The finalists (from left): Anna-Kay Sinclair (Miss This is Really Good Yoghurt); Tejana Ashman (Miss FMA Customs Brokers); Erieka Dixon (Miss Ontime Taxi Service);Jada Browne (Miss Dream Wedding Service); Regina Squire (Miss Benjamins Cosmetics); Angelina Parkinson (Miss Confidence); Tianna Smith (Miss Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation) Jhanielle Powell (Miss Jamaica Private Power Company); and Lisa Hammond (Miss PTG Electrical & Building Solutions). (Photo: contributed)

Nine young women from Kingston and St Andrew, aged 18- 25 years old, were sashed by their respective sponsors to kick-start the 2023 Miss Jamaica Festival Queen contest at the Police Officers' Club recently. They will vie for the 2023 title on June 17.

Among them were Anna-Kay Sinclair (Miss This is Really Good Yoghurt); Tejana Ashman (Miss FMA Customs Brokers); Erieka Dixon (Miss On Time Taxi Service); Jada Browne (Miss Dream Wedding Service); Regina Squire (Miss Benjamin Cosmetics); Angelina Parkinson (Miss Confidence); Tianna Smith (Miss Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation); Jhanielle Powell (Miss Jamaica Private Power Company); and Lisa Hammond (Miss PTG. Electrical & Building Solutions).

Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) Councillor Andrew Harris (Hughenden Division), who represented the mayor of the city, Councillor/Senator Delroy Williams, said that the event presented a great opportunity to participate in nation-building project.

"It is something that I know we are committed to and it fits in with the vision that I know the mayor has for Kingston. [As well], it falls right within the realm of where he wants it to be a cultural city. He has gone beyond the call of duty in trying to make it a diversified area, where visitors and our own local residents want to make it the place where they can come back and have fun," he added.

He also noted that the KSAMC has become a proud sponsor of the event and will continue to play the role for years to come.

"It is a pleasure for us to continue the journey of nation-building with the Jamaica Festival Queen contest. It is indeed an opportunity for all of you [contestants] to build your own resilience... and self-confidence and, of course, to become champions," he added.

Marjorie Leyden-Kirton, current director of Community Cultural Development Services (CCDS) with the Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation (JCDC), recalled her early association with the competition, and the fact that she has been instrumental in keeping the competition afloat since 1986.

She noted that since then the contest has become one of the longest-running, and traced this back to 1962 when the Miss World contest led to a number of contests for young Jamaican women to blossom over the next few years.

"At one time we had Miss Independence, at another time we had Miss Emancipation. In 1995 they came up with a competition that not only celebrated the beauty of the Jamaican women, but all the other assets of a Jamaican woman," Leyden-Kirton said.

"It is a life-changing experience and that is what all contestants are going to experience throughout the journey of Miss KSA 2023," she told the contestants.

"There are so many thing that you can take away. Every young lady in the competition is a winner, because you are going to be developing so many aspects of your life, and that you will take away. So no one winner will go away with everything. Everybody will benefit, including your self-confidence and your public speaking," she noted.

Broadcast journalist Velonique Bowen, who was crowned Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2022 after representing Kingston and St Andrew last year, speaking at the sashing, gave a personal reflection on her reign.

Entertainment for the event was provided by multiple gold medallist Amerlia Afflick, speech gold medalist Rashiem Shepherd from Dredz, and pop singer Tevin Gibb, who closed with some well-known reggae love songs.

By Balford Henry Observer senior writer

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