Beauty contests in Jamaica have always been at the centre of public debates on identity, class and social values. Set against a background of the country’s colonial past and western standards of beauty, pageants bring both discord and unity among supports and detractors alike. Despite this controversy everyone is thrilled when contestants are finalists in Miss World and Miss Universe beauty pageants. For Jamaicans, reaching the top ten, three or better yet winning the crown is probably equivalent to winning medals at the Olympics.
In 1963 shortly after Jamaica gained political independence Joan Crawford won the Miss World title, a first for the island. This achievement boosted national pride and sense of significance on the world stage. It is still the same today for Davina Bennett’s third place at this year’s Miss Universe pageant (with an audacious afro) brought both pride and delight to every Jamaican.
Here are a few images of recent Jamaican contestants at international pageants, as well as Joan Crawford, Miss World 1963.