Miss Cayman Islands Anika Conolly will depart Cayman Friday to travel to Las Vegas where she will represent Cayman in the Miss Universe Pageant on Nov. 26.
She will be accompanied to the pageant, which will be held in Planet Hollywood, by Derri Dacres-Lee, chairperson of Miss Cayman Islands Committee.
“It is a privilege and honor to represent my country and I hope to do the best that I can do,” Ms. Conolly said.
“It’s the opportunity to meet people from around the world and make great connections while sharing everything I love about my country, our friendly people, great food and gorgeous beaches,” she added. “I’m also excited to meet [Miss Universe presenter] Steve Harvey because I have watched his shows since I was a little girl.”
She says, if she wins, she would spend the prize money to assist her family.
“Many items on my wish list, like shoes, jewelry and travel, would be generously provided as part of the prize package so I would spend the money on helping my family. I have three younger sisters and one of them is about to start university, so I would use the prize money to help with her tuition.”
She is also ready for any challenges the pageant might bring her way, she said.
“The biggest challenge in any pageant for me is handling the pressure that comes from the high expectations to fit a certain standard placed on us due to our industry,” she said.
One of the ways she plans to get through these moments is to remember this quote from Maya Angelou: “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
She says that recalling that quote helps her “to keep moving forward and walk confidently wherever I go.”
Ms. Conolly underwent training with pageant coach Dianne Brown, based in Kingston, Jamaica, and believes training never ends for a beauty queen, as she’s practicing wherever she goes.
“Preparing for an international pageant is like a full-time job and takes the efforts of many to pull together,” she said. “Sometimes the aisles of the supermarket or the office hallway become my runway to practice my model walk.”
Her training included working out, speech and etiquette practice, runway practice, planning her wardrobe, practicing hairstyles and makeup application, scheduling, attending photo shoots to prepare a portfolio for the Miss Universe Organization, assisting with the design of her national costume, researching news and current events, and still attending charity events.
“An important aspect of the qualifications for pageants is knowledge of current affairs, so I stay abreast by regularly reading newspapers, including the Cayman Compass, and watching channels like Cayman 27 and BBC,” Ms. Conolly said.
During her training, she has also learned that the healthiest approach to eating is moderation.
“Make lifestyle changes in your eating habits rather than dieting, as the effects will last longer. Taking this approach, I have been able to reduce my intake of the foods I used to love and not miss them … like rice,” she said.
Ms. Conolly said she cannot wait to have a slice of her mom’s cassava cake after the pageant.
Since her crowning in the Miss Cayman contest, Ms. Conolly has been busy working on her platform, which is at-risk youth in the Cayman Islands.
“Having worked with youth for many years, I have seen where they can be easily influenced to go down the wrong path. To circumvent this, we must invest time and resources to support them and allow the opportunities for success,” she said.
Before her involvement in the Miss Cayman Islands pageant, she volunteered in a youth group at John Gray Memorial Church and assisted in the Mentoring Cayman program. After winning the title, she spoke in schools, started an initiative called Youth Rebelution, and organized fitness classes, a healthy food cooking session and training in business etiquette.
“To help our youth, we must do more than talk, we must show our support in action as well,” she said.
Ms. Conolly has been featured in several news media, including the Cayman Compass, Cayman Skies magazine, and the What’s Hot November issue.
“The Committee is very proud of Anika. Anika has been a great ambassador for the Cayman Islands and she will continue to shine gracefully on the world stage,” said Ms. Dacres-Lee.
The 66th Miss Universe pageant takes place Sunday, Nov. 26 at 7-10 p.m., with contestants from nearly 100 countries competing for the title. It will be broadcast live on Fox.