV ruling again. Palms really damp, now.

It’s history now, so no need for more agony. Miss Jamaica was put in 5th place. The audience booed. The winner was Miss Colombia (Miss USA in her wake). I claim that as a Caribbean win: Colombia has a Caribbean coast and islands in the Caribbean. We’ll take a piece of that. We represented Africa, when no country from that continent made the last 15. It’s one world, people.

Normal service seems to have resumed in my home. I’m not sure if I’ll do this again. I’m not much into hype. But, the fever that was behind Tessanne Chin was rolling through, again. That’s better than more waves of Chik-v.

People need hope and this gave it to us. For that, we should be grateful, always, that we can sit on the shoulders or imagine we’re in the shoes of those who have to stand as our representatives.

Thank you, Kaci Fennell.