On Saturday, 18 Sept., in front of a live audience (and hundreds more watching online), Georgina Kerford was announced the winner of the Miss Cayman Islands Universe pageant.
She was crowned by last year’s queen Mariah Tibbetts, then walked the runway to much applause as Burmon Scott serenaded her with the song ‘My Caymanian Girl’. Georgina also won prizes for ‘Miss Photogenic’, ‘Best Legs’ and ‘Best in Gown’, tying with Aliyah Harrison in the latter two categories.
Beyond the usual hectic schedule leading up to the main event – including public appearances and many hours of training – the contestants and organisers were thrown a curve ball when the pageant’s original date was postponed with 24 hours notice.
Community-transmitted cases of COVID pressed pause on the proceedings for a week, allowing for a redesign of the seating arrangements in order to comply with the government’s new recommendations. Of the 500 tickets initially sold, only 300 could now be accommodated, with 100 in the ballroom and 200 outdoors. Despite the crowd being split over the two areas, the overall atmosphere was electric as the evening approached its zenith with the announcement of the second runner-up (Aliyah Harrison and Ashley Crowe in a tie), first runner-up (Kimberly Carlos) and, finally, the winner of the coveted title, Miss Cayman Islands Universe 2021.
Dreams of the crown
Since pageant night, Georgina has been caught up in a whirlwind of interviews, hundreds of messages from well-wishers, and the excitement of her new role. She admitted that she didn’t get to sleep until 4am on the Sunday, due to a mix of adrenaline and disbelief. It was in June that her official road to the crown began but, in a way, she has been preparing for this from a young age.
Born in Grand Cayman at the Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital (now Doctors Hospital), Georgina grew up on the island, attending Cayman Prep and High School. Her mother, Sue Fleming-Kerford, is an accomplished dancer and dance teacher, and so it was no surprise that Georgina followed in her footsteps, proving herself to be a born performer. In fact, she was awarded a lifetime scholarship with Miss Jackie’s School of Dance, due largely to her natural talent and dedication to the arts.
When asked what inspired her to enter Miss Cayman this year, she talked about remembering the Pirates Week parades of her youth, when the pageant contestants would go by in their district costumes.
“I would just sit there and be, like, ‘Wow, that’s so beautiful! Look at these girls!’,” Georgina said, adding that she imagined herself doing the same when she grew up.
That being said, with the global pandemic ongoing and in the early days of her working life, the idea of entering this year wasn’t really on her radar.
Derri Dacres-Lee, chairperson of the Miss Cayman Islands Universe Committee, convinced her to consider it. After bumping into Georgina at a football game, and seeing that the young lady had potential, she asked her if she would be interested in signing up.
With the additional encouragement from her family, as well as Miss Cayman 2007 Rebecca Parchment, a close friend, Georgina decided to take the plunge.
For anyone who thinks that competing in a pageant of this level is all poses and roses, they might be surprised to learn that it involves many hours of training, covering everything from how to walk on stage to etiquette. From orientation day on 15 June, the work began in earnest.
“It was just back-to-back training with Caitlin Tyson (Miss Cayman Islands Universe 2018). She’s amazing. She did our runway and dance training; I don’t know [what I would have] done without her,” Georgina said. “We had public speaking as well, which I’m so thankful for, because I wouldn’t have been able to answer that question [as well] as I did on Saturday.
Georgina also gave a shout-out to Tibbetts, who featured firmly among those she credited with her success.
“[She was an] absolute blessing to me,” Georgina said. “I would message her all [hours of the] night [and] morning. She always replied to me to give me advice.”
Georgina went on to emphasise the hard work of the contestants and those who lent their expertise to the process.
“There’s so much behind the scenes that people don’t see, and I think they should be more aware of it,” she said. “They don’t see, you know, the tears, the pain, the dedication that goes [into] the practices… ”
Even with a wealth of stage experience under her belt, Georgina admitted that there were a couple of butterflies before the big night, mainly related to the question portion of the competition. But, when it came to the dancing, she was confident.
“… I am a past dancer; I know what is expected – how to move, how to, you know, do the facial reactions. The only part that I was nervous [about] was for the Q&A, as that is [the] point where people look at you for your intelligence, the way you speak, your poise, and what you really believe in. I’m so thankful for the training that we had for that,” Georgina said, adding that a prayer she was given a week before – for the original date of the pageant – helped calm her nerves.
“Reverend Yvette [Noble-Bloomfield] gave us a prayer. She said to open it on the day of [the pageant]. Right before I went on stage, I opened it, and it was just the right message I needed to just calm me down. [It said] ‘Even if you don’t win, you’ve done an amazing job. You have so many opportunities, even after,’ and I want to thank her for that prayer.”
The night was a long one. Cocktails were scheduled for 5:30pm and the results were not announced until around midnight. When Georgina’s name was read out as the winner, she admitted it was a shock.
“I just wasn’t expecting it,” she said, “and when I hugged Mariah and I hugged Kimberly, first runner-up, they both said to me, ‘You’re going to university!’ because they knew that that’s what my aim was for – the scholarship. I started crying when they both said that to me; it was a very emotional feeling.”
After a brief respite from training, Georgina will now be back to it with even more pressure to excel. The Miss Universe pageant will be held in Eilat, Israel in December, and as the official representative for the Cayman Islands, expectations will be high. Georgina feels more than equal to the task.
“I’m ready for it. I am very determined when it comes to things that I want; I will put in 100%. Even if I don’t feel good, I’m going to go do it. That’s one thing that people admire about me is I don’t give up,” she said.
“I know these next few months are going to be exhausting, they’re going to be challenging. Like Mariah and some of the [other] amazing people [who] have helped me [have] said… ‘We’re here for you. It’s not going to be easy, but just stay true to yourself and you’re going to do great.’”
Feeling the love
Although there’s no doubt she’s been flying high since winning the title, Georgina is kept grounded by those who love her.
“I want to say a huge thank you to my mom, my brother… they’ve been supporting me so much. There’s also my friends who kept me sane, saying, ‘Even if you don’t win, we’re so proud of you’, and, you know, sometimes that’s all you really need to hear: ‘I’m proud of you for trying and doing your best.’”
She said she’s still getting used to the crowds of well-wishers and the fact that she is actually the new Miss Cayman Islands Universe, but is happily embracing the feeling.
“Thank you to all my supporters,” she said. “I’m so full of gratitude.”
| Watch our video interview with Georgina Kerford on www.caymancompass.com.