Miss Cayman Islands Mariah Tibbetts. - Photos: Miss Cayman Islands Universe Committee

Miss Cayman Islands Universe Mariah Tibbetts may not have walked away with the prestigious global crown at Sunday’s pageant, but she was grateful for the experience and the support she received from home.

Miss Mexico Andrea Meza earned the Miss Universe 2021 title at the 69th annual beauty pageant, which was held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The pageant was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miss Cayman Islands Mariah Tibbetts modelling her swimwear.

Speaking with the Cayman Compass from Florida, Tibbetts said she was proud to have been able to represent the islands on a world stage.

“I’m feeling very emotional. I’m still trying to process everything that happened in terms of meeting the girls and the whole experience, being so proud to represent Cayman and also processing, having to have it end and having to say goodbye to the girls. There’s a lot of emotion involved – happy, sad, in between, everything. But overall, I just feel grateful and blessed,” she said in an audio note sent to the Compass.

Tibbetts said she was very thankful that the Miss Cayman Islands Universe committee was able to make it happen and “be able to have someone represent Cayman during this pandemic”.

The Bodden Town resident added she was looking forward to returning home after fulfilling her dream.

“As you know, I was the 2019 first runner up in the Miss Cayman Islands Universe pageant and I didn’t think that this day would ever come where I would be the one to represent us at Miss Universe. So I feel very, very grateful and very proud that I was able to do that and that I accomplished one of my own personal dreams,” she said.

Listen to  Miss Cayman Islands Universe Mariah Tibbetts’ comments here:

The 26-year-old earned rave reviews with her national costume, A Sunset Story. The fiery orange and blue costume was designed by Danielle Watler.

Tibbetts said she is looking forward to being back with her family, though she and the committee members who accompanied her to the event will first have to quarantine upon returning.

“I feel like I’ve been away for a while, even though it’s only been 10 days. But I do miss my Cayman family and they have been my biggest, biggest supporters throughout this all. I can’t say thank you enough to everyone who has supported me, shown me love, promoted me any way that they could; voted for me, sent me messages of love and support. I can’t say thank you enough,” she said.

Tibbetts said the tremendous support she has received has been her fuel throughout the entire experience.

“All the days were long and tiring, but every time I got to pick up my phone and see those messages and see the love that I was getting, it kept me going. I couldn’t stop at that point because I knew that everyone was rooting for me and I had so much support behind me,” she said.

Derri Dacres-Lee, chairperson of the Miss Cayman Islands Universe Committee, speaking to the Cayman Compass from Florida Monday night, said she was proud of Tibbetts’ performance and looked forward to training the new Miss Cayman Islands contestants.

“This has been a very rewarding experience for me to actually see some of our young ladies, as they transform from the onset. Coming on board they’re a bit shy and by pageant night they’re very confident and they’re ready to own the stage,” Dacres-Lee said, adding that’s what the Miss Cayman Islands Universe pageant is about.

“[It] is… empowering young ladies to be the best version of themselves [by] providing that platform to build their self-confidence and just being comfortable in their own skin,” she said.

Some of the pageant contestants used their appearance in the national costume event to raise awareness of issues affecting their countries.

Miss Universe Uruguay Lola de los Santos had a pride flag sown into her dress to protest discrimination and hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.

Miss Universe Myanmar Ma Thuzar Wint Lwin held up a sign saying, ‘Pray for Myanmar’, drawing attention to her country’s military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

Miss Universe Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong wore a cape containing the message ‘Stop Asian Hate’, referring to the crimes committed against Asians in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US.

Tibbetts is expected to return home Wednesday, together with the Cayman delegation.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now