The nervous beauty emerges into a confident young woman
Guardian Lifestyles Editor
Published: Aug 31, 2013
It’s been a whirlwind two weeks for Miss World Bahamas De’Andra Bannister, but the pace won’t be slowing down at least for the next month as she departs the country on Sunday for Indonesia to represent The Bahamas at the Miss World pageant. It’s a contest for which she says she’s ready. And she has evolved from the nervous, young lady who was competing in her first pageant in July 2012, to a poised, elegant, confident person. Her goal is for The Bahamas to not just be noticed, but awarded.
Bannister is fresh off extensive preparation and finished a one-week stint that included photo posing, grace, poise, etiquette, table etiquette, walking, runway, spins – everything imaginable that she would need to prepare with beauty pageant and lifestyle training coach Grace Fontecha in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and a meeting in Portland, Maine with ASHLEY LaurenKerr who designed her wardrobe. Bannister shot for two straight days, which sounds amazing, but which she said was exhausting.
She returned home on Friday afternoon, but will turn around to depart Sunday as she has to be in Indonesia by Tuesday, September 3 for the 63rd version of the pageant that takes place on Saturday, September 28 with 130 countries represented.
Mentally, spiritually and physically, Bannister says she’s prepared.
“I feel so much more prepared for the pageant than when I left after all the training and knowledge I got from Grace and Ashley who are extremely intelligent when it comes to pageantry,” she said. “I went there with a Miss Universe pageant mentality initially, which was Barbie and commercial and smiles and hair flicks, which is completely different from what Miss World is. Miss World is more of a substance value kind of pageant. They are very interested in charity work and a well-rounded person as a whole, physically, mentally, spiritually, as opposed to just the physical aspect of it,” she said.
Going into the competition, the 24-year-old Bahamian representative who stands at an impressive height will definitely get noticed for that reason alone, but she also believes her personality will get her noticed.
“The feedback that I got from Grace and Ashley was that I’m a very personable person, that it’s not difficult to like me. They said that is what they like – a person that is in the world but not of the world. They want someone who is going to be relatable to all ages… someone who can speak to people at all levels.”
Bannister, a volleyball player said she was told that she just needed to be true to who she is, smooth the rough edges and be ladylike.
“I am hardworking and would like them to know that I’m going there to do my best… I’ve learned so much. Generally, The Bahamas has done very well at Miss World. We’ve always been noticed. I want to make the change from noticed to actually awarded,” she said.
Miss World will be held partly on the resort island of Bali, with the final round near the capital, Jakarta. Bannister is excited about the opportunity to travel to the country that is a chain of thousands of islands between Asia and Australia in the Pacific Ocean. It’s an experience she intends to soak up.
“I want to have my eyes open to everything – culture, people, the food – everything. I want to take in the positives and discard the negatives because when you travel to different countries, you see the differences between your home and other places, so I’m excited to return home as well to see how my mind has evolved,” she said.
She will add this experience to the memorable things that happened to her this past year, including a month-long stint in Europe, something which she said would have been slim to no chance of happening had she just been De’Andra, and not Miss World Bahamas.
“From that [European trip] alone, I would say Miss World Bahamas really paid off for me,” she said. Bannister said the trip came about as a result of networking and her making the title what she wanted it to be.
As she and delegates from around the world prepare to fly into Indonesia, one of Indonesia’s most influential Islamic groups is urging the government to cancel the Miss World pageant, saying the exposure of skin by women in a competition violates Muslim teachings.
According to reports, Miss Israel has dropped out of the competition, but declined to give a reason.
But the chairwoman of the Miss World Organization, Julia Morley, earlier confirmed that none of the contestants would wear a bikini. The pageant began in the 1950s and the first winner was crowned in a two-piece bathing suit.
Bannister says she’s fine with not wearing a bikini at the competition.
“People think that pageantry is exploiting women’s bodies which I totally disagree with. If you’re not in it, you can have an opinion but you’re only looking at it from the outside in, but being in it I can honestly say it’s more than just physical, so whether the bikini was axed or not really didn’t matter to me I was fine with it because I know that it is a Muslim nation and we have to respect their culture. I’m not going to disrespect their culture at all. You just have to follow the rules and work with what you have,” she said.
Bannister says the wardrobe that has been designed for her will have a clean, chic look to it. “They were like ‘Oh, I see Michelle Obama,’ so nothing’s overdone. Not too many short dresses, and nice pantsuits. The wardrobe is very ladylike.”
For the young lady who will step onto a pageant stage for only the second time in her life, the past year has been a rollercoaster, but one which she would do again in a minute if she had the opportunity. After fulfilling her final duties as Miss World Bahamas, it’s back to her studies towards a dentistry degree.
As she departs for Indonesia, she thanked the Bahamian public for the support they had shown to her during her reign and asked that they keep her in their prayers as she traveled to represent The Bahamas. She also asked that they pray for the eight young women who will be vying for the title of Miss Universe Bahamas in the upcoming September 8 pageant.
Besides the Miss Universe Bahamas committee members who will travel to Indonesia for the pageant, Bannister’s mother, Maxine Bannister and her best friend, Alexis McKenzie, who encouraged her to enter the local pageant, have planned to travel to Indonesia to support the beauty.