Beauty Pageants can be superficial, and they do objectify women but for many girls around the world they also open doors and have the capacity to transform their lives. This is the case for Sierra Leone’s first ever contestant in the Miss Universe pageant happening now in the Philippines, Miss Hawa Kamara.
Hawa has dreamt of becoming a model for years. She has participated in countless local pageants, and fashion shows. Every time there was an opportunity to model she took it, no matter how small the part, she dressed up, and she showed up.
There are zero prospects for girls who want to be models in Sierra Leone. There is no fashion industry, and just one modeling agency. The absence of local brands and no culture of advertising means if you’re a girl who wants to be a model, you dream, you dream some more, you age, and then your dream becomes a distant memory. If you’re really lucky you leave Sierra Leone and then you might be able to model professionally, otherwise it’s just a dream.
When Hawa heard that former Miss Sierra Leone World, Natasha Beckley’s IAMSL Pageant Agency was scouting for girls to represent Sierra Leone in a variety of pageants she signed up and showed up and she was crowned Miss Universe Sierra Leone. In the 65 years since the pageant was founded, this is the first time that Sierra Leone has participated. It may not seem like a big deal, it is after all just one opportunity for just one girl; but at the end of the day this is a girl who otherwise wouldn’t be there at all. And one girl living her dream, being validated is enough of a reason to cheer on. We are all just “one girl”.
Furthermore all this is happening because Natasha Beckley put her money on the pageant, and sees value in creating opportunities for others. She has pulled together all her resources put human, and financial to get Hawa to the Philippines. She has coached her, paid for airfare, visas, and done everything in her power often at great sacrifice to make all this happen.
She even started a GoFundMe to gather contributions from Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora as well, to help cover the costs in the absence of corporate local sponsorship. This is all happening with out any financial support from the state of Sierra Leone. You would think they would assist given the amount of positive exposure this could bring to post ebola Sierra Leone. Nevertheless this is still happening. One girl, Hawa Kamara is representing Sierra Leone at the Miss Universe pageant for the first time ever!
No one else could better represent Sierra Leone, as authentically; as the smart, and charismatic Hawa. If Sierra Leone is going to make a debut anywhere this is the standard we deserve. We will remember her long after this pageant is over.
Whether Hawa brings home the crown or not, she has already overcome immeasurable odds just by being present at the Miss Universe Pageant. When she walks out on to that stage she is going to show up for all the Sierra Leonean girls with dreams yet on hold with nowhere to go.