MAY PEN, Clarendon - Despite not having won the ultimate prize, Vanessa DaCosta, Clarendon's representative in this year's Festival Queen competition, hopes to use the experience to inspire young girls in the parish.
DaCosta finished in the top five in the national competition and claimed two sectional prizes -- Most Congenial and Best Gown. She is disappointed she didn't win, but believes the experience will only make her a better person. What's more, she intends to incorporate the knowledge gained into her parish project -- a mentorship programme for teenage girls between 12 and 15.
"It is a programme to empower young girls by raising self-awareness and national pride," she said, "so we will be using the performing arts, among other things, to help them to come out of their shells."
The 22-year-old Clarendon College past student who now teaches English literature and social studies at Denbigh High School, said: "It was such a great experience and it has given me a higher level of confidence and trust in myself."
"Throughout the competition I doubted myself a lot and allowed the judges to intimidate me, but I realise now that it was really a huge achievement because it took a lot (of courage) to represent the parish, my family and friends on the national stage," she added.
DaCosta's reign as Miss Clarendon Festival Queen coincided with the parish's celebration of Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence, which she described as a real eye-opener.
"I knew a lot about the parish before because I teach social studies, but trust me, being involved in the Jamaica 50 events, I realised that there are so many interesting facts that I didn't know," she said.