Davina focus of major fashion magazines

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Senior staff reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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International fashion and lifestyle glossies, Essence, Allure, Elle and People magazines are among the global press that have picked up stories on the success of Jamaican beauty Davina Bennett, who placed third in the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas on Sunday.

The stories have all focussed on her rich chocolate skin and trademark afro, praising her for bucking tradition and going into an international pageant with her natural hairstyle.

Bennett, who returned to the island yesterday morning, rubbished the notion that her skin colour and her hair resulted in her not walking away with the coveted title.

“Oh no!,” she declared during a welcome-home reception at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.

“If it was for the afro and my skin I would not have made it to the Top 16 or the Top 3 for that matter. It was 92 strong contenders and if my afro was the issue, or my skin tone, I wouldn't have made the first cut. It was my dedication and the hard work that I put in that got me to where I was,” she told journalists.

Bennett explained that she decided to go with the afro to challenge the standards of beauty.

“I already had the afro before the competition and I just decided that I wasn't going to change. I wasn't going to change to meet that standard of how pageant girls should look. I also decided that no matter what happens, I'm going to give it a shot, and my hair isn't going to be a barrier to stop me from succeeding in the pageant. As you can see, it has become the biggest asset that I have... I can't touch it now, yuh know! I'm really happy that I made the decision to follow my mind and tell people that I can break that stigma as to how beauty queens should look.”

Bennett's afro and overall look have caught the attention of American screenwriter and television producer Shonda Rhimes, who is responsible for hit TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. Yesterday Rhimes tweeted, “I'm clearly going to need some Miss Jamaica dolls for my daughters. So they can play with a doll that shows them they are fully EVERYTHING the universe ever needed,” alongside a photograph of Bennett.

For her part, the beauty queen had words of encouragement for young girls looking on.

“Embrace who you are. You don't have to change to meet a standard of beauty that society puts in place. You just have to be yourself. Know that you are beautifully and wonderfully made — perfectly imperfect — and that is what makes each and every one of us simply unique.”

Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, who was at the airport to welcome and congratulate Bennett, noted that her success on the international stage should serve as an inspiration to others.

“I want every single Jamaican woman out there to appreciate and understand what she symbolises and be inspired by the look, the success, the way she has been embraced. She truly reflects our motto 'Out of Many, One People'. She is a mix of all of that. She must be a symbol out there to those who feel that they need to straighten their hair, they need to bleach, they need to change their look, [who feel] they are not beautiful enough. We are all beautiful black women and we must be proud of who we are and confident in our skin,” Grange said.

Yesterday, on her arrival at the airport, Bennett gushed on seeing the front page of the Jamaica Observer which carried the headline 'Like a Bolt Victory' — a story reporting on the reactions of her relatives and neighbours in Mitchell Town, Clarendon to her Miss Universe success.

“Oh my God! And they went to Mitchell Town... watch Jennie and Auntie Blackie!” she gasped as she frantically leafed through the newspaper to find the accompanying stories.

“Look at my aunts and people from my community... this is amazing,” Bennett added.

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