The reigning Miss Cayman may not have brought back a crown from the Miss Universe Pageant, but she did bring back a lifetime of memories and experiences she will forever cherish.
Tonie Chisholm said that she also learned a lot about herself while participating in the pageant.
“I’ve gotten to know myself so much better,” Ms. Chisholm said. “I understand my strengths, my weaknesses and who I really am and what I really want out of life. It’s given me a chance to grow beyond my preconceived emotional and physical limitations and accept myself.”
The 26-year-old North Side beauty was crowned Miss Cayman at the Lions Centre on Jan. 3, 2015. She departed Grand Cayman on Friday, Nov. 27 to compete in the Miss Universe competition which took place on Dec. 20 at the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort and Casino.
Ms. Chisholm said the experience was very unique.
“You are basically in a bubble for three weeks, with 80 other women whose main priority is to be noticed,” Ms. Chisholm said. “Some of these women have rock star status in their country with the world on their shoulders; others are there for just the experience.”
Ms. Chisholm said that she was told “horror stories” about what to expect from the other contestants, but her experience interacting with her fellow pageant competitors was “very pleasant.”
“I found it easy to make friends,” she said.
She also enjoyed having the opportunity to meet the talented entertainers that performed during the show.
“I was pleased I got the opportunity to meet all the talent from the night of the show,” Ms. Chisholm said. “Steve Harvey was at a few rehearsals with us, and he was a good laugh.”
Although she did not bring home a crown, Ms. Chisholm is happy with her overall performance at the pageant.
“I used my training and I was able to apply it effectively and, at the end of the day, be myself,” she said.
Ms. Chisholm’s National Costume – dubbed “Fire Coral Queen of the Caribbean” – was designed by international designer Rocky Gathercole. It was not selected by the judges as one of the top ten costumes in the pageant, but Ms. Chisholm was pleased that the costume was featured as a “fan favorite” on the Miss Universe website.
Along with the rest of the world, Ms. Chisholm was shocked when show host Steve Harvey accidentally announced that Miss Colombia had won, when actually, the winner was Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, Miss Philippines. Ms. Chisholm said the crowning mix-up was “an awkward experience.”
“You are on stage, there is a massive audience in front you, you’re on live television and you haven’t been prepared for the possibility of this kind of mistake because everything is supposed to run like clockwork,” Ms. Chisholm said. “I was not watching the monitor, but I was cheering like crazy for Colombia and some of the girls were asking, ‘Did you see that?’ And I could only think, ‘What are you talking about? You’re being really rude. Be quiet.’ Then Steve came out and said what he said.”
Ms. Chisholm said she felt sympathy for both of the contestants. “But at the end of the day it was a mistake and it had to be corrected. [Miss] Colombia was very gracious at the time and Pia didn’t really know what to do.”
Ms. Chisholm said she was saddened by the bullying and threats that were made toward some of the women because of their reaction on stage during the crowning.
“What people rarely realize is that we become each other’s support through the whole process and at any time you put 81 people in a high stress situation, someone is not going to get along,” Ms. Chisholm said. “But we were all respectful, and, at the end of the day, supportive of each other.”
With the competition now behind her, Ms. Chisholm said she’s looking forward to taking advantage of opportunities in the months ahead to return to her roots and work in the film industry, both locally and internationally.
“It’s an exciting and terrifying idea that my life and agenda are back in my hands entirely,” Ms. Chisholm said. “I can’t wait to make the most of what being Miss Cayman Islands over the past year has offered me.”
Although she did not bring home a crown, Ms. Chisholm is happy with her overall performance at the Miss Universe pageant.