SANYA, CHINA | Miss Uganda Quiin Abenakyo etched her name in sapphire Saturday with a stunning performance that saw her come just two tiaras short of the Miss World crown.
But there will be only joy for the beauty queen from Busoga who will return home — from a pageant few had expected anything of in the beginning — as Miss World Africa, with a host of opportunities on her tiara.
The continental crown isn’t a consolation in anyway, it was a precursor to picking the eventual winner, Miss Mexico Vanessa Ponce de Leon. It placed Abenakyo in the top five overall, just four tiaras closer to the coveted crown.
Abenakyo’s victory ensured that the continental crown remained in East Africa. Kenya’s Magline Jeruto won the title last year. Jeruto finished fourth last year.
Joining Abenakyo and Ponce de Leon were Miss World Europe, Belarusian Maria Vasilevich; Miss World Caribbean, Jamaican Kadijah Robinson; and Miss World Asia and Oceania, Thai Nicolene Pichapa Limsnukan.
— Miss South Africa (@Official_MissSA) December 8, 2018
For all the vested interests in Miss World pageant that Julia Morley has had to contend with, here were two black beauties in Abenakyo and Robinson living the dream of a historical crowning.
In 1970, Jennifer Horsten had made history by becoming the first black woman to be crowned Miss World. Over the years, the closest blacks came to equaling the Grenadan’s accolade were those moments South Africa won the crown with white beauty queens.
Until 2001 when out of the blue, Agbani Darego of Nigeria had the honour of being the first African to behold the crown, taking over from arguably the most popular winner in recent times, India’s Priyanka Chopra.
The pageant has one too many parties hawking their interests in it. Among them are economies jostling for interests from hosting the grand finale to winning the crown that comes with marketing.
Hosting means commanding over two billion views world wide and China, a country that for decades shunned the pageant as objectifying women, has in the recent past taken special interest in it.
The 2018 pageant was the eighth time the Miss World final was being held in Sanya, which first hosted the pageant in 2003.
Then the minority groups have own interests too. For instance, there were various attempts to promote Spain’s Amaia Izar Leache using the transgender ticket but the organisers didn’t seem to have heard as she didn’t even make the top 12.
But Abenakyo did, when the top five were announced as continental queens, she was there, standing regal in a brown flowing dress.
And then she made the grade in the top three per popularity. This particular mark was a major victory for a nation that had taken to social media to promote Abenakyo with wide calls for Ugandans to vote her.
The voting had reached such hysterical level that Ugandans found out that some of them had been happily adding tallies to the wrong sites. All that mattered was that Ugandans wanted Abenakyo to ‘bring the crown home’ — more like England with their World Cup dream.
Miss World announced at the finale that the continental queens — including Miss Panama Solaris Barba who stepped up in place of the eventual winner as Miss World Americas, and Miss New Zealand Jessica Tyson — will travel with new Miss World Ponce de Leon, on the Miss World 2019 Beauty with a Purpose tour.
The pageant organisers also announced that all five Beauty with a Purpose finalists will also be joining the tour.
What does Beauty with a Purpose mean?
In 1972, Miss World Organisation chairperson and chief executive Julia Morley introduced the concept of ‘Beauty With A Purpose’ to the pageant. It has since become the impetus for global humanitarianism, with beauty queens raising millions of dollars during the tour.
The main targets vulnerable groups in society, especially children and women causes around the world.
The Beauty with a Purpose concept, Morley says, was inspired by the rhetorical question of a good Samaritan caring for homeless children in Singapore who had asked her, “Isn’t it better to light one candle in the dark than not to see at all?”
Addressing the media in India last year, Morley said: “I was watching an old lady, she was washing children on the street, children who couldn’t move. She washed them daily. One day, I went to her and asked her if she ever got tired, and she responded, ‘Isn’t it better to light a candle in the darkness than to have no light at all?’ And that day, Beauty with a Purpose came into the world.”
Over the years, Beauty With A Purpose has distinguished Miss World pageant, giving it a face as a major platform for community involvement and a conglomerate for beauty that goes beyond skin deep.
“Beauty with a Purpose is the heart of Miss World. Each beauty queen chooses a project close to their home country presenting their projects at Miss World. I am so incredibly proud of all the hard work and results achieved by the young women around the world and hope you enjoy reading about their projects,” Morley said.
Often criticised at home as not doing enough beyond the crown, Abenakyo’s exposure during the 2019 Miss World tour is expected to bolster her ability to conceptualise the kinds of projects that give the ultimate meaning to Beauty with a Purpose.
Miss World Organisation is yet to announce the destinations but going by tradition, Mexico, the home of 68th Miss World, will be opening tour destination, with at least 50 countries around the world expected to be visited.
Uganda could be one of the countries that could end up on the calendar for the charity cause of Miss World. In 2010, Beauty with a Purpose tour brought the queens to neighbouring Kenya on a campaign against jiggers.
In a way, while Ugandans, like the English with the World Cup, failed to bring Miss World crown home, Abenakyo still holds the hope of bringing the beauties on a tour over — and with them the crown.
Uganda certainly has jiggers, not that we should celebrate it as an aspect that can bring Miss World home. There is no sweet pain at that. But Abenakyo has opened bigger possibilities than just jiggers, than just her project on cooking and using food to bring people together.
At home, Abenakyo will not have problems with funding for whatever projects she picks. Major corporations are expected to add her face on their various products by signing her up for endorsements.
For Brenda Nanyonjo, there can’t have been a better scoop with Abenakyo’s performance in beating her Zambian, Zimbabwean Kenyan counterparts to the Africa crown. The pageant, infamously “taken over by UPDF” in 2014 for promoting agriculture, has struck a chord with the masses yet again.
It should be a major attraction next year as events leading to Abenakyo handing over are expected to get a lot of attention.