Miss Cayman Lindsay Japal has returned home after representing the Cayman Islands at the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas.
“I am more than overwhelmed by the support and encouragement. I loved and felt so honoured to have a shot at Miss Universe and represent my country. It is something I will never forget and will carry with me forever,” she said.
She said that there is a huge amount of action and much that goes on behind the scenes during a fortnight that is then condensed into the show the world sees.
“We were there from 2 December and the competition didn’t happen until 19 December. There was actually two weeks of events, appearances, photo shoots and things of that nature,” she said. “I have to say that it is not an easy endeavour. You have to take care to always look the very best you can during the whole time, in addition to always putting the brightest side forward when you may be tired or frustrated and you really do run the gamut of emotions.”
With women from 89 other countries competing for the coveted Miss Universe crown, Ms Japal said it was important to keep things in perspective.
“You have to know who you are and what makes you different and beautiful and be secure in that,” she said. “Everyone’s opinion of beauty is different and it is about doing your best and representing your country. My destiny was not to be Miss Universe. It was to be Miss Cayman, which Miss Universe happened to be a part of and I am OK with that.”
Ms Japal said she would encourage other young women to take part in a pageant or anything that challenges them. She said that looking back, she would have benefited greatly from participating in the Miss Teen pageant.
“For instance, I think Miss Teen could have been beneficial in many regards. It’s about growth and you have to learn fast once you find yourself at this level; wearing the Miss Cayman crown,” she said.
Ms Japal said that with the world becoming smaller with the advent of the Internet and other technologies, many people still do not know basic geography.
“So many people had to be told where and what the Cayman Islands are. I was however, happy with the impression I was able to make and you know it’s really about trying to leave your imprint on the people you meet,” she said. “Either people were familiar with Cayman and the tax haven stigma or they had never heard of us.
“I felt like many thought that this was our shot at Miss Universe, but in reality when you get there and you see that there is so much else going on, in terms of politics or preconceived ideas about beauty from certain countries, it is easy to give up because others from bigger places may be getting more attention.”
This, however, was trumped by the opportunity to grow and develop as a woman, she added.
“Still, it is not impossible for Cayman to win,” Ms Japal said. “I don’t think that way and I am ready to help the next person do better than me. It was great because it was hard. To participate in a prestigious and elite competition such as this builds character. I want to be a part of the Miss Cayman Committee for time to come,” she said.
With regard to the costume she wore during Miss Universe, Ms Japal noted, “Some people loved it and some did not understand it. I don’t think anyone hated it. We wanted to do something different. It’s about having fun. I met Miss Bonaire at Miss World when I first became Miss Cayman. She called me the crocodile hunter and I wondered why. She said in her language Cayman means crocodile. This stuck with me; people who do not speak English think of crocodiles when they think of the Cayman Islands. A seed was planted. Not long after, a mutual friend of ours introduced us to a designers from Dubai and we came up with the concept. It’s crocodile warrior, Cayman warrior: We are strong, we are fighters. We are tiny, but we are fierce.”
The next Miss Cayman pageant is planned for August, at which time Ms Japal will crown her successor.
As part of winning the Miss Cayman pageant, she receives a scholarship, among other gifts and awards. Ms Japal outlined what her short term goals are and her plans with regard to her scholarship.
“I am going to be using the scholarship and in September of this year I hope to be in school,” she said. “I have grown and changed a lot as a result of my experience and I never want to stop pushing and challenging myself.”
Ms Japal will be attending the New York Film Academy for four months before heading on to