Young mom tops Bedward Gardens Beauty Pageant
WINNING the Miss Bedward Gardens Beauty Pageant 2023 was just the confidence booster that mother of three, Camila Millington, desired.
It is alleged that a number of people were objecting to her being a contestant because she is a mother.
But with the prestigious Miss Universe pageant allowing mothers, divorcees, and married women to compete, Millington put her name on the list for the Bedward Gardens contest.
Previously, the Miss Universe pageant only allowed single women aged between 18 and 28 to compete.
Millington is 24 years old and had multiple odds stacked against her leading up to the pageant on December 30, 2023 in the Greater August Town community of Bedward Gardens, St Andrew. But the young woman stood tall and executed her winning plan to beat eight other contestants who were younger than her and who are not yet mothers.
Winning has significantly lifted her spirit, especially given that Bedward Gardens is a usually volatile community.
“I feel happy. I don’t know what to say because a lot of people judged me. I was the only one in the competition who was a mother but I am gald I was able to represent for the young mothers out there, to demonstrate to them that life does not stop after they have a child. I am 24 and I am fun, empathetic, outgoing, and I love to help people,” Millington told the Jamaica Observer following the competition.
Currently, she is engaged in various programmes in Bedward Gardens and has her eyes set on political representation in the future.
“I do some work on the ground in the community with the People’s National Party (PNP) councillor candidate for the Kintyre Division, Vivienne Brown-Bond, and her campaign team. I would love to go into politics one day myself so I can represent my community much better than the representation I have seen.
“My vision for Bedward Gardens is to see it become a community without violence and a community where everyone uplifts each other. As I said in my talent piece, ‘United we stand, divided we fall,’ ” said Millington.
Second-placed winner, 18-year-old Jada Brown, was proud of herself for being persistent and placing in the top three for the competition. She acknowledged that the pageant was not just for the upliftment of the nine contestants, but for the entire Bedward Gardens.
“I honestly am happy and proud of myself…to find the confidence to do the pageant. I am glad to be participating in community development. My vision is for kids, especially in Bedward Gardens, to find their own identity. They tend to follow what others do and take up harmful behaviours upon themselves but I would want to see them pay attention to their mental health. I had a friend who was suffering mentally and she ran away from home because of that, so the issue of mental health is very dear to my heart.
“There are a lot of other issues too that I would like to see changed,” Brown told the Observer.
Rayna Bailey finished third in the competition.
Millington won a cash prize of $50, 000, a trophy, and a 40-inch television, courtesy of Brown-Bond. She also won multiple sectional prizes, including Most COngenial. The cash prize was sponsored by Jamaica Labour Party councillor for the Kintyre Division, Kelvin Clarke.
Brown and Bailey were also showered with gifts for placing second and third,respectively.
The main sponsors of the event were reggae and damcehall star Sizzla Kalonji; Nigel Davis Foundation; J 12 Production; Kalonji Music; Peace Builders; Papalee Foundation; August Town CDC; JSIF; Wowski; Social Development Commission; Jamaica Social Investment Fund; Sizzla Youth Foundation; Restorative Justice Centre; Hermitage Youth Club; and the RJRGLEANER Communications Group.
Patrick Peterkin, PNP caretaker for the constituency of St Andrew East Rural where Bedward Gardens is located, praised the organisers of the competition for giving the young women such a good confidence booster.
“It was an extremely good event, a real community initiative that makes us happy to be a part of. It helps the young ladies to express themselves and show their beauty and talent. Bedward Gardens is named after Alexander Bedward, who was a pioneer who taught us that we should have self-love and self-confidence. I would definitely support this event again,” said Peterkin.
Vivienne Brown-Bond, PNP councillor aspirant for the Kintyre Division, expressed joy after witnessing the display of talent by the young women.
“I don’t want this to stop; it was really a lovely event. I think this lifts the spirit of the community and will make others want to come out and show their talent too, the next time around,” said Brown-Bond.
The smooth and incident-free event was a fullfilling moment for Melieka Phipps. Twenty years ago, when the Ms Bedward Gardens Beauty Pageant was held for the first time, Phipps was second runner-up in the competition.
“It’s been 20 long years since we had this competition. This was a handful, but we pulled it together and we got the work done. The aim was to help better the community, and we wish Mrs Juliet Holness — our Member of Parliament — was here to see the success. Everyone was excited, and the anticipation was high for the competition. The ladies worked endlessly, and I congratulate them,” said Phipps.
The event was also a marvelous experience for Rachael Allen, community development officer at Social Development Commission (SDC) who has responsibility for August Town and some of it’s neighbouring communities, including Bedward Gardens.
As host of the event Allen, who is a dance teacher and theatre practitioner, gave the audience a taste of how well she can dance and entertain. The residents of Bedward Gardens were thrilled by her presence.
“This was staged for the first time 20 years ago, and some of the participants in the pageant at that time thought that bringing it back to Bedward Gardens would benefit the young girls there now. I volunteered to host the event because, as a dance teacher and theatre practitioner, I often use the arts to help me with the work I do in communities.
“The process leading up to the event was bittersweet and the event was definitely a success. It gave me a chance to show the community the creative side of me and how it can actually impact people. We had a lot more people than we expected in the the audience. The feedback was really good and positive,” commented Allen.
“Many are talking about the unity of the people who came out because they don’t really get that general sense of unity and community on a day-to-day basis. August Town is a ZOSO [zone of special operation] so there is often conflict and negative association with the community. As a community development officer, that was the most satisfying part of working with this youth group and seeing how everything came together. It was very satisfying to know that we are helping people with their development and trying to influence them positively.
“The people were so receptive, and that is the most satisfying part of my job. One of the things I have resolved in myself for 2024 is that I will be actively trying to seek out a lot more sponsorship and stakeholder investment for community groups like this so that they can execute more social events that will help to develop a healthier lanscape, to help the kids grow up in a healthy and safe environment. We don’t want them to leave and not return,” Allen added.