For 26-year-old accountant Mariah Tibbetts, the path to the Miss Cayman Islands Universe crown was far from typical.
Her unexpected ascent to royalty came as one of many surprises, albeit positive, to result from the COVID-19 crisis. With a traditional pageant impossible this year, Tibbetts was selected by the pageant committee to don the 2020 crown.
As 2019’s first runner-up, she was a natural choice. But Tibbetts brings her own enthusiasm and community spirit to the role. She will be using her position to represent the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and to reach out to the Sister Islands.
She stopped by the Cayman Compass studio to reflect on her 26 Sept. crowning at Grand Old House and what she hopes to accomplish during her reign.
[ [00:00:00] TIBBETTS] I am Mariah Tibbetts and I am Miss Cayman Islands Universe 2020.
[COMPASS] Welcome to the [00:00:15] Cayman Compass podcast. This is your host and journalist Kayla Young. On this episode, we’ll be catching up with, you guessed it, the new Miss Cayman Islands Universe, Mariah [00:00:30] Tibbetts. The 26-year-old Bodden Town beauty’s path to the crown was far from typical. Like so many other occasions this year, the Miss Cayman Islands Universe pageant was forced to [00:00:45] adapt to COVID-19 restrictions. The uncertainty of the year meant foregoing the standard pageant style with multiple contestants competing for the crown. Instead, the [00:01:00] committee decided to go with 2019 first runner up, Mariah Tibbetts as the 2020 queen.
Just days after her crowning at Grand Old House, Tibbetts came by the Cayman Compass [00:01:15] studio to discuss her unexpected reign and what she hopes to make out of the months ahead.
Have a listen.
[ [00:01:30] TIBBETTS] I’m a certified public accountant by day, Netflix junkie, dog mom, cool aunt by night. I am a very family-oriented person. I have a big family [00:01:45] and they are some of my best friends. Our most recent addition to the family is my three-year-old nephew. So he’s definitely the star of the show. He has such a big personality and he just reminds us to not take life too seriously.
[00:02:00] My family roots are from Cayman Brac. Both of my parents are actually from there and I was blessed to have grown up some of my childhood in Cayman Brac as well. I consider myself to be a very big hearted person. I care a lot about [00:02:15] people. I’m very generous and I just try to be as kind to people as I can.
[COMPASS] Your journey to the crown this year was a little different than the traditional journey. Tell us about that.
[TIBBETTS] [00:02:30] It definitely was different. I remember the committee called me and I got a missed call. And usually when they call me it’s for an event, if Kadejah [Bodden] is busy or they have a social gathering or something like that.
So when I saw the missed call, we were actually in [00:02:45] lockdown at that point. So I had no idea what it was about, because it couldn’t possibly be an event. So I called back and when they offered me the opportunity, of course I jumped at it and I would never let something like that pass me up. But, to be honest, I didn’t know if it would actually [00:03:00] happen because like I said, we were still in lockdown. Everything was shut down and we just really didn’t know how it would end. So when we finally came out of lockdown and things started opening back up again, it kind of hit me that I actually might have to be Miss Cayman Islands Universe.
[00:03:15] So it’s been very indescribable, to be honest, I’m still in shock. I’m still getting used to it, but I’m excited and I think it will be a great year.
[COMPASS] Great. And let’s step back to 2019, when your 2020 [00:03:30] crowning really started. What happened then? Tell us about the outcome of that pageant.
[TIBBETTS] So, in 2019, when I actually did the pageant on stage, I got first runner-up and obviously everyone enters to win, but I accepted my [00:03:45] title as first runner-up.
I supported Kadejah in any way that I could, and I really made peace with it. I just was thankful for the lessons. I grew from it. And I took what I could, and I had kind of closed that chapter of my life. I had other goals. I was looking towards doing other things, [00:04:00] and then all of this happened, the opportunity came up and it’s just so funny that you plan things and they usually don’t turn out the way you planned. But I think that I was really put in this role for a reason, and I really hope to make the best of it and make the most of it and make an impact.
[COMPASS] You [00:04:15] know, just looking back from when you started this journey to now, what are the skills, what are the lessons that you picked up along the way?
[TIBBETTS] One of the biggest lessons that I learned is nobody’s perfect. I’m a perfectionist by [00:04:30] nature. I’m type A for sure. But going through the pageant, I really learned that, what is the right answer? What is the right dress? What is the right pose? There’s no such thing as perfect. And I really had to learn that over my whole life, but it really, really came to a point last year when I was [00:04:45] in the pageant and it actually made me love myself more, accept myself more, and I hope that other people can see that and also learn from that and feel that same way. I also obviously gained so many friendships from last year. I’m so thankful for all the other contestants.
We still talk to this day [00:05:00] and I got to network a lot with a lot of people and met a lot more people on our island. I obviously gained public speaking skills, you know, modeling skills, walking skills. So I definitely got a lot out of it.
[COMPASS] And it sounds like there’s had to be a bit of a, [00:05:15] like you said, a shift, that you kind of started moving on from this chapter. So what’s that been like? How have you shifted back into that mindset and stepped into being Miss Cayman?
[TIBBETTS] I’ll be [00:05:30] honest. At the crowning, one of my main concerns was that I hadn’t walked in a gown since last year. So it was, it took some time to get back into it, but it actually came pretty naturally. You kind of just click into it.
I also have been on stage for a lot of my life. I used to be in [00:05:45] the Cayman Islands national dance school, Dance Unlimited. So I have some practice being on stage and obviously the pageant as well. So. I was a bit nervous, but I think that everything’s coming back. I’m obviously doing my practicing and my training. So I think, I think that I’ll be okay.
[ [00:06:00] COMPASS] You wore a very beautiful gown by a local designer that night, correct?
[TIBBETTS] Yes. I wore a beautiful gown by Miss Norma Ebanks on the crowning night. She created that just for me, my exact measurements, my exact style. So I’m very, very [00:06:15] grateful for her and I love how it came out.
[COMPASS] And I understand you are supporting the Cayman Islands Cancer Society. Tell us about that.
[TIBBETTS] I’m very excited to be working with the Cancer Society this year. I actually have a lot of family history with [00:06:30] cancer. I’ve grown up around cancer my whole life, unfortunately. So the organisation really hits home for me.
And I really hope that I can just spread their message. They do such good work and really we put all of their money into helping these patients, helping these people and supporting them. [00:06:45] So they don’t really have a lot to spend on marketing and being glamorous or anything like that. So I hope that I can be that voice for them and use my platform, use my reach to really get their word out and get them more supporters and more donations.
[COMPASS] And of [00:07:00] course we’re still in a strange year. And the next months ahead, or are still a bit uncertain. Are you expecting to travel for the Miss Universe pageant?
[TIBBETTS] Right now, they’re planning for [00:07:15] a 2021 international Miss Universe pageant.
And I have my fingers crossed. We’re obviously going to prepare as much as we can in hopes that it will happen. But even if it doesn’t, I’m excited to be more involved in my community and really focus my efforts here at home as much as I [00:07:30] can.
[COMPASS] What messages would you like to send to the Cayman community and how do you hope to connect with them?
[TIBBETTS] I really hope to be an ambassador and a role model for my fellow Caymanians. I just want to bring it [00:07:45] back home. I just want to make everyone connected again. I know that, obviously, with everything that happened with COVID-19, it’s a bit weird. We don’t really feel like we did before it started. So I hope I can just bring that togetherness back, the Caymankind back and get to know as many [00:08:00] of my fellow Caymanians as I can.
Something that I also really would love to do is to be more involved in the Sister Islands community, so Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I would love to travel there more often, more frequently, and really get involved with their events and just [00:08:15] remind us that we are three islands. I know it’s easy to get caught up in Grand Cayman because we’re the biggest, we have the most events, but I really would love to shine a light on the Sister Islands.
I would also really just love to make an impact as much as I can, not just the youth of Cayman, but [00:08:30] all of our Caymanians. I just want to be a positive role model and someone they can look up to.
[COMPASS] Thanks [00:08:45] for tuning in to another edition of the Cayman Compass podcast. For more Cayman Islands headlines, visit us online at caymancompass.com. You can also [00:09:00] subscribe to our podcasts on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Until next time. This is Kayla signing off. [00:09:15]