How lucky am I ?!I managed score an interview with the one and only Michelle Malcolm. For those of you who aren’t familiar with her, Michelle Malcolm is a household name in the Bahamian pageant community (notice I call her by her first and last name…it’s that serious!) Along with her many accolades in Journalism, and in the Ministry of Tourism, she is the President of the Miss Bahamas Organization.
We are thrilled that she took a moment to sit with us and give us an inside look into the enigma of this incredibly passionate woman.
PD: A moment with THE Michelle Malcolm, now this is definitely one the history books! So many questions and we have no idea where to begin!. We’ll start with you, share with us when your love for pageantry begun and the birth of the Miss Bahamas Organization
MM: My love affair with pageantry began when I was a young girl. I remember watching pageants on television and being inspired by the women competing. I especially remember the moment when Janelle Commissiong won the Miss Universe pageant, becoming the first woman of color to do so. Someone had finally shattered that glass ceiling, proving what we knew all along – that black is beautiful. I’ve competed in pageants, judged pageants, coached pageant contestants, written scripts for pageant broadcasts, the whole gamut. So I suppose it was a natural progression for me to become a franchise holder and head a pageant organization. At the time MBO was formed, it was really from a place of frustration at the way pageantry was heading in The Bahamas. I remember going to my pastor, the late Dr. Myles Munroe complaining about how the standard of pageantry had so diminished and after listening to my ranting and raving, he simply asked, “So what are you going to do about it?” That was the spark that lit the fire, and MBO was born a short time later.
PD: I’m sure being the President of a very prestigious organization has extreme highs and lows. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far from being in that position?
MM: I don’t know if I would attribute lessons I have learned specifically to that position, but more so I would say lessons I have learned in life I have applied to the position. I take comfort in the fact that in more ways than one, we have revolutionized pageantry in the Bahamas, and we have an amazing track record of producing incredible queens. Is there anything that MBO has done over the last 11 years that we could have done differently? I would say yes. Hindsight is 20/20 and there is always room for improvement. However, I believe that ours is a noble vision, and in spite of our shortcomings we did the best that we could with the resources we had at the time. I guess the “lessons” I’ve learned are to trust God in all things, stay focused, continue to give your best, don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and never stop growing.
PD: A lot of people in the pageant community don’t see or understand how deep your passion runs for pageant and MBO, what do you say to those that simply just don’t get it.
MM: This is truly a labour of love. Eleven years is a long time to stick with something that isn’t bringing you any financial gain, but I am reminded of something that Pastor Myles always used to say. When you find something that you would do even if you aren’t being paid for it, then you know you’ve found your life’s work. And so it is with me and pageantry. It’s funny, but when people come up to me and say, “MBO has plenty money”, I smile and say “Thanks for the prophecy, I receive that!” Truth be told, MBO has cost me financially! Whenever we fell short financially in the past, a handful of my team members and I dug into our own pockets to ensure that our queens got what they needed. The pageant has cost us thousands of dollars over the years. Yet we keep coming back year after year and there is a reason for that. The real reward is when we see the lives of young women being transformed, and I’m not only talking about our winners. It does my heart good to see former contestants – some of whom did not even make the cut – walking in their purpose years later. That’s what this is about. Not every girl gets it, but those who do make it worthwhile.
I have to say though that pageantry is an expensive venture that needs funding. We have tried over the years to be innovative in the ways in which we generate revenue because the money has to come from somewhere. I remember the first time we introduced the concept of paid voting and the backlash we received for that, cries of “Oh, they only want people money!” I remember thinking to myself that these are the same people who complain if we don’t do what they think should be done for the queen, yet they have a problem paying $1 for a vote, or purchasing a ticket to attend an event. I am excited about what we have been able to accomplish thus far this year with our new app, and we are making new strides as it relates to the airing of our finale show live pay-per-view on REV TV. Hopefully this will help to put us in a better position where it is not such a financial burden.
All that being said, I want to add two things. First, I have found that the older you get, the less you are bothered by the opinions of others, and that’s where I am at this point in my life. In an arena that is overrun with what I call “recreational haters”, this train of thought has come in pretty handy as the President of MBO. When MBO first arrived on the scene 11 years ago, social media was really just taking off and was not nearly as prevalent as it is now. It would have been interesting to see what the armchair critics would have had to say back then, knowing what was happening in pageantry at that time. But it is what it is. We live in an age where it’s easy to hide behind a fake profile and anonymously say all manner of things without accountability. I for one will not allow critics to deter me from what I believe to be my life’s work, which is to help young women to discover their purpose, passion and self-worth for the betterment of the world around them. And I am eternally grateful to the team of people who give of their time and energy each year to help fulfill the vision. People like Jerome Sawyer and Leslia Brice who have been with MBO since day one. And new faces like Antoin Bowe, Theodore Sealy, and Loleta Dixon whose level of professionalism has been a breath of fresh air for the organization. The team of energetic young folks like Aaron Davis, Shaquille Coleby and George Ratliff who keep us on the cutting edge, from the young people’s perspective. Hard workers like Mario Almanzar and Keno Kemp who go above and beyond to get the job done. And I can’t forget all of our District Directors who provide us with such incredible contestants each year. I really shouldn’t have started naming names because inevitably someone will be left out, but our entire team is made up of amazing talents who really take my ideas and make them happen, bringing their own expertise and talents to the table. I could not do this without them. The second thing I want to add is this. I want to reiterate that I am very proud of MBO’s legacy for producing exceptional queens. Some of the most engaging, memorable, impactful queens were crowned on MBO’s watch. You may not agree with our methods, but you cannot deny that we have crowned some amazing queens. Our record speaks for itself.
PD: It’s far from a secret that you are now putting all of MBO’s focus on the Miss World Pageant. What was a deciding factor for this major change?
MM: It really all boiled down to finances and timing. Trying to balance the three franchises was very difficult, as between the three of them, our annual bill for franchise fees alone totaled over tens of thousands of dollars and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We also had to prepare three winners for their international competitions – training, airfare, wardrobe, etc. We found that we were stretched too thin financially, especially when you consider that we were footing the bill without government subsidy. As for the Miss Universe franchise, the new owners of the Miss Universe Organization ushered in many changes, one of which being strict timeline for payment of fees. MBO was unable to position its finances alongside the deadlines set by MUO and by the time we did, the franchise had been offered to international conglomerate Tavistock, owners of Albany. When we learned of the change, we offered our assistance to the new franchise holder to ensure that the transition was a smooth one for the reigning Miss Universe Bahamas Toria Nichole who will continue to wear the title until a new queen is crowned. On the surface, one would think that this would have been a major setback for us, however it’s been just the opposite. We have truly been blessed in the midst of the change. We have embraced this as an opportunity for us to refocus, to get back to our roots. So much effort was put into managing the three franchises. Now we can redirect that energy into ensuring that our program truly reflects our original mandate of Passion for Pageantry with Purpose, and that our new winner will fulfill the tenet of the Miss World Organization Beauty with a Purpose with distinction. It’s amazing, because so far, this has been our best year ever as it relates to new alliances and sponsorship, so we expect that our new queen will be very busy, and very visible. She’s going to have an incredible year.
PD: We noticed that there are some new major sponsors this year, MBO has found a new and fabulous home!
MM: Yes we have! We were truly blessed to be approached by Melia Nassau Beach All Inclusive. Apparently one of their newest executives has had experience working in other Melia properties with events like pageants and fashion shows and he already understood the benefit of such a partnership. It was refreshing because usually, we have to convince corporate Bahamas of why they should partner with us, so to meet someone who already understood was a good feeling. This has actually been our best year yet as it relates to sponsorship, and as a result our new queen will receive an incredible prize package. We have welcomed new presenting sponsor The Island Game with open arms, and BTC is back on board as a major sponsor as well. Other sponsors include Debonaire Boutique; SkyBahamas; 1magine; The Guardian Group; Club One Fitness Center; Sands Beer; Bahari; Bahamas Masqueraders; New Oriental Laundry; Caribbean Bottling; Apex Awards; Commonwealth Fabrics; Haus of RvR; Guanima Press; Grant Thornton; Venus.com; Floridita and Wild Seed Designs – all brands with excellent reputations which proves what we’ve always known, that the MBO brand is well respected and has a solid footing locally and internationally. All in all, it’s been a remarkable pageant season to date and I honestly believe the best is yet to come.
PD: I’ve attended the launch and this year’s contestants are nothing short of amazing! Seriously, every single one! With such stiff competition, what’s going to be major deciding for the judges when choosing the ideal Miss World Bahamas?
MM: I wish I knew! Honestly, this could go either way because the competition is just that stiff. These ladies are beautiful, intelligent, witty, accomplished…. I could go on and on. I think the contestants need to ensure that they bring their “A” game each and every time, because the judges will probably have to resort to nit-picking to choose a winner. Whoever wins, I am confident that we are going to end up with an amazing queen.
PD: Well the countdown is on to coronation night. What can the viewing audience expect leading up to crowning?
MM: I would encourage the public to keep checking our TV show Road to the Crown which airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Our TV to get to know our contestants in the final weeks leading up to the pageant. Our prelims are always exciting and this year is no exception. The Sands Beer Swimsuit, Top Model, and the Commonwealth Fabrics Designer Showcase were recently held, and the Debonaire Boutique Evening Gown and Talent competitions are coming up, as well as the float parade and national dress competition. We don’t get to see the results until the final night, so I am anxious to see how they turn out. The young ladies have been diligently preparing for every aspect of the competition, so I expect this to be an unforgettable pageant season.
PD: The MBO App ( Insert heart emoji here) what an awesome idea! Absolutely love how we can now participate in the judging process!
MM: Thanks so much! This is something I have wanted to do for a couple of years, but I guess nothing happens before its time. We met an amazing team of young techies who were able to create two native apps (one for Android and one for iPhone) in record time, and just like that, we are now able to truly engage a new generation of pageant fans. The response has been incredible. In just three weeks, we are now rated one of the top entertainment apps in the iTunes and Google Play stores! That’s insane! I think the reason the app is so popular is for the same reason that you love it – the fact that people can play an active role in helping to choose their queen, not just leading up to the pageant, but on the pageant night as well. The public will have to use the app to instantly save one of the contestants from the bottom 5, and we’ve decided that we will also allow the public to participate in the voting to choose the queen and her runners up once the Top 3 has been decided. They will be able to watch the pageant live, pay-per-view on REV TV and the voting will be in real time. MBO is known for bringing innovation to Bahamian pageantry and towards that end, this is perhaps our most ambitious venture to date.
PD: Besides the dazzling crown and the prestigious title of Miss World Bahamas, what other prizes will the lucky winner be taking home?
MM: Our plan is to reveal our prize package on the final week of the pageant, so you’ll just have to wait and see. I can promise you though, it will be worth the wait! Let’s just say, our new queen will be very happy with her prize package.
I’m so excited it! Thanks Michelle!