It is not often that we get an opportunity to spread the name BELIZE on international television to millions of people. Once a year, however, such an opportunity presents itself, in the form of the Miss Universe Pageant.
This year 21 year old Viola Jeffery takes up the challenge of representing Belize at the most prestigious beauty pageant in the world. "I am really looking forward to Miss Universe. For too long, we in Belize have looked at the pageant as just something we attend. I want to change that. I am going to do my best to represent Belize and more importantly, to market our country," said Miss Belize.
To this end, Viola has put in a great deal of work in preparation for the event. She has studied Belize for the past eight months, and has gone so far as to take two semesters away from her university studies at Viterbo College in Wisconsin, U.S.A. She is in the midst of obtaining a Nursing and Psychology Degree. "The time off from school is necessary, she added. "I want to dedicate 100% of my time to Miss Belize and Miss Universe."
Her preparation has included a month-long training course in Monterrey, Mexico courtesy of Grupo Posadas. "Both the General Manager of Fiesta Inn, Gerardo Steward Murray and the Head of Marketing and International Public Relations for Grupo Posadas were so impressed by Viola, that they offered her this intensive training program in Monterrey. It's an opportunity we could not decline. Grupo Posada hosted Viola and gave her access to some of the best trainers in Mexico. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity," commented Debbie Wade King, Director of Miss Belize Pageant.
"It was very, very hard, but very good!" exclaimed Viola. "I had exercise classes every morning for an hour. They gave me a specialized diet, formulated by a professional dietician in Monterrrey. I had courses on public speaking, modeling, stage presence, interviewing, clothing and cosmetology."
Viola made such a great impression to the Mexican trainers, that Grupo Posada and ALL the companies involved in her training have offered to host her again for a week before the Miss Universe Pageant, to add their "finishing touches." Viola will travel from Monterrey directly to Trinidad, where the pageant will be held, with a contingent of fans and trainers that she has won over in Monterrey.
Her hosts and trainers have expressed great enthusiasm over Viola. "We are very excited about Viola's chances at the pageant this year," said Gerardo Murray, a former member of the Miss Mexico Committee. "I expect great things from her."
When pressed to elaborate on the great things Gerardo said, "All of the factors are in place to get Viola into the semifinals and from there, it's wide open!"
Other people who are close to the Miss Belize Pageant and other regional pageants have privately expressed much of the same sentiment. Bottom line, this should be Belize's year to shine.
When asked about these expectations, Viola said, "Being able to represent my country is a great honor for me, in and of itself. The fact that there are people who honestly believe I have the potential to get to semifinals and beyond, makes me much more proud of myself and for my country. It does make me a little nervous, but at the same time, I gather strength and courage from it. These are people who have been involved in pageants for a long time and I value their opinion."
Miss Belize visited La Isla Bonita, San Pedro on Tuesday, March 16th to meet with the San Pedro Town Board and other business people. Her organizers are hoping to schedule a fundraiser with proceeds from the event going towards the effort to send Viola to Miss Universe. In big countries such as the USA, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico, they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in preparing their ladies for pageants. We are not fortunate enough to be able to access these types of resources. Viola's trip to Miss Universe pageant will cost approximately $20,000. That amount gets her most of what she needs. The money will be raised through private contributions, fundraisers and corporate sponsorship."
During her visit to San Pedro, Miss Belize Viola Jeffery visited the San Pedro Sun office. Viola mentioned that being in the Miss Belize pageant is a first time experience for her, motivated mainly by her parents and the pageant committee. She feels that after winning the title, the attention that is being focused on her has increased. Viola strongly believes that everything she does now has to be done to the best of her abilities since it not only focuses back on her but to Belize, since she has become a role model to many. After winning the title in August of 1998, Viola has been involved in many activities throughout the country working extensively with public institutions and children. Miss Belize has also joined the fight against drugs in Belize. She is currently involved with the National Drug Abuse Control Council who has launched the first national anti-drug ad competition. The NDACC is involving Viola because of her interest in educating our youngsters about drugs, and to try to give the campaign a fresh approach. While she prepares herself to represent Belize in the Miss Universe Pageant to be held in Trinidad and Tobago on May 26th, 1999 she feels it is essential to teach children about the consequences of drugs.
Viola feels very confident in herself and satisfied with the training she received in Monterrey. She believes that Belize has more chances this year to be on the forefront since the pageant is being held in the Caribbean. She has already given a lot of thought to what charitable organization she would want to highlight if she would become Miss Universe. Working with children and/or troubled youth is at the top of her list. Viola 's last comments to the San Pedro Sun were, " I would like to thank everyone that has given me the positive encouragement to continue to be dedicated and put my best foot forward. Believe me I will try my hardest to the best not only for me but for my country, Belize.
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