Jamaica at 50 – Jamaican Beauties of the Past 50 Years
Jamaica undoubtedly has some of the most beautiful and exotic women in the world. In celebration of our 50th year of independence, this post pays tribute to the gorgeous beauties our small nation has produced. Jamaica first graced it’s presence on the international stage of beauty at the Miss World pageant in 1959, still a British colony at the time, represented by Sheila Chong who was a semi-finalist. The success continued with other semi-final placements by Chriss Leon in 1962 and our very first Miss World crown won by Carole Joan Crawford in 1963. At age 20, standing at 5’3 (1.59m), Crawford is the shortest Miss World in history of the pageant. Jamaica Post issued a stamp of her face in honor of her winning the coveted title, which had an issue of three million stamps.
First ever Miss Jamaica World, Sheila Chong. She represented Jamaica at the 1959 Miss World pageant.
Carole Joan Crawford, Miss World 1963.
Erica Joanne Cooke placed 6th in 1964, Marlyn Elizabeth Taylor in 1969 a semi-finalist, Ava Joy Gill secured a 5th position in 1971 and an impressive 3rd place finish by Patricia Teresa Yuen Leung in 1973. The Miss World 1973 title was subsequently withdrawn from the winner Marjorie Wallace of U.S.A and, the runner-up, Evangeline Pascual of the Philippines, could not take up the mantle, resulting in Yuen being the representative for Miss World for most of the reigning year although she never acquired the title of Miss World. In 1974, Andrea Lyons was the first Miss Jamaica to wear an afro to the Miss World pageant and she was also a semi-finalist that year. That similar hair style was later repeated by Joan McDonald in 1978. Jamaica captured the coveted Miss World crown for the 2nd time when Cynthia Jean Cameron Breakspeare, popularly known as Cindy Breakspeare, won. Two years later went on to date Reggae legend Bob Marley (who was married to Rita Marley at the time) and gave birth to what would be their only child, the Grammy-winning reggae musician, Damian Marley.
Cindy Breakspeare, Miss World 1976.
The next representative to Miss World, Sandra Kong in 1977 was withdrawn by Spartan Health Club, which had now acquired the franchise for the local pageant, at the request of the then Jamaican government in protest of the participation by South Africa and the apartheid system which was in effect in that country at that time. This caused South Africa to be dismissed from the Miss World Contest and cleared the way for the first of Spartan’s Miss Jamaica World Pageants in 1978. Jamaica copped a 3rd place at the 1979 Miss World pageant in the name of Debbie Campbell. Michelle Harris also made the semi finals in 1980 and Sandra Cunningham secured a 3rd place finish for Jamaica in 1981. Cathy Levy a well-known and well-loved Jamaican beauty queen placed 4th at Miss World in 1983 followed by Allison Jean Barnett in 1985 that placed 5th. Allison was a huge favorite at Miss World that year but she stumbled during her interview segment which saw her missing out on the crown.
Debbie Campbell, placed 3rd at Miss World 1979.
Sandra Cunningham, placed 3rd at Miss World 1981.
Cathy Levy placed 4th at Miss World 1983.
Allison Jean Barnett, placed 5th at Miss World 1985.
It would take another 5 years for Jamaica to place at Miss World in 1990 with the likes of Erica Aquart who became the first Jamaican to receive the title of Queen of Beauty for the Caribbean. Also a year earlier, 1989, Jamaica had ventured into another International beauty contest, Miss Universe and secured a spot with the stunning mega super-beauty Sandra Foster who made it into the top 10. Not deterred by her loss, Sandra entered the Miss Jamaica World contest and won, making her the first Jamaican to win both Miss Jamaica Universe and Miss Jamaica World titles. She went on to place 4th at Miss World in 1991 as well as she was named the Caribbean Queen of Beauty. In that same year Jamaica placed 6th at the Miss Universe pageant represented by Kimberley Mais. 1993 would see Jamaica having its 3rd hold on the prestigious Miss World crown with the very brilliant, poised, demure and articulate then 18 year old Lisa Hanna.
Erica Aquart, finalist and Caribbean Queen of Beauty at Miss World 1990.
Kimberley Mais, placed 5th at Miss Universe 1991.
Sandra Foster, made Top 10 at Miss Universe 1989 and 4th at Miss World 1991.
Lisa Hanna, Miss World 1993.
After Lisa’s win, it took Jamaica another 5 years before Christine Straw made it to the semi-finals at Miss World 1998. Christine also was named the Caribbean Queen of Beauty as well as Desiree Depass in 1999. Jamaica also did well at Miss Universe that same year , 1999 , where the contest was held in our sister island of Trinidad and Tobago. Nicole Haughton represented Jamaica and made the top 10.
Sanya Hughes, Miss Jamaica Universe 2002.
In 2002, Jamaica selected the stunning Sanya Hughes to represent us at the Miss Universe pageant. Although she did not make the top 15, she had a huge impact as she was selected by world-renowned Global Beauties as the “sexiest woman of the Americas” in 2002. After the pageant Sanya continued her modelling career with Pulse model agency and in 2011 she had a small role as ”Mermaid” in the 9th highest grossing film of all time worldwide, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. In 2003, Jade Fulford made the top 10 at Miss World and was name Caribbean Queen of Beauty. In 2004, Christine Straw, also followed in her predecessor’s footsteps, Sandra Foster and became the second Jamaican woman to win both Miss Jamaica Universe and Miss Jamaica World titles. She also made the top 10, like she did at Miss World 6 years earlier. In that same year, Tonoya Toyloy represented Jamaica at Miss World where she received a Miss World scholarship to further her studies. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2009 with a PhD in Pharmacy.
Christine Straw, placed in the top 10 at Miss Universe 2004 and semi-finalist and Caribbean Queen of Beauty at Miss World 1998.
In 2005, the bubbly Terri-Karelle Reid represented Jamaica at Miss World and made the semi-finals. The following year in 2006, Sara Lawrence, placed 4th; the highest placement since Lisa Hanna. Sara also went on to become the Caribbean Queen of Beauty but few months later a scandal broke which saw her being asked by local pageant organizers to relinquish her Miss Jamaica World crown. After successfully placing 4th at Miss World that year, Sara continued to fulfill her duties as Miss Jamaica but later found out she had become pregnant! This in the world of pageantry is a no-no. A contestant must not have children,or be married prior to entering the contest and during the beauty queen’s reign she must not become pregnant. This became a huge scandal in Jamaica, however, most of the Jamaican population supported Sara’s decision to keep her baby as well as the Miss World Organization allowed Sara to keep her Caribbean Queen of Beauty title. Sara was unable to crown her successor at the 2007 Miss Jamaica World coronation because on that same night she gave birth to her son. During the coronation, a farewell speech pre-recorded by Sara was played and Terri-Karelle, MJW 2005, crowned the new queen.
In 2007, quintessential beauty Yendi Phillips was crowned the new Miss Jamaica World. She would later create history at Miss World by being the first and only contestant to make the finals of all the fast track events. She was the 1st runner up in Miss World Beach Beauty, finalist in MW Sports, MW Talent, MW Top Model, and the Beauty with a Purpose award. During the Miss World telecast she made the Top16 and Global Beauties named her gown designed by Uzuri International, “the most beautiful evening gown” in all the international beauty pageants for 2007. At the Miss World 2008 pageant, Jamaican fashion was showcased on the world stage when Uzuri International dressed all 112 women during the opening sequence of the show.
Yendi posing in her award-winning 2007 Miss World gown designed by Uzuri International.
Yendi’s quest for an international crown continued as she later re-entered the pageant world, this time representing Jamaica at the 2010 Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas,Nevada. She was the third Jamaican woman, Sandra Foster and Christine Straw being the other 2, to hold both Miss Jamaica Universe and Miss Jamaica World titles. Yendi did Jamaica proud once again and secured our highest placement ever in Miss Universe, 2nd. She was beaten by Ximena Navarrete of Mexico.
Yendi in a beauty shot taken by world-renowned fashion photographer, Fadil Berisha.
Ximena and Yendi, the final two contestants at Miss Universe 2010.
Deanna Robins, Miss Jamaica World 2012 represented Jamaica at the 62nd staging of the Miss World pageant. She did exceptionally well placing in many of the fast track events: Talent, Top Model, Sports and Beauty with a Purpose and made the final 7 as well as she was bestowed the title of Caribbean Queen of Beauty. More importantly Deanna ended the 5 year drought at Miss World for Jamaica, as our last beauty queen to receive a placement prior to 2012 was Yendi Phillips.
Deanna Robins, Miss Jamaica World 2012
Gina Hargitay, Miss Jamaica World 2013. Also placed in top 7 at Miss World, and was also crowned Caribbean Queen of Beauty.
In January 2015, Kaci Fennell represented Jamaica at Miss Universe 2014 in Miami, Florida. (No pageant was held in the year 2014). She was the clear favorite throughout the competition finishing as 4th runner up. Leading up to the pageant and beyond, Kaci received tremendous support from Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora. Most Jamaicans openly embraced Kaci’s unique and distinguished features, noticeably her short hair and facial bone structure. These same qualities also made the international audience fall in love with her as well. Kaci came 5th out of 88 contestants, and was beaten by Paulina Vega of Colombia who was crowned the winner. Many pageant fanatics believed that Kaci was the clear winner, which led to many media outlets reporting that Kaci was robbed of the Miss Universe crown.
Kaci Fennell, 5th place at Miss Universe 2014.
Over the past 50 years Jamaica has produced astonishingly beautiful and brilliant women who have represented us on the international stage, many of whom have gone on to successful careers as actresses ,models ,doctors and more importantly role models for women in Jamaica and the rest of the world. Jamaica may be small but we have numerous accolades to our name in just 50 years as a developing nation.