THOUSANDS AROUND THE WORLD TUNED IN TO ST HELENA | Darrin Henry
The largest ever audience for a live event taking place on St Helena, watched as Gemma Lawrence, a 21-year-old Customs Officer from the St Paul’s district, was crowned Miss St Helena 2018 on Saturday night, 12 May.
Gemma won a return flight to South Africa as part of an array of fantastic prizes given to the winner.
Twelve young ladies, ages ranging 17 – 28 years, took part in this hugely popular, traditional event, which is held every two years.
First runner-up was Nicole Peters (22) and second runner-up, Niza Yon (19), both from Half Tree Hollow.
Ayla Phillips(28) from Half Tree Hollow won the inaugural Saint FM sponsored, Media Award.
So what about that record-breaking audience?
Prince Andrew School hall was packed full with a 478 strong crowd who cheered the twelve beaming contestants as they sauntered down the runway, then carefully answered questions about St Helena and themselves.
In addition, a global audience followed the entire pageant, for the very first time via Facebook live-streaming, sponsored by telecommunications company, Sure South Atlantic.
By the end of the show the live-stream had registered more than 5,000 views from all over the world.
Another historic first, Sure televised a live feed of the show on their local TV service, which gave everyone on the island who didn’t have tickets, the chance to watch the event at home.
Local radio station, Saint FM, broadcast live coverage, with their content streamed online.
The Miss St Helena 2018 Line-up
The full line-up of Miss St Helena 2018 contestants (in stage order) were as follows:
1 – Nicole Peters (Q)
2 – Kimberley Yon
3 – Sunna-Jan Thomas
4 – Nicole Paulsen (Q)
5 – Martina Peters (Q)
6 – Paris Stevens (Q)
7 – Ayla Phillips
8 – Niza Yon (Q)
9 – Sasha Benjamin
10 – Tanisha Benjamin
11 – Kerisha Francis
12 – Gemma Lawrence (Q)
(Q) denotes the six finalists who qualified from the elimination round.
The Show That Had Confidence
Derek Richards did a brilliant job hosting the Miss St Helena 2018 show, even squeezing in a selfie with the audience during the interval to satisfy an online request.
The heavy weight of judging responsibility was carried by four well-respected islanders; Wendy Benjamin, Stacey Benjamin, Shara Robinson and Ian Gough. Always a tough job this.
Local three-piece band, Island Politics, provided musical entertainment in the breaks, with guest vocals by Megan Francis.
Nicola Essex performed a thoroughly captivating solo contemporary dance routine entitled, ‘Confident.’
Miss St Helena 2016, Kimley Yon returned to the stage to crown the 2018 winners. Kimley was ably assisted by 2016 First Runner-up, Kaylee Young and 2016 Second Runner-up, Jodie Scipio-Constantine.
Stage design and choreography was the work of JJ Dancoisne-Martineau.
More Firsts for Miss St Helena 2018
In another first for the Miss St Helena 2018 format, online submissions were invited for questions that might be used for contestants on the night.
Surprisingly this was taken quite seriously with just one ‘joke’ submission.
Most of the questions used on the night came from online submissions.
There were the three familiar rounds in the competition; Casualwear, Swimwear and Eveningwear.
Contestants all answered a total of three questions; two St Helena themes and a personality topic.
An elimination then took place, reducing the line-up to six, who were each then asked one further question before the judges made their final decision.
The finalists’ questions (6) were chosen at random by the contestants. They had been submitted earlier, one by each of the four judges, one from Miss St Helena 2016, Kimley Yon and one from the event’s lead sponsor, Solomon & Company (St Helena) PLC.
How Gemma Convinced The Judges
On the way to winning the crown, Gemma answered four questions which went a long way to convincing the judges she should be Miss St Helena 2018.
Gemma’s first question asked her to decide what she would show an alien who landed on St Helena. Her location of choice was, “the Friar, up at Rosemary Plain,” because of its heritage value.
In the third round, asked to compare herself to one of St Helena’s many walks, Gemma chose Diana’s Peak, telling the audience that like the Peaks, “I am a very complicated person,” but also that “it offers stunning views.”
Oprah Winfrey was Gemma’s choice of famous person who would bring the island the best publicity if they visited, this was question three. Gemma cited Oprah’s philanthropic work that makes her stand out.
In the final round of six Gemma drew a question that asked about the priority for change in this new era on St Helena. Without hesitation she identified education in order to live healthy lifestyles.
“I think we need to educate the people, starting with the young children, on how to eat healthy, what is the risk of eating unhealthy, from drinking, from smoking, from even doing drugs,” said Gemma.
She finished by highlighting that solutions might be found if better cooperation existed with merchants in order to import healthier food options.
It was clearly a winning set of answers.
Spending Money for Miss St Helena
Gemma Lawrence will be the first Miss St Helena with an official budget during her two-year reign.
This new initiative enhances the ambassadorial role of Miss St Helena. The starting annual budget is £200. Final approval of spend is made by a supporting committee, but is more of an oversight measure. Generally, Miss St Helena will control the allocation.
Champagne, Air Tickets and Laptops – The 2018 Prizes
The Miss St Helena pageant is well-known down the years for the amazing prizes on offer. It’s an event that captures the public’s imagination like no other and sponsorship tends to be generous.
Here’s a list of the prizes awarded to Miss St Helena 2018:
Return flight to South Africa or £860 cash
New laptop and one year’s silver broadband package (Sure South Atlantic)
A gold/silver Skagen wrist watch
£20 beauty treatment voucher
Gift Voucher (Beauty Spot beauty salon)
£20 Gift Voucher (Shooting Star Designs)
£50 Gift Voucher (Anchor Clothing Store)
Bottle of Champagne
Putting The Miss St Helena 2018 Show Together
Sharon and I have photographed a number of these pageants on island, as media. But Miss St Helena 2018 was the first time we could also say we were sponsors and organisers of the show.
As, What The Saints Did Next, leading a small committee of seven, we began planning Miss St Helena 2018 more than six months ago.
Whilst we kept the popular format of the show itself relatively unchanged, we did carry out a major ‘under-the-bonnet’ update to the concept.
Basically we introduced a 4-week programme of training and confidence-building events for contestants, in the lead-up to the show. This covered a wide range of topics, from how to walk and present on stage, to touring a selection of the island’s businesses to learn more about how St Helena functions.
Our aim was to make Miss St Helena as much about a programme of personal development for young people as it was about the pageant.
We’ll post a blog about this programme in the coming weeks, however, suffice to say, the positive results of this investment in the contestants was wonderfully evident on the night. The ladies took to the stage with a level of confidence and poise that did not go unnoticed by the those watching, conveyed since in a flood of appreciative feedback.
All that remains is to wish our new island ambassador, Gemma Lawrence, a happy and unforgettable two-year reign as Miss St Helena 2018.