After two months’ preparation, nine extraordinary women competed to become the 2018 Miss Kingston and St. Andrew Festival Queen competition.
Twenty-one-year-old Laneka Rhoden, Miss Fontana Pharmacy emerged the winner at the coronation ceremony on Sunday, June 10 at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in St. Andrew
The show, an annual staple of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), involved the nine finalists parading and captivating the crowd with confident entrances and dazzling evening attire.
Over the course of the evening, with the backdrop of the majestic Blue Mountains, several engaging and entertaining pieces of song, dance, poetry and comedy were received favourably by the audience.
After much fanfare and excitement, the final nine was reduced to five: Laneka Rhoden, Melessa Vassel, Paige Dixon, Ashely Grey and Tashana Hutchinson. A grueling question and answer segment further reduced to three those in contention for the title, after which, Ashley Grey was awarded 2nd runner up; Melessa Vassel placing 1st runner up; and Laneka Rhoden named as the 2018 winner.
Speaking with Jamaica Today after winning, the 21-year-old newly installed queen said she was humbled by her victory and is very confident going into the August 1 national finals.
“I definitely believe that Jamaica looks forward to a cultural ambassador, someone to represent them, I’m very confident I can be that queen,” Rhoden said.
Pleased with the performance of the contestants, Deputy Mayor of Kingston Winston Ennis added that he was pleasantly surprised at the polished production of the JCDC.
“It went exceptionally well. I think we had nine queens, it’s just a pity we can only crown one. The production itself was excellent also, everything was up to what I had expected,” he said.
Regional Manager of JCDC Eastern David Reid said that while any of the nine could have won the crown, he believed that the judging panel ‘s selection of Laneka Rhoden was unbiased.
“The judges deemed that she was a cut above the rest and so she came out on top, but we must congratulate the nine contestants and we encourage ladies 18-25 to enter competitions like this. It’s not just that we put them on stage to present, we also train them and then we showcase them,” he posited.
In the sectional prizes, Laneka Rhoden, who wore the sash Miss Fontana Pharmacy, won ‘Most Congenial’ and ‘Most Involved in her Community’; while Melessa Vassel, representing Miss Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation won in the categories ‘Best Performance/Talent Piece’ and ‘Most Poised’. ‘Most Popular on Social Media’ was won by Miss Atlas Group Incorporated Kimoi Allen.
The 2018 Grand Finals of the Miss Jamaica Festival Queen pageant will be held at the National Arena, in Kingston, on Emancipation Day.
By Gavin Riley