Despite initial lack of government support for both the 2018 Miss Cayman Islands and subsequent Miss Universe pageants, local organizers started recruiting candidates in April, planning participation in the late-autumn global final.

Applications opened this month for both pageants, with an April 30 deadline.

The two pageants are intimately linked. The winner of the local contest goes on to represent the Cayman Islands in the Miss Universe competition, tentatively scheduled this year for November or December in Manila, capital of the Philippines.

The Manhattan headquarters of Miss Universe declined to confirm the date or venue, however, saying “nothing has been announced yet, nothing is official.” The spokesman was unable to say when an announcement might come.

Committee chair for both Miss Cayman and Miss Universe, Derri Dacres-Lee, acknowledged that government had not initially budgeted funds for the two pageants, despite years of support and a $100,000 allocation for 2019.

While offering no explanation for the lack of 2018 funding, she said the 2019 figure “is a two-year budget,” and that “government is currently processing funding for the 2018 pageant.”

Miss Cayman would go ahead as planned, she said.

“The government is supporting the committee with funding,” she added. “They have ways of moving money around for the pageant this year, and they have allocated full funding, and more, should we need it.”

She estimated costs for Miss Cayman at $30,000 “on the scale it has been operating,” and pegged Miss Universe at half that sum – “approximately $15,000.” This includes wardrobe, training, travel and per diem for the titleholder.

Pointing to the overall $100,000 budget, “government will have funding in place for 2019,” Ms. Dacres-Lee said. “I am looking forward to another exciting year.”

Training sessions for the candidates will follow the April 30 deadline for applications.

Ms. Dacres-Lee hoped to recruit at least five contestants – between the ages of 18 and 27, never married, not pregnant and with no criminal convictions.

“We are seeking role models,” said Ministry of Tourism Administrative Officer Judy Powery, government representative for both pageants.

The contests are more than a simple beauty contest, she said, adding that they serve for “providing opportunities for our young women to get education and experience through travel and interaction with women from all over the world.

“We also offer an educational scholarship in the amount of CI$70,000 for the winner and $5,000 each for the first and second runners-up.”

The training teaches poise, balance and confidence, while the contest itself offers international exposure on a world stage, Ms. Dacres-Lee said.

Because Miss Cayman automatically goes to Miss Universe, all local contestants must meet the requirements of the New York corporate headquarters, which demands an indigenous pageant.

The Cayman Islands government acquired both the Miss Universe and Miss World franchises in the early 1990s from a private local owner. The New York parent itself had been partly owned by a consortium of U.S. TV giant NBC, Spanish-language broadcaster Univision and the Trump Organization.

In 2015, after controversial remarks by presidential candidate Donald Trump regarding Mexican immigrants, NBC dropped the partnership. Mr. Trump subsequently sued Univision for $500 million and bought NBC’s share in the Miss Universe organization. He quickly sold the entire company – which included Miss USA and Miss Teen USA – to New York-based WME-IMG, William Morris Endeavors and International Management Group.

“For the Cayman Islands,” Ms. Powery said, “Miss Universe is a tourism product,” advertising the destination. “The members of Miss Universe … if your girl is getting a lot of views, especially on social media, say, 30,000 views, 40,000 views, that is a lot of attention for the Cayman Islands. People will follow their favorites. They’ll come to Cayman, and TV audiences all over the world tune in to watch Miss Universe.”

In the meantime, Ms. Powery said, the schedule to select and train contestants, and prepare them for the global finals was “very tight.” It also means that Cayman may find itself overwhelmed in August, witnessing not only Miss Cayman Islands, but also Miss Teen on Aug. 25 and the separate Miss World contest, acquired from government in 2017 by 1992 Miss Cayman Pamela Ebanks-Small, who launched candidate recruitment in late March at www.missworldcayman.com.

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