Miss Universe Jamaica, Chantal Zaky, makes no bones that she doesn’t like the cool fall weather. The discomfort was however partially offset by the warmth and comfort of family members who made her feel at home during a one week visit to the Greater Toronto Area that concluded last Tuesday.
The 24-year-old model made public appearances at the Jamaica 50 film showcase, the Angel Project “Couture for a Cause” fundraiser that benefits patients who have been hospitalized for a decade or more and have had no visitors, a scholarship fundraiser for challenged youths and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. She also attended last Monday’s Mayor Ball for the Arts to raise funds for the Toronto Arts Foundation.
This was Zaky’s second visit to the GTA since winning the Miss Universe Jamaica title last May. She made a guest appearance at the Jamaica 50th independence anniversary gala in August at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
“But for the cold, I like coming here because I have family and a great support group in Toronto,” said Zaky who is pursuing broadcasting and mass communications studies. “It’s like home for me.”
Kristine Trotter, who encouraged her niece to enter the pageant, cousin Michelle Lecky, who won the Miss Universe Jamaica crown in 2003 and a few of her backers, including gown sponsor Diva World, are in the GTA.
Zaky is preparing for the 61st Miss Universe pageant on December 19 in Las Vegas.
“That will be a life-changing moment for me even if I don’t win and I am going to go out there and have fun and enjoy the occasion,” she said. “Just being able to represent Jamaica on such a global platform is quite an honour. The main thing for me right now is the mental preparation and getting in the right of frame of mind to do my country proud.”
No Jamaican has won Miss Universe since the country first sent a participant in 1961. Yendi Phillips was the runner-up in 2010. Three Jamaicans – Canadian resident Carole Crawford (1963), Cindy Breakspeare (1976) and Lisa Hanna (1993) – have been crowned Miss World.
One of three beauty queens featured in the inaugural issue of the Du’Look Jamaican Fashion Catalogue released last August, Zaky is using her national title as a platform to raise breast cancer awareness. The disease is the leading cause of death among middle-aged women.
“I have an aunt who was based in the GTA who recently succumbed to the disease and I have lost several other family members,” Zaky said. “I am proud to be a new voice in breast cancer activism and let people know it’s not a death sentence.”
Zaky has also partnered with Jamaica AIDS Support for Life which is dedicated to preserving the dignity and rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and she’s using her Sunshine Youth foundation to uplift Jamaican youths.
The second time proved to be lucky for Zaky, who was a contestant in the 2011 Universe Jamaica pageant.
“It was an amazing and enlightening journey and I have grown as a woman because of the experience,” she said.
Zaky, who is working with top Jamaican image consultant and grooming coach, Damian “D.J.” Shaw in preparation for the Miss Universe pageant, aspires to be an actress/television producer.
By RON FANFAIR