By Keryn Nelson

On December 16, ninety-two women vied for the coveted Miss Universe 2018 crown and title in Bangkok, Thailand. Thirteen Caribbean countries were represented at this year’s pageant. Of the highest ranking were Kiara Ortega of Puerto Rico, who made it to the top five, Akisha Albert of Curaçao–a top ten contestant– and Jamaica’s Emily-Sara Claire Maddison who was included in the top twenty. 

Prior to entering the competition, Ortega, who is 25-years-old, worked as a waitress to pay her way through college and is currently employed at Centro Inés; a company in Puerto Rico, working to provide educational and recreational support services for children and seniors. “I’ve been a fighter and a believer and I haven’t had a very easy life. Even though many doors have closed on me I have never lost my faith and I’ve never stopped believing in myself, that’s why wherever I go, I always want to deliver a message of hope. I want to inspire and motivate others to achieve their dreams, whatever they might be,” Ortega said during her pageant speech. 

Curaçao’s 23-year-old Albert is an Associate Degree holder in Care and Social Welfare however, she is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s in English Education. For years Albert has struggled with diabetes, an ailment which has led to her adopting and advocating for healthier living and eating habits. She also recently founded an organization in Curaçao aimed at highlighting the achievements of children with down syndrome.

Maddison, 19, recently launched the He forShe campaign in Jamaica, to help combat gender based violence. Her plan now is to pursue a career in medicine, having been awarded a scholarship for winning the title of Miss Universe Jamaica. “… to be able to secure a scholarship so that my family—my grandparents—don’t have to worry, was a huge deal for me,” Maddison told cameras before for the pageant.

Other Caribbean competitors included, US Virgin Island’s Aniska Tonge, Ayana Phillips from the BVI, Meghan Theobalds of Barbados, Caitlin Tyson from the Cayman Islands, Haiti’s Samantha Colas, Kimberly Julsing from Aruba, Angella Dalsou representing Saint Lucia, Danielle Grant of the Bahamas, Aldy Bernard of the Dominican Republic and Belize’s Jenelli Fraser. Following some controversy in Guyana, that country was barred from participating in this latest edition of the Miss Universe Pageant.

Each year Miss Universe committees, in individual countries around the world, conduct national pageants to select the best representative. Requirements include: evident leadership qualities and achievements, confidence, a singlestatus and aged between 18 and 28. According to missuniverse.com, “A contestant must be confident. She must be able to demonstrate authenticity and articulate her ambitions as a titleholder. The competitions showcase and evaluate the contestant’s aspirations and are judged by accomplished business leaders, philanthropists, and public figures.” Each lady also must have a clear-cut plan as to how she will impact change during the year of her reign, if she were to be crowned.

24-year-old Catriona Gray of the Phillipines was crowned Miss Universe 2018 while Tamaryn Green, 24, from South Africa was deemed first runner up and Venezuela’s Sthefany Gutiérrez,19, second runner up.

After the competition, the winner travels to New York City to meet her “Miss Universe Family” with whom she will formulate a plan of action to achieve her national and global aspirations.