Velonique Bowen, Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2022, will use her reign to address unemployment among youth.
"My project, which I call my passion project — the Youth Opportunities Accessibility Programme — will tackle unemployment as a nation. Unemployment is closely linked to society ills such as crime, mental issues and domestic violence. I'll be visiting every parish to host sessions with experts to train youngsters on how to do cover letters, interview etiquette and also about emotional intelligence, branding and marketing. Holistic development is needed. In many instances, it is easy to get hired, but many youths can't keep the job because they have inadequate soft skills and emotional intelligence," she told the Jamaica Observer.
Bowen, 22, is a journalist, producer, and entrepreneur. The Kingston and St Andrew representative is also pursuing a Master of Arts in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies's Mona campus in St Andrew.
First runner-up was Miss Clarendon, Sheri-Gaye Johnson while Miss Westmoreland, LeChone Redwood secured the second runner-up spot. Rounding out the top five were Miss St Thomas, Deidre Wadsworth and Miss Portland, Renae Thibaud.
Bowen was optimistic she would walk away with the top prize.
"I hoped that I would win. However, all the other ladies were exceptional and the competition was so stiff. While I was hoping to win, it wasn't a case where there was a clear-cut winner because all the ladies had their own unique qualities and strengths," she said.
Bowen also won Most Poised, Most Culturally Aware, Most Active in her Community, and Most Popular on Social Media. She never saw herself as a "pageant girl".
"I was tomboyish growing up, and I was concerned about how beauty was perceived on that scale. However, this pageant was so different. It's not strictly about beauty, and as somebody who loves culture and as a nationalist, I decided to enter having this level of appreciation," Bowen explained.
She would love to see more youths become culturally-involved.
"I would love to see an improvement in regards to our young people involved in the culture. Globalisation has played a role in the decline of cultural appreciation. So, more people are watching Netflix as opposed to local films or TV. We really want to see our Jamaican youth involved and become cultural ambassadors to curtail the ills of our society," she said.