By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
THIS YEAR, there were no shouts or applauses to usher in the new Miss Bahamas Universe, Shauntae Miller. Instead, Miss Miller received her accolades by virtual means due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is what most major world pageants have been forced to do – host virtual workshops since gathering in large crowds have been prohibited in most countries around the globe to control the spread of the virus.
On September 10, the remaining six young women from the 18 applicants between the ages of 18 and 28, vied for the coveted crown of Miss Bahamas Universe 2020.
The pandemic while changed the Miss Bahamas Universe organization, like many other countries, opted to host a virtual workshop and boutique screening.
The existence of the COVID-19 restrictions provided two strands of opportunity to the organisation. The first was to execute the “Confidently Beautiful” workshops virtually, in order for the contestants to receive the benefits of particular skills and resources that can be useful tools as individuals and working professionals. The second was to ensure that each young lady had an equal opportunity to compete for the national title, regardless to their presence on the Island of New Providence or not.
While pageantgoers anticipate a live-stage production annually, the undertaking was a challenge due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. In an effort to ensure that the organisation met its targeted timeline, as well as ensuring that it respected the emergency orders, the combination of virtual workshops and the private screening turned out to be the most effective and safest method of execution, said Anthony Smith, the organisation’s national director.
“The pandemic has obviously affected many things. And this has put a pause on social events everywhere. For Miss Bahamas Universe Organisation, it really meant that choosing how we were going to execute the process had to be fluid for our judging panel and safe for our contestants. The international company, Miss Universe Organisation, provided all of the local pageants globally with the option of simply choosing a candidate or conduct a virtual platform that is serviceable in one's own country.
“Miss Bahamas Universe Organisation opted to do the four-week virtual workshop and a boutique screening, equal to a modeling/acting casting call, because we had some very compelling young ladies who were super-ready and therefore, our MBU committee agreed to take them through a three-level interview process including swimsuit in order to deliberate for such an important decision. Although any of the finalist would've been great, ultimately, Shauntae Miller won the panelists over. She's sort of a quiet storm. I suppose that's where her competitive nature comes in as an athlete,” he said.
The other top contestants in this year’s process was first and second runner ups Selvinique Wright and Nyiesha Tilus respectively. Other top participants included Halle Bowe, Ricah Neely and Lashelle Forbes.
Shauntae is the sister of Bahamian gold medal Olympian Shaunae Miller. Shauntae is also a health and fitness advocate, track coach and an aspiring entrepreneur.
Miss Miller also holds a bachelors of science in pre-medicine biology, a masters of science in clinical mental health counseling and is currently pursuing a PhD at Carson Newman University.
This was Miss Miller’s second time entering the competition. When asked what made her try again? She said with teary eyes:
“My faith. I entered in 2018 new to pageantry and was very disappointed when I did not walk away with the title at that time. Nonetheless, I continued to work on myself and two years later with hard work and determination, I felt much more prepared for this year’s competition. I am forever thankful to my continued support system of family and friends for helping to make my dream a reality and extremely grateful to represent my country.”
The team of professionals, both local and abroad, who provided a dynamic and insightful training for the ladies during the four-week exercise, included: Chrystal Bethell, communications coach, actor and model and former Top Model of The Bahamas titleholder, conducted the communications and public speaking training; make-up artist Sarsha Lepeche-Taylor gave tips about make up application; Mitzi Turnquest, CEO and businesswoman, spoke to the young women about image and entrepreneurship; Eric Gibson, CEO of Brand 300 (Digital Marketing/Branding) shared social media and digital marketing tips and strategies; Ovo Drenth, professional model in the US Market, provided insight on the runway do’s and don’ts; and Chantel O’Brian, founder of PS O’Brian Consulting and Modeling Studio, shared her experiences as a former title holder and offered insightful nuggets to the young ladies, distinguishing the differences between the pageantry and modeling industries.
The Miss Bahamas Universe Organisation also thanked its Confidently Beautiful Workshop trainers and sponsors for their support including the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium, Fedex, Signature Styles, The Ministry of Tourism, Biore, Jergens, Image Masters, Body Beautiful, The New York Film Academy, Hamian Official and Brand 300 Agency.
While many are still anticipating the Miss Universe pageant, the official date and city has not been announced as yet. However, the pageant is scheduled to be held in the United States within the first quarter of 2021 with further details to come in the upcoming months.