Kadejah Bodden, a 24‑year-old Bodden Town beauty, is the new Miss Cayman Universe.
Bodden was crowned Saturday night at the annual pageant at The Ritz-Carlton hotel.
One of the biggest responses from the 600-strong crowd on the night was Bodden’s answer to the question: “People from over 100 counties around the world live in the Cayman Islands. With so much foreign influences, what does being Caymanian mean to you?”
She responded: “Being Caymanian means embracing Caymanian culture, history, art, food, but you know what, being Caymanian also means embracing the 100-plus nationalities that make up our island because without them we would not be the Cayman we know and love today.”
All six contestants looked stunning in evening wear, escorted on stage by uniformed officers from Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service, but the tall Bodden Town beauty queen stood out from the rest in a shimmering silver evening gown with matching earrings.
Bodden, who also won the titles for Best in Gown, Best Legs and Best Smile, holds a master’s degree in regenerative medicine from Queen Mary University of London.
She enjoys keeping up with current affairs, yoga, reading and paddleboarding.
In an interview backstage with the Cayman Compass before her win, Bodden said the journey up to that point had been intense and hectic, with a lot of training, but also rewarding.
She said if she won the title, it would mean that she would be able to give back to the community, and she really wanted to see Cayman place this year in the Miss Universe Pageant. Miss Universe 2019 will be held in Seoul, South Korea, on 19 Dec. It was won last year by Catriona Gray from the Philippines.
For winning Miss Universe Cayman, Bodden receives a $70,000 three-year educational scholarship, employment with the Department of Tourism for one year, and a 2019 Kia K3 for one year, among other gifts.
Mariah Tibbetts, 25, also from Bodden Town, was named first runner-up. She also won the People’s Choice Award, and received gifts and a $20,000 scholarship. Jason Howard of Hurley’s Media said an online poll where members of the public could vote for their favourite contestant received close to a million hits for the People’s Choice Award.
Mahalia Seymour, 25, was second runner-up; she won a $2,500 educational scholarship.
Samantha Dixon, 27, from East End was named Miss Photogenic, and Aleka Beckford, 24, from Bodden Town was named Miss Personality. Also taking part was Francine Wright from Bodden Town.
To kick of the show, the contestants performed an opening dance number with Brac Koalition. It was coordinated by former Miss Cayman Monique Brooks. The contestants then appeared in swim wear and evening wear.
Kevin Dawkins and Sabeen Calvetti co-hosted the event.
Tibbetts told the Cayman Compass backstage she was excited to be in the pageant and will continue work with the Alex Panton Foundation, the chosen platform for this year’s competition.
Seymour said they had all joined the pageant to win, but were all winners in their own way.
“Just taking the first step to bravery is the encouragement most young women here in the Cayman Islands need to help join the pageant,” she said.
Derri Dacres Lee, committee chair for the Miss Cayman Universe committee, said pageant provides a platform for young Caymanian women to further their education, build social network and self-confidence, and create opportunities for success, which ultimately paves the way for them to become leaders in the community.
Dacres Lee said the Alex Panton Foundation had been chosen as the pageant platform to raise awareness about mental illness, depression and anxiety that affects children and young adults in the Cayman Islands.
She said it was the very first time the pageant was being held at The Ritz-Carlton, and as they were having a prestigious national event, The Ritz-Carlton was the perfect place. “Hopefully, we will be able to have it there again next year,” she said.
Jane Panton, chairperson of the Alex Panton Foundation, told the audience that the foundation has many projects on the way to promote awareness. These include a youth ambassador programme to enhance knowledge of mental illness, and the launch of emotional literacy education programmes called ‘Zippy’s Friends’ and ‘Apple’s Friends’, developed by the UK’s Partnership for Children, which is free of charge to all the primary schools and after-school programmes in the Cayman Islands.
MLA David Wight delivering remarks on behalf of Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, told the audience said the Miss Cayman pageants have always been close to his heart, ever since his mother Marguerite Wight was a runner-up in the contest. He said Cayman was blessed to have “such gorgeous girls” among its small population.