Beauty may be defined in many ways. Some categorize it as just the physical aspect, while others go on and look far beyond skin deep. Beauty, for many, takes into consideration intelligence, poise, grace, humility and a sense of humor. Encompassing all those qualities and many more is this week’s feature. We proudly introduce a young, vibrant, bright and creative Belizean and fantastic beauty ambassador, Leilah Pandy.
Born in what used to be the nation’s capital, Leilah Ann Magdalena Wade Pandy arrived on this world on May 11th. Parents Ann Wade and Lloyd Pandy were thrilled to share their lives with their newest bundle of joy. She grew up in a family of seven siblings and countless relatives willing to share the joys of childhood with her. Although they lived in Belize City, the family would take excursions and visit the countryside. She recalls these trips quite vividly and reminisces on times passed. Leilah remembers that these trips made her fall completely in love with nature and all that it offered. “The smells, the sights, the peace that nature gives, it all enthralled me,” she commented.
Unfortunately, Leilah’s parents’ relationship did not work out and her father moved to Guyana. This presented a great opportunity for her, since after a visit to the Caribbean island, she was invited to stay. After consulting with her mother, Leilah made the move to George Town where she attended Bishops’ High School. “Guyana is not much different from Belize; just as beautiful and just as in touch with nature as our country. I remember the evening walks I would take with my father. He is such a great guy and his vast knowledge in various subjects is amazing. We can talk about everything and that is what made our walks so special and so hard to forget,” she reminisced.
After returning to Belize, Leilah would keep busy in the early evenings by working at Great Belize Productions, the production company for Channel 5 news. Leilah was the evening receptionist, the busiest time at the production station. “It was the time that the evening newscasts aired live. During that half an hour span, anything could happen. The phone would just be busy and everyone was trying to get everything together before the time to go live. It was a great experience and I enjoyed every minute of it,” she comments. Leilah also took time to work as an assistant to 13 Productions. “I have always been the kind of person that, regardless of anything, I want to hold my own. I like to keep busy and I like to work. It only made sense to have two jobs,” she explained.
Leilah’s mother encouraged her to continue her education and after applying to both St. John’s College Junior College and the University of Belize, Leilah chose the Natural Resources and Management course at the University. “I have always been in touch with nature; it is something that was instilled on me by both my parents. It only seemed logical to take those classes.” Leilah’s course at the University also touched on the marine life; however she comments that her first passion is the rainforest, the beauty of the flora and fauna found deep within the country of Belize.
After graduating with an Associate’s Degree in Natural Resources and Management, Leilah went to work at the Princess Hotel as an assistant to the administrator. Soon enough, with the great work that she was producing, she received a position in the Human Resources Department, as well. The interaction with customers and staff prompted her employers to consider her for another position within the company. Her friendliness and congeniality got her a better post as hostess at the Princess Casino.
While performing her hostess duties at the Princess Casino, Leilah caught the eye of then Director of Pageants Belize, Carolyn Sandiford-Tench. Mrs. Sandiford-Tench invited Leilah to be a part of the Belize beauty world, asking her to participate in the upcoming Miss Belize Pageant. As always, she turned to the person who she trusted the most, her mother, who encouraged her and told her to “go for it.” Her sister promised to help her get ready for the upcoming event, the same way she had prepared their youngest sister, Julie, Miss Teen Belize 2002.
The night of the pageant, Leilah remembers the butterflies fluttering in her stomach as she entered the venue. “I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. So, I figured I might as well give it my all,” she states. That night, Leilah walked out of Belize’s Civic Center crowned Miss Belize 2003.
Leilah had the opportunity to represent her country of Belize in her first international pageant as she took part in the 2003 International Reina de la Costa Maya Pageant. Vying for the title along with other delegates from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, Leilah won the crown with her looks, poise and grace.
Shortly after winning the crown, Leilah participated in the Miss MesoAmerican International Pageant held in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA where she took third place. “I was still very green. Not knowing hardly anything about the pageant world, sent over to compete against 27 candidates such as, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, USA, Paraguay and Brazil. It was certainly an eye opening experience,” Leilah told The San Pedro Sun. The International Pageant world was something far greater than Leilah had anticipated but with each interaction that she had with the other delegates, she gained more knowledge and experience.
Everything that Leilah learned, through other pageants, delegates, and by simply taking mental notes of what the other girls did, took with her to Quito, Ecuador when she proudly represented Belize at the 2004 Miss Universe Pageant. Although she did not place, Leilah made Belize and her family very proud.
Returning to her home country, Leilah held a position at the Museum of Belize as the Assistant in the Marketing Department. Shortly after, she was offered a job at Courts Belize Limited as a sales representative. She met with her employers at Courts and after analyzing the position, she decided to take it.
In 2005, Leilah returned to the University of Belize and in June 2007, along with close friend, Miss Belize World, Felicita Arzu, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Resources. Leilah graduated with honors, no less. “I had to continue my education. It is important in anyone’s life, especially for us women. It is imperative that we have a solid education.”
Since her win at the International Reina de la Costa Maya Pageant, Leilah has been helping Costa Maya organizers with the pageant aspect of the much anticipated Costa Maya Festival. This year was no exception, except that this time around, she played a bigger role in the pageant itself. “I have been dancing since I was nine so dancing has always been a part of me. In 2003, I was a contestant but I also helped with part of the choreography. This year, I helped with everything, coordinating the stage, the dances, helping the girls, assisting with wardrobe. I had my hands in everything. It was a gratifying experience; one that I will certainly take with me forever.”
Leilah was recently accepted to the University of the West Indies where she plans to continue her studies and receive her Masters in Natural Resources specializing in waste management; a field that is in need of young, hardworking Belizeans at the helm.
In her free time, Leilah enjoys singing Karaoke and playing video games, ‘God of War’ being her favorite. Board games are also a love of her with Clue and Scrabble being her preferred choices.
Leilah has found a balance between all the things that she loves and enjoys doing. Being cast into the beauty world, presented fear in her. She however, moved on, past the fear, to conquer and win the crown. She has also understood that education is key and very important. “Life is long, and there are many things that one as a woman would love to do. Take your time, enjoy life. Know yourself, know what is important to you and follow your heart,” she ends. Leilah continues to show love for her country as is evident in her choice of study and Belizeans know much success will follow her. However, Leilah Pandy remains in our hearts as a true beauty ambassador in “Our Belize Community.”