Davina Bennett… The Afro Queen

Miss Jamaica Davina Bennett might not have won the first place crown at this year’s Miss Universe pageant, but she definitely made a lasting impression. The 21-year-old philanthropist chose to take the pageant stage with her natural hair, an afro, instead of the common blowouts and extensions we see time after time on pageant stages.

Afros and the natural hairstyles of people of colour are still frequently considered unprofessional or deemed inappropriate so Bennett’s act of wearing her true hair is a statement against the norm. Bennett chose to use her platform and provide representation to the countless faces at home watching who share her natural hair texture, but rarely get to see the attribute reflected in beauty pageants.”- Chloe Hall, Elle.com

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A few months now have passed since the Miss Universe Competition where Davina was awarded 2nd Runner-Up and proudly represented Jamaica. Amidst her crazy schedule of appearances and photo shoots and interviews were honoured to get a moment and reflect on all that has transpired and the what the future holds.

A lover of her parish Clarendon, she calls it her “favourite chill spot”. A foodie at heart, like a true island girl she loves her seafood. Davina by any measure is a stunning beauty with a regal air about her when she walks into a space. She is the perfect model in front of a camera lens and needs little or no direction- she loves the camera and it certainly loves her back.

Our Miss Jamaica has a mantra that believes “a positive mind with positive thoughts will bring positive results.” An inspiration to many herself to so many, she recounts, “Yes I am surprised that I have inspired so many people because of what I did on the international stage.” She shares that her greatest inspiration has come from her grandfather.

Read our full interview with Davina Bennett below:

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Creative Direction & Interview by Tricia Williamson | Photography by Craig Harley | Makeup Artist: Rasine Hamilton |Art & Design by Oneil Banton | Photoshoot Assistance by Chantel Bailey | Dress: Uzuri International & Tia Clothes Girl 

PANACHE: Everybody loves your hair, your crowning glory so let’s begin there… What would you say was a turning point in your hair journey- was it ever a love/hate relationship?
Davina Bennett (DB): I’ve always had a love/ hate relationship with my hair because it’s sometimes hard to maintain and handle on my own, but I love it because it inspires others to just be themselves and embrace their natural looks and it plays a significant role in the representation of one’s self-value.

PANACHE: The wearing of your natural hair at the Miss Universe pageant was a redefinition of international beauty standards. What made you decide to wear your hair naturally and free (no ponytails, no flat iron needed)?
DB: I decided to keep the natural hair to break the stigma and perception of how beauty queens should look.

PANACHE: What products do you use in your hair to keep it so lustrous and beautiful?
DB: My favourite products to use are from ORS Olive Oil, from their moisturizers to their shampoo and conditioner. I am also a fan of natural products like castor oil and coconut oil.

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PANACHE: What advice would you give to someone who wants to go natural?
DB: I would advise them to give it a try and embrace their natural beauty.

PANACHE: We love your beautiful skin, what is your beauty regime?
DB: For my skin, there is not one specific regime but I tend to use a lot of natural body oil products mainly from Kihara’s line and drink plenty of water.

PANACHE: Jamaica supported you before, during and after the Miss Universe pageant, what did the outpouring of love mean to you?
DB: The love I’ve received thus far is indescribable; I am humbled and grateful to have been received so well by the public.

PANACHE: From Pop Sugar to Allure to People to Essence to Elle international media have fallen in love with you and your Afro-American, you’ve ignited a fire in natural hair movement. What was your reaction to all that press and attention…even #AfroFriday here in Jamaica?
DB: All the love from the press is still overwhelming and I am filled with such gratification from all the exposure…I’m still pinching myself!

PANACHE: You looked stunning in yellow and red, do you have a favourite colour?
DB: Thank you, my favourite colour is gold.

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PANACHE: When someone says to you “How can you be the physical representation of your country?” What’s your response?
DB: Our motto is out of many one people and that is significant as we are a melting pot of different ethnic backgrounds, cultures and religion and I am a testimony of this. My family line is a mixture of Indians, Africans and even Afro-Latina and the greatest thing is that they all coexist in one love just as the people in Jamaica.

PANACHE: How did your friend Jermaine Dyer motivate you to enter the competition?
DB: Jermaine Dyer motivated me by being positive, by helping me and guiding me along the way and the constant talks about how great I am and how much greater I will become.

PANACHE: What was the reaction of your Mom and Dad when you told them you were going for the crown?
DB: I wasn’t with my parents physically to see their reactions but it was always my dad’s dream so he was over the moon, my mom, on the other hand, was a bit hesitant because she knew I was afraid of speaking in front of a large audience and she was wondering if I was really ready.

PANACHE: People see the glitz and glamour, but tell us about the work that you and the team put in behind the scenes from speech sessions with Paula Ann and more… The hard work and guts begin the glitz…
DB: It was a team effort that involved so many individuals. I had plenty of speech sessions with both Paula-Anne Porter-Jones and Fabian Thomas, Hard-core gym time with Debbie Hall from Spartan Health Club, Dance & Movement with Marlon Simms of NDTC, Stage Presentation & Runway sessions with Yendi Phillipps, Etiquette sessions with Angelie Martin-Spencer, Current & World Affairs Training with National Directors Mark McDermoth and Karl Williams and even makeup classes with Oneil Baugh and Dawn Lindo from D’Marie Institute. Styling was also vital and so we had a few fittings that created the perfect wardrobe. Karl and Mark also did an excellent job in getting local designers and boutiques to contribute to the wardrobe as well as putting the pieces together.

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PANACHE: On August 27, you posted ” I did it” with a portrait of tears of joy… What was that moment like for you…being crowned Miss Universe Jamaica 2017 now that you reflect on it.
DB: It was a wonderful feeling to have won the Miss Universe Jamaica title because I felt like I was always losing and needed that victory to prove to myself that I could do anything once I worked hard and I did just that.

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PANACHE: You once said you knew what it meant to “fail and work twice as hard”. What major challenge(s) have you faced in life and how did you rise above it?
DB: I have faced many challenges, medical problems, a struggling career, robbery et al… I overcame all the adversaries because I had a good support system from both family and friends.

PANACHE: As our queen, you represent Jamaica by being yourself, authentic and bold- how would you like to inspire other young girls?
DB: I would like to inspire other young women to keep fighting for what they believe, never give up on themselves and to know that they are beautiful just the way they are.

PANACHE: Tell us more about your foundation, it’s work and the goals you have for 2018?
DB: The Davina Bennett Foundation for the Deaf is to spread awareness for the Deaf community and eradicate the barriers of communication. The goals for 2018 would be to continue on that path with new projects and partnerships along the way.

PANACHE: You are very passionate about the work of your Davina Bennett Foundation for the Deaf. Your emotional reaction to your friend and mentee hearing clearly for the first time with an hearing aid was powerful. Please share more about that project of distributing hearing aids to 500 people across Jamaica.
DB: The hearing aids were not distributed by me but by the Starkey Foundation, I was a Patron and witnessed the work they were doing, and I got so emotional when Britney was given the hearing-aid and heard me for the first time.

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PANACHE: What changes would you like to see in Jamaica to better support those who are hearing impaired?
DB: I would like for the Deaf community to be granted equal opportunities as those in society from their educational facilities and system to their social everyday duties. I’d like to see more of them being employed.

PANACHE: As an Ambassador for Ending Bullying, what positive impact do you see yourself having in that capacity?
DB: As an End- bullying Ambassador I can certainly relate to being bullied because I too was a victim and this platform has allowed me to not only share my experiences but how I overcame bullying. My message is to love who you are and embrace yourself.

PANACHE: You are a social influencer, who/ what are some of your favourite accounts to follow?
DB: I love to follow other influencers like Oprah and Rihanna.

PANACHE: Social media has its pros and cons… It has been a great platform for fans to show their support and for you to raise awareness of worthy causes. So as an Ambassador to End Bullying, what advice would you give for youths on social media today?
DB: I would tell the youth to love themselves, to understand that all names are temporary and they are all uniquely made.

PANACHE: Is there any style or dress that you love the most from your collection?
DB: I would have to say my favourite dress would be my yellow final gown worn on the final night of the Miss Universe competition. The first time I saw it and fitted it, it brought tears to my eyes…tears of joy!

PANACHE: Name one fashion trend you hope never comes back?
DB: I am a lover of fashion and appreciate all kinds however I think it’s safe to say (and I know many females will agree) that I hate to see men wearing sagging pants…it’s not sexy at all!

PANACHE: Your current role aside, what would be your dream role?
DB: My dream role was always to be an international model.

PANACHE: How do you deal with negative people?
DB: I don’t focus on negative people so I don’t normally allow their energy to consume me.

PANACHE: Where do you see yourself in three years?
DB: I see myself as a philanthropist and successful entrepreneur.

PANACHE: What would you say to the next young Jamaican girl looking to enter the Miss Universe competition next year?
DB: I would say, give it a try, don’t be afraid of your voice, help make a difference and wow the world. |P

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One thought on “Davina Bennett… The Afro Queen”

  1. Fantastic interview.. beautiful, genuine, humble young lady. The first time I saw her photo in the MUJ pageant line up of contestants she stood out among the ladies. striking beauty…Best wishes for a bright future for her.

    Like

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