Morant Bay Mayor Michael Hue might have been overcome by ‘Toni-Ann-mania’ when he proposed last weekend that a street in her native parish of St Thomas be named in honour of Miss World 2019 Toni-Ann Singh.
Miss Singh, who hails from Bath, St Thomas, is the fourth Jamaican to be crowned Miss World, after Misses Carole Anne Crawford in 1963, Cindy Breakespeare in 1976, and Lisa Hanna in 1993.
But Mayor Hue likely captured a popular sentiment — that Jamaicans want to reward Miss Singh for spectacularly bringing home the coveted Miss World crown and thereby lifting spirits and further burnishing the Jamaican brand.
In a time when countries are spending billions of their scarce dollars to market their brand on the world stage, it is not difficult to appreciate the awesome value that a Miss World brings. It is publicity — Mr Edmund Bartlett might be the first to admit — that the Jamaica Tourist Board could never afford.
Indeed, Miss Singh’s win, the expectations for which were clearly tempered by the controversy around another beautiful Miss Jamaica Universe and her Annie Palmer costume, could hardly have come at a better time.
In the midst of the crime and dengue crises, the victory reminded us of Jamaica’s resilience, and the fact that we must never lose sight of the positives around us, including the continuing good news about the economy.
The 2019 win places Jamaica third in absolute terms among countries that have won the Miss World title, behind India and Venezuela, with six each and the United Kingdom with five. That is nothing to sneeze about.
In fact, per capita, Jamaica would be the most successful country in the Miss World competition since its establishment by Mr Eric Morley in 1951.
From the overwhelming response and celebration that have greeted our every Miss World win, it is clear that Jamaicans cherish this competition for the almost unparalleled pride and joy it brings to our country.
The Jamaica franchise of the Miss World pageant has survived the radical views of the 1970s when some women’s groups contended that it was akin to a cattle show, with titles such as ‘best legs’ and ‘best shape’.
But not only has it survived, it has evolved from those days, perhaps in response to the sensitivity of the women’s groups, but also to factor in modern taste and sensibilities. For example, an important element of Miss World is now the “Beauty with a purpose” focus that is geared towards a variety of needy causes across the world.
In that regard, we would suggest that any plans to honour Miss World 2019 be extended to the three previous winners to maintain equanimity, and certainly head off any unproductive controversy about favouring one over the other.
And, in the meantime, let us savour the sweet taste of this 2019 success gifted to us this Christmastime by Miss Toni-Ann Singh and the local pageant organisers.