Sitting on the lawns of Jamaica House was the perfect setting for the official Prime Ministers reception of the Ms World 2019 winner, Toni-Ann Singh. The music was fabulous, the audience looked elegant and as we watched different clips of the pageant in anticipation of her arrival, we all sat and smiled at the feeling we get when our “pleased bag buss!”
Conversations were high, and cameras (both phones and professional) tested to make ready for the magical moment when Toni-Ann arrived.
At one point, there was a silence in the audience and also from the DJ booth as MC Jenny Jenny introduced Miss World and Prime Minister The Most Honourable Andrew Holness. Everyone was on their feet to get the first glance while children’s necks were stretch to capacity to get a look. “Does she look like me?” one eager young miss blurted out to an adult beside her. The perfect answer returned, “She looks like all of us.”
The festivities started with musical selections by J Summa. He massaged two beautiful ballads which caused Toni-Ann’s jaw to drop open with amazement. His prowess with his guitar and vocals were just unbelievable. The best part of his performance was the entire performance.
Once J-Summa allowed the reclaiming the stage, the familiar sound of songstress Sherita Lewis blessed us as she stood firm and represented to the fullest. Her passion was evident and the only thing that was hotter than her singing was her red hair. The unique thing about Sherita Lewis is that when she started to sing, you didn’t notice her hair anymore. The voice just caressed your ears so well that your eyesight failed you.
Another songstress graced the stage later on in the show and blew us all away. The night was like that, one big hurricane of talent and love blowing us all away each time. Jamal Falak did so with her upright bass and her upfull voice. When she blessed us with her single “LA AAA ADY” the audience grooved to the tune, yes, but much more to the perfect match of the song with the occasion. Jamal walked off the stage onto the lawns and led us all in serenading Toni-Ann with the following chorus.
“I’m a LA AAA ADY so life betta treat me accordingly. Just like a Queen wearing my crown, I deseeerve it!” The melody was adequate to be accepted by Toni-Ann with a passionate hug and the exchange of secret words of support and love between the two extraordinary vocalists.
Mr Weston Haughton, a Co-Franchise holder of Miss Jamaica World, graced the stage for a brief moment. If there were any hearing-impaired persons in the audience, they must have thought he was there to show what it looked like to have the biggest Jamaican smile. Mr Haughton beamed with pride throughout his speech paying homage to the late Aston Cooke, former Co-Franchise holder of Miss Jamaica World. He also showed off his handsome vest, which depicted the meaning of strength and good luck in the image of the golden elephant proudly perched on the front. Mr Haughton showed how proud he was that the global pageant queen was once again Jamaican.
We then heard from an overjoyed Julia Morley, Chairman and CEO of the Miss World Competition. Having worked with Miss Jamaica World for decades, Mrs Morley conceded that there must be something in the food of this place that helps to produce such beautiful women. A member of the audience shouted, “It must be di yam again! Is definitely di yam!”. She went on to express how happy it makes her feel that Toni-Ann will be representing the Beauty With A Purpose project. Mrs Morley couldn’t contain her excitement when talking about the fact that Toni-Ann’s musical voice would share the purpose of the project globally.
It became evident just how vital Mrs Morley is to the Miss World contestants. Throughout the night, former Queens Cindy Brakespare and Lisa Hanna would not leave her side as she watched the evening unfold. The little couch the three ladies sat on filled with the type of laughter that only could be produced by genuine feelings of love.
The Honourable Minister Olivia Grange in thanking Toni-Ann explained how she, Toni-Ann, represented the positive movements happening in and coming out of St. Thomas. The Honourable Minister was in a good mood. She came bearing good news and the audience did respond. One such announcement came from Thalia Lyn, Director of the NCB Foundation. Mrs Lyn announced that the foundation would be donating J$500,000 the Beauty With A purpose Project. Subsequently, she continued to express that the CEO of NCB, Mr Michael Lee Chin, heard about the donation and decided to match it with another J$500,000 to bring the total to a whopping J$1,000,000 gift from the NCB family.
Not finished yet, Minister Grange carefully selected her words as she held back her excitement like a veteran “selecta”, knowing that what was coming next was going to drop like a bomb. She announced that the government’s ongoing efforts of supporting the enhancing of St. Thomas and showing pride in Toni-Ann’s passions, would be building a nursery at the Women’s Centre in St. Thomas. She then paused and continued “The wing will be named after Toni-Ann and will be called the ‘Toni-Ann Singh Wing’. Like a perfectly timed dubplate, the response from the audience was electrifying.
The Most Honourable Andrew Holness then blessed the stage decked out in blue in unison with Toni-Ann’s blue sash. As much as he tried to hold back his excitement about the fact that Miss Jamaica World had again produced a top-class lady to represent our nation and bring the win back home, he just couldn’t as he explained how he found out.
With over two hundred ‘congratulations’ messages coming onto his phone, he felt as though he had won. To continue expressing his excitement and not to want to be outdone, the Prime Minister decided to match Michael Lee Chin’s donation with a donation of his own through his ‘Positive Jamaica Foundation’. He also spoke of the planned upgrades to St. Thomas and painted a positive picture of what the government has planned for the parish.
Living with Impact
The stage was handed over to Miss World as she was the reason for our gathering in the first place. Escorted to the stage by two Caribbean Maritime University students, Toni-Ann stepped with pride. Once on the platform and after the loud applause dwindled a little, Ms Toni-Ann came to the party. A real, down to earth sister who didn’t mind telling the audience that she was petrified of what being Ms World means. She also shared that she still sometimes can’t believe that it is her with the crown on her head. This little girl from Bath, St. Thomas will now visit many countries to raise awareness and funding for children in need. She will champion the Beauty With A Purpose cause and make THE difference in people’s lives.
Ms Singh made no bone about it; it was the constant teaching of her parents that allowed her to stand proudly throughout her life. She let us know that it was a passage that her mother always repeated to her, that carried her. The excerpt is by Marianne Williamson’s book ‘A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles’ and is as follows;
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Ms Singh ended her talk with the Jamaican phrase that we all easily relate to; “Wi likkle but wi talawah”.
It such a wonderful feeling knowing just how Jamaica’s best and most loved commodity keeps showing up and showing why we are who we are. We salute you Toni-Ann and the way you wave our flag with vim and vigour. The nation is here to keep you up. We are here to hold you close, as we lend you to the world for a year to brighten the lives of the many who await.