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Miss Earth: More than a crown

 The reigning Miss Earth Fire Kenya, Faith Akinyi Lukale describes the experience as a beautiful privilege [Courtesy, Faith Lukale]

Beautiful women with flawless skin and perfect proportions walking down the runway or stage. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when we think of pageants. However, Miss Earth pageant is all about beauty for a cause.  

The reigning Miss Earth Fire Kenya, Faith Akinyi Lukale describes the experience as a beautiful privilege that taught her about pageantry for “more than just the crown.”

“It’s about the people you meet and interact with, and the causes that brought us together. Within the short boot camp period, I had grown a lot. It’s difficult to leave as the same person and that’s a win with or without the crown,” Faith says.

She adds: “Having been a high fashion model I wanted to try out a beauty pageant and I really wanted to go for one that really resonated with me. Miss Earth Kenya is a true definition of beauty with a purpose. Being a sustainability advocate and a lover of our environment I decided that this was perfect for me to learn, experience and develop the projects that I had already been working on.”

But a Miss Earth contestant should never let this go to her head, instead, she should use her new power to drive transformation in key areas.

“One of the misconceptions about pageants is that they are all the same. They’re not. For us, we are not a general pageant. Our biggest focus is traction on sustainability. We take very seriously the aspect of the ability for the contestants to make an impact,” Beverly Jalang’o, the Country Director for Miss Earth Kenya says.

She adds: “It not a showmanship. You have to have that ability to create impact and be willing to also do it. As an organization, the Miss Earth crown represents... leadership, mentorship, and the ability to drive change. It’s the same internationally- you’ll find that the previous queen is still championing certain things. We look at people who have that potential.”

Beverly and Faith agree that participating in the Miss Earth pageant needs one to have real passion and aspiration to use the crown for the community’s greater good.

“These are people who we are churning to be leaders- to move certain things. The kinds of programs we put them through expose them to key people that are in that space,” Beverly says of the contestants’ time at the boot camp.

After the camp, four ladies are selected; one becomes Miss Earth, and the other three Miss Air, Miss Water and Miss Fire.

Beverly adds: “It has to be a lifestyle; you have to be about it. It’s not about attaining a crown and putting it on the shelf.”

 After the camp, four ladies are selected; one becomes Miss Earth, and the other three Miss Air, Miss Water and Miss Fire [Courtesy, Miss Earth]

The Miss Earth Kenya Country Director says the ladies who participate in the program get equipped with leadership skills that can help them to be able to mobilise people and resources as they seek to champion their cause.

She explains that Miss Earth centers around “sustainability”, but because of the vastness of it, there are different themes for the pageant each year.

“This year, the theme is ‘Water is Life’. There are a lot of elements that go into sustainability. We can’t focus on one big subject so as not to overwhelm the public who we are trying to inspire,” Beverly says, adding that this allows people to be engaged with various different causes they are interested in.

“Today a person can say, ‘I can relate to cleaning the water or the environment’. That way there are different themes annually and it breaks monotony and makes the process more interesting.”

On its international website, the Miss Earth Beauty Pageant is described as an international environmental event channeling the beauty pageant entertainment industry as an effective tool to promote environmental awareness.

Beverly intimates after ladies from across the country register online for a chance to be a Miss Earth contestant, they are carefully selected and 16 of them shortlisted for the boot camp.

“The counties are a little bit too vast, and because we don’t have the resources or financial backing to handle such a large number of people, we use the previous provinces in the shortlisting process. The boot camp is meant to expose them to all things sustainability that can strengthen their standing as those trailblazers in that space.”

Beverly adds: “The ladies also share on what their traction is on the various causes they are involved with. It is one thing to have knowledge, and it is another to effect that knowledge in your own space. One of the first things we do is have them sit together and share what their projects have been so far, so that they can learn from each other.”

Miss Earth Fire Kenya Faith Akinyi talks about learning with the other ladies while at boot camp fondly.

“Who wouldn’t want to be in company of 15 absolutely stunning women who are also working in the sustainability field?” She says lightheartedly, adding, “What stood out for me was the fact that we were educated by professionals all round about sustainability not only for our planet earth but also sustaining ourselves mentally and physically.

Faith opens up about the causes she is involved with, making it clear that her crown has become part of deeply heartwarming projects.

“I am an artist; I use art as a way of curbing pollution. I am also a caregiver for 48 girls in the community I was raised in. I provide them with basic needs and education on sustainable development because I believe that children are the future and even the changes we make towards the environment today will be enjoyed by them, not us.”

Even as the pageant offers opportunities to young ladies and strives to make an impact in the community, it still lacks the proper support from the government and the general public. This problem, Beverly says, can be resolved by creating awareness about the pageant, it’s various causes and bringing up the art of pageantry in the right national conversations.

“From the government, we need that allocation of resources that allow us to facilitate our activities. That support is necessary, especially for us, as we are primarily a cultural and environmental sustainability pageant. So and what are those two things? Those two things are the cornerstone of our tourist economy. without our environment and without our culture, we have absolutely no tourism industry in this country.”

She adds: “When we send a contestant out, they ask us for eco destinations that they use to advertise the contestant. So who’s actually benefiting from this? We do all that work. But again, ultimately, it’s the country at large that benefits from our ability to rank well. We see a lot of those other countries heavily supported.”


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