The beauty pageant season is upon us. And like most fanatics, we are all looking to spot the queen before the judges do. Most will be scrutinizing participants in hopes of identifying various qualities only a queen would possess.
Most would say that the queen must have a mesmerizing kind of beauty, intelligence, the wit, the compassion, the elegance and the list can go on.But it is believed by most seasoned judges that confidence is king in the pageant world and charisma is queen. And Nuriyyih Gerrard, a contestant in the upcoming Miss World Pageant 2016, possesses both of those qualities and more.
Gerrard, a graduate of the National School of Theatre Arts and Drama is magnetic, charming, and captivating. She’s even got the “x-factor” that makes it easy for you to be enchanted by her personality. In this series, we get a glimpse into the world of this talented 25-year-old from Melanie Damishana, East Coast Demerara. She is going to be representing the Potaro-Siparuni (Region Eight) in the pageant.
The News Room (NR): Tell us about your childhood?
Nuriyyih Gerrard (NG): Prior to my parents’ separation I resided at Hadfield Street Werk-en-rust, Georgetown. The months following the separation were nomadic for my mother, two siblings and I as we sojourned in Melanie Damishana with an aunt then with my maternal grandparents in Ann’s Grove. In 2000, we finally found a humble place of abode in Bachelor’s Adventure on the East Coast of Demerara which we occupied for ten years.
My childhood was saturated with exciting activities. My grandparents’ poultry farm in Sophia was the hub of all holiday activities. During the August vacation, my cousins and I would tend to the vegetables in the kitchen garden, or play in the vast expanse of land that formed the back yard. At Easter time, I would watch in awe as my grandfather constructed and decorated our kites. After many failed attempts at emulating his work, I would settle for making paper boats instead. Christmas was my favorite time of year to visit my grandparents. My grandmother taught me how to make blackjack (However, I was usually more preoccupied with licking the batter off the wooden mixing spoon, so I still have not mastered that skill)…I had developed an appreciation for the new pastime activities like swimming in the trenches in the fore yard, climbing fruit trees and playing games on the graveled streets.
NR: Why did you decide to participate in the Miss World Guyana Pageant?
NG: I decided to do this pageant because I believe strongly that representation matters. As an individual who is resolute when it comes to personal growth, I have always desired to participate in the Miss World pageant since it is a widely known fact that the contest allows for personal and professional development. However, due to the social conditioning I have been subjected to, I had convinced myself that I am not good enough to aspire to pageantry, firstly, because I do not fit the stereotypical pageant girl mold being tall, lean and exotic looking. Secondly, I’ve never seen someone with my body type in a contest of this caliber. My belief that I was not good enough had so adversely affected my emotional health and for years I struggled with low self esteem because of it.
Last year, I began my journey to self awareness and reached the realization that my beauty was not limited to my physical appearance. This epiphany bolstered my self confidence and birthed my determination to live my dream. When I learned that the bikini segment had been eliminated from the contest on both the local and international leg that cemented my decision to enter the Miss World pageant. I appreciate that Miss World celebrates a “Culmination of Beauty” and I hope that my participation will make a statement to this generation of women that beauty is not a superficial concept nor is it one dimensional, as such they must learn to embrace all forms of beauty that they possess.
NR: What is your “Beauty With A Purpose” project centered on?
NG: My “Beauty With A Purpose” project is centered on Mental Health. The current Mental Health system in Guyana is fragmented and poorly resourced. Additionally, due to lack of education on mental disorders, persons with mental illness are reported to suffer discrimination in their communities, the work place, educational system etc. I have recently formed a Non- Governmental Organization called the “One Act Foundation”. The primary objective of this NGO is to promote mental health by fostering positive youth development. Our secondary goal is to de-stigmatize mental illness. My team and I will be working alongside the Ministry of Public Health and in the upcoming weeks we will begin our awareness campaign on mental health which will see us educating the public through the use of media products, community outreaches and school tours.
NR: Should you win the Miss World Guyana crown, what are two things you would do?
NG: I would engage policy makers at the central government level to consider rehabilitating the National Psychiatric Hospital. For years, the hospital has been in substantial disrepair and significantly below the standard of facilities that provide for physical health care. If we are to de-stigmatize mental illness, then as a nation we need to first respect our mentally ill citizens. They, too, are Guyanese and they deserve equitable treatment. I also have plans to produce a weekly television program and radio feature on my morning show Jumpstart on 94.1 Boom FM that will serve to further educate the public on mental health.
NR: What is one thing you would do to improve Guyana’s image on the international stage as a beauty ambassador?
NG: As a beauty ambassador, I will use this platform to market all that is unique and beautiful about my country. My strategy will include promotion of our culture, ethnic diversity, food, tourism products and interesting history. I also have a responsibility to represent Guyana’s national brand which I hope to achieve by demonstrating compassion, hospitality and love. These are qualities that Guyanese intrinsically possess and which shape our image as One People, One Nation, One Destiny.
NR: What would you say is the essence of being a woman?
NG: I hold the belief that the essence of being a woman lies in our ability to be both physically and emotionally resilient.
NR: If there were no rules in your life for one day and you could be outrageous, what would you do?
NG: I have been taught to respect an individual’s personal space but if that rule was removed from my life for a day I would approach random people and hug them when they least expect it. I believe hugging is a therapeutic action. Personally, it is usually very effective in improving my mood, so I would certainly share hugs without hesitation.
NR: What would you say is the biggest problem facing our cultural system today? Why?
NG: I believe cultural identity is the biggest problem facing our cultural system today. The world today is a global village. While this may be viewed as positive as it allows us to grow in our understanding of the world’s denizens, the consequence and unfortunate reality is that here in Guyana we are borrowing the regional and international community’s cultural practices, dialects and more recently festive celebrations more and more. I fear if this continues we will soon lose our cultural identity altogether. There certainly is a need for us to re-identify, nurture, respect and promote our unique cultural products.
NR: What do you expect to gain by participating in this pageant?
NG: I hope to gain support from policy makers, the public and private sectors to realize my goals of promoting mental health and contributing to the positive development of our country’s youth.