Autism and special needs advocate crowned Miss Universe Jamaica 2022
More than just a pretty face, Miss Giajay Naturals Gift and Body Shop Toshami Calvin walked away with the title Miss Universe Jamaica 2022 last Saturday evening at the AC Hotel Kingston. She will head overseas in the first quarter of 2023 to represent Jamaica in the 71st annual staging of the Miss Universe pageant.
Following in the footsteps her cousin Toni-Ann Singh – Miss World 2019 – the unassuming beauty promised to use her forum to help women and children, particularly children on the autism spectrum and with special needs.
During the final question and answer round, Calvin was asked by Dr Saphire Longmore, a former Miss Universe Jamaica title holder and one of six judges – “Should you win tonight, what difference would you make in the Miss Universe Jamaica pageant?”
She answered: “If I were to win tonight, the difference I would want to make is for it to stand up for the people and individuals with special needs and to advocate for them so they can contribute positively to society.”
Calvin, 26, was born in Kingston and was raised in Bath, St Thomas, before moving to Florida, where she pursued her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences. The Registered Behavioural Technician, who is also a model, walked away with the prize for Best in Evening Gown and the Essence of Style and Spirit of the Pageant awards. An eloquent speaker, she revealed that she has found her voice through the pageant. The newly-crowned queen hopes to one day become a board-certified behaviour analyst as well as impart her knowledge to others within her field who will work with her to provide the services required for children with special needs. But for now, she is looking forward to using her new platform to raise awareness.
“Now that I am crowned Miss Universe Jamaica, I want to focus even [more] on my altruism project to spread information on autism because I recognise that general knowledge is lacking. Even parents of children with special needs lack the information,” Calvin told The Gleaner.
She added, “I want to inform persons that although not many persons are being diagnosed, it is prevalent, and we need to be making those services essential. I want to do everything to the best of my ability so that services can become available in rural areas as we see many persons having to travel to corporate areas to seek assistance.”
She shared that having a cousin on the autism spectrum has influenced her professional and personal choices. Over the years, she has volunteered her time at the Florida Autism Centre, where she offers services to autistic children between the ages of two and 12.
“My cousin lives in the US, and while services are better accessed, people still aren’t aware. Prior to the pageant, my greatest challenge was to come out of my shell and speak [about] how I feel as I was someone who internalised a lot. I could be described as reserved and would never speak much, so to find my voice and be able to state clearly what I believe in is an accomplishment,” she beamed.
She added that she is looking forward to what comes next. “Winning the crown and knowing all that comes next is exciting, and I’m only now really getting to fully feel it – it is sort of shocking – but I’m waiting to see what is to come. To get my master’s degree and establish a programme for special needs children are long-term goals I’m working towards,” Calvin said.
Miss Universe Jamaica National Co-director Mark McDermoth said that the organisation has faith in Calvin, whom he described as “disciplined”, doing exceptionally well at the international pageant. “She knows what she wants, and it will go a long way on this journey to Miss Universe because of that discipline she demonstrates,” said McDermoth.
He also expressed gratitude for the support from the various government bodies, including the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, “which was representational of the true meaning of what our pageant has developed into and its significance in helping our contestants to help the wider society.”
“We felt we needed to add a few elements to pay homage to Jamaica’s coming of age, its diamond jubilee and these agencies allowed us to have a bigger and better show under the theme ‘Sixty & Fabulous’,” McDermoth continued.
Calvin was one of 20 women,, primarily university and college students, from across the island who were vying for the Miss Universe Jamaica title and a chance to represent Jamaica at the international pageant. Pre-judging scores and those earned during the coronation helped judges to select the top three. Miss Millennium Pavings Stones Ltd Rachel Silvera was named first runner-up, while Miss WiPay Jamaica Shanique Singh, was named second runner-up. Entertainment was provided by the Heart College of Beauty Services with its Jamaica 60 hair and make-up showcase and performances by singers Gem Myers and Sevana as well as saxophonist, Van Creed.
Miss Universe Jamaica 2021 Daena Soares is confident that Calvin will do well and says she only advises her to be her best self. “I want her to know that, whatever the case may be, whatever she does on that international stage, Jamaicans will appreciate her. She is the Jamaica 60 queen [so] at the end of the day, as long as she is showing up as her best self, and she is using the rigorous training, she is making us proud regardless. I’ve interacted with all 20 ladies, and I know Toshami well enough to know she is going to do an amazing job,” Soares shared.
More than 50 countries have named their pageant representatives so far. The official date and host country are yet to be revealed, but the reigning queen, Harnaaz Sandhu of India, will have a longer reign than expected, as the pageant is slated to happen in the first quarter of 2023.