Afro Jamaican queen wins natural acclaim

Miss Jamaica Universe Davina Bennett hugs Olivia Grange, the island’s minister of Culture, Sports and Youth on her return to Jamaica after placing third in the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ministry of Culture, Sports & Youth

Dec. 1 was designated Afro Friday in Jamaica.

In honor of Miss Jamaica Universe contestant and second runner-up Davina Bennett who bested third from a field of 92 beauty queens in the recent Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada, the day celebrated pride in wearing natural and unprocessed hairstyles.

Women on the island were encouraged to boast Afros and natural looks in schools, businesses and while making public appearances.

Traditionally, Afros and the natural hairstyles of people of color are still frequently considered unprofessional or deemed inappropriate in the Caribbean.

It is that snobbery which Bennett publicly defied by wearing her hair in its natural form while representing her country.

On the universal stage as millions around the globe watched she boldly made a statement against the norm.

“Bennett chose to use her platform and provide representation to the countless faces at home watching who share her natural hair texture, but rarely get to see the attribute reflected in beauty pageants,” an editorial in the Jamaica Observer said.

Prior to the contest she told the newspaper — “We should allow our women to believe that they are beautiful and can fit in regardless of size, height” or “natural hair which I feel should be embraced more, and not ignored.”

Bennett was named first in the final 10.

She was also named the first finalist to contend in the top three.

In the final round Bennett was asked by Steve Harvey who hosted the pageant — ‘’What quality in yourself are you most proud of and how will you make that apply to your time as Miss Universe?’’

In response she said: “I am the founder of a foundation that spreads awareness for the deaf community, and this platform is such a great platform to just let (people) know that these persons need opportunities and equal opportunities like those in society. And so the Miss Universe competition will be the platform for me to use this foundation to spread awareness for all the deaf people around.”

Followed by Columbia and South Africa, hopes were high that the Afro-centric queen would rule the universe through 2018.

Poised, eloquent and stunning she seemed well-suited to wear the crown.

But her name was announced as the first of three to be eliminated from the finals. Loud boos echoed throughout the audience — seemingly objectionable to the judges’ decision.

“Social media went wild with posts on Instagram and Twitter with commentary to the hash tag…#MissJamaicaShouldHaveWon.

With very few objections to 22-year-old Demi-Leigh Nel Peters taking the diamond-studded tiara, on this go-round the contention was not that the South African queen was undeserving because she too was eloquent, composed and beautiful but that Miss Jamaica should have at the very least gotten the crown as first runner up.

The second-place finisher took to Instagram thanking her fans for the support and celebrate her accomplishment as the “first Afro queen who has made it this far.”

“I did not win but I got what I was seeking. I won the hearts of many. I stand as the first Afro queen to have made it thus far. I represented my little island and I received all the love one could possibly wish for.”

She intends to develop an app specifically befitting to aid the hearing impaired.

Reportedly a Miss Jamaica Universe doll is already in the works.

Television producer, screenwriter, and author, Shonda Lynn Rhimes, best known as the creator of the popular TV series ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘Scandal’ and ‘How To Get Away With Murder,’ said she wants a Miss Jamaica Universe 2017 doll for her daughters this Christmas.

“I am clearly going to need some Miss Jamaica dolls for my daughters, so they can play with a doll that shows them they are fully everything the universe ever needed,” the 47-year-old Chicago-born African-American head writer and executive producer tweeted.

Jamaica’s Kaci Fennel broke the glass ceiling five years ago when as Miss Jamaica Universe she wore closely cropped short hair instead of the usual long tresses usually fashioned by queens representing countries on every continent.

Fennel placed fifth in the pageant, emerging the first for her country to score a top five position.

During the 66-year-history of the pageant English-speaking Caribbean countries have been underrepresented in the final judging segments.

Trinidad & Tobago championed two winning tiaras when 24-year-old Janelle Commissiong (in 1977) and 25-year-old Wendy Fitzwilliam (in 1998) emerged queen of queens.

From the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, Puerto Rico has had the most wins with five and the Dominican Republic and Panama one each.

Of all the international beauty pageants, the Miss Universe is the most publicized, the most important and most reputed.

Although three Miss World crowns have gone to Jamaicans Carol Joan Crawford, Cindy Brakespeare and Lisa Hanna, the Miss Universe title has eluded queens from the island.

Marley Among Final 5 for Reggae Grammy

Damian Marley picked up a MOBO award on Nov. 29. The British celebration of Black music was held in Leeds and represents an alternative to the Grammy Awards.

Named Music Of Black Origin, Marley scored the nod over a formidable field of reggae recorders for his “Stony Hill” CD in the Best Reggae Act category.

Despite stiff competition from Aidonia, Popcaan, Alkaline and Chronixx, the youngest son of Bob Marley persevered to win. Also nominated for a Grammy in January when the awards return to New York City, in order to win another miniature gramophone Marley will have to beat Chronixx, Common Kings, J. Boog and Morgan Heritage.

Rapper Jay-Z topped the most nominations in top categories of record of the year, song of the year and album of the year for his “4:44” CD. With eight nominations to his already 21 wins, he was named to contend for eight more golden music trophies.

Also up for Grammy considerations are celebrity/scientist Neil Degrasse Tyson, Senator Bernie Sanders and the late Princess Leia “Star Wars” actress Carrie Fisher. In any other year, the astrophysicist and the Democratic candidate for president might likely score victories in the Spoken Word category but this year it is unlikely Fisher will lose due to her untimely death earlier this year.

Catch You On The Inside!

Miss Jamaica Universe contestant Davina Bennett.
Ministry of Culture, Sports & Youth

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