BY: KABRENA ROBINSON
Davina Bennett’s story is one of those success tales that stands as a perfect example for young girls on the lesson of handwork and tenacity. Before the world knew her as the striking 5’10” beauty who captivated the masses at the recent Miss Universe pageant with her eloquence and ravishing signature afro hairdo, she was an ambitious model and student from the rural community of Mitchell Town in Clarendon Jamaica.
A driven and zealous young lady, Bennett had her sight set on modelling from an early age. While in the ninth grade at her former high school Clarendon College, Bennett captured the interest of Pulse Modelling Agency, an agency based in Kingston Jamaica. Eager and motivated to get a taste of the modelling world, her attention was deterred back to her studies by parents who saw her education as a top priority before a career in modelling.
After successfully completing high school with top passes in her CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) and CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination) subjects, Bennett went on to pursue her modelling dream, doing regular photo shoots, Caribbean magazines and fashion show appearances.
Following a tiresome and impelling pursuit in the Jamaican modelling industry, Bennett made it to London. After being faced with many rejections and setbacks, she was able to make it onto the runway at London Fashion Week.
Now a year later, she is basking in the reality and glory of an accomplishment that was unforeseen. As the reigning Miss Jamaica Universe and a top three finalist at the 2017 Miss Universe Pageant, Bennett describes the feeling as an overwhelming one.
“I don’t have words to really explain how I feel and what I’m feeling because I was just a struggling model wanting to get the exposure,” she told the Toronto Caribbean. “I really wanted to be seen, I wanted people to see that I was different and there is a light about me and it wasn’t quite working out for me and just being given the opportunity to show who I am and embrace my true self on the international stage has created that exposure for me and the reception I have been getting is overwhelming.”
What Bennett saw as just an authentic representation of herself and her country on the international stage, has captivated the world’s attention. Her chocolate gleaming complexion and her fully fluffed natural afro was a spectacle on the Miss Universe stage and for the right reasons. Bennett made numerous news headlines as the rest of the world outside of her native country was amazed by the effervescent 21-year-old who dared to defy the conventional beauty standard often heavily upheld in beauty pageants. For that reason, she was a favourite and a winner in the eyes of most people watching.
“I can say that I feel extremely proud,” she said. “There are so many persons who have reached out to me sending images and videos just saying ‘Davina thank you for the representation because now my daughter can look to somebody and say she looks like this so I can do this’ or you know persons just saying ‘Davina thank you for going on the stage and just breaking this barrier so that people can see us with our hair and feel confidently beautiful with our natural fros’. So, I am really just happy and grateful that everyone took it in such a way and it has become an upliftment for women and children even men, so I am really happy for that.”
Aside from her queen duties, Bennett is currently pursuing a degree in marketing at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus. She hopes that after the completion of her degree, she will be able to utilize it to leverage her marketing business as well as successfully brand herself as an entrepreneur. As a primary focus of her platform as reigning queen aligned with her passion for philanthropy, she has devoted much of her time spreading awareness on the deaf community in Jamaica. Her passion manifested into her establishing The Davina Bennett Foundation for the Deaf, which was inspired by a deaf model by the name of Britney Barnes who Bennett had taken under her wings to coach and mentor. Since then, the organization has grown to include a wider cross-section of the deaf community in Jamaica.
With the organization, Bennett hopes to change the perception towards the deaf community and help integrate them more into mainstream society. The foundation is currently working on various initiatives, projects and partnerships. She shared that they are currently in the process of getting a sign language app to assist in breaking the barrier of communication that exists between the deaf community and their hearing counterparts.
Bennett continues on a path that promises a wide window of opportunities for her. In doing so, she hopes to continue to be that positive representation for all women in Jamaica and across the world. Her advice: “Just embrace who you are and know that we are all uniquely different and beautiful and there is nothing wrong with being different or being a standout and sometimes we just have to block out the outside noise and to listen to our inner self and know that we are all confidently beautiful with our natural self and there is no need to meet the standardized beauty of what society wants us to be like, sometimes we have to step outside of that and when we do that that is when we will shine.”