Island Beauty

Abha Bhattarai

At 5’4″, Miss Bermuda Marissa Jackson knows she isn’t the stereotypical pageant queen.

But that’s exactly why the Weinberg senior is competing in the Miss Illinois Caribbean scholarship pageant Oct. 22.

“I’m not tall, and I’m not skinny, nor do I want to be,” said Jackson, who was born in Bermuda but identifies herself as of Jamaican heritage. “I’m here to say a tall, rail-thin model shouldn’t be the protocol of what a woman is, especially not a Caribbean woman.”

Jackson’s hair is in long braids and her shapely body is toned from years of dancing. She’s not planning on any last-minute crash diets or extensive workout sessions before the pageant – just the African dance class she’s taking this quarter.

The Miss Illinois Caribbean scholarship pageant, to be held in Chicago, will feature Caribbean-themed rounds such as an island costume segment. The interview portion will gauge island awareness and knowledge, alongside the more mainstream evening gown, swimsuit and talent competitions.

The pageant is Illinois’ first for Caribbean-American women and will feature women from eight of the 34 Caribbean islands.

It will also require each participant to develop and promote a platform related to community and social service. They must present their platform at the pageant in front of an audience that will include Caribbean dignitaries and ambassadors.

Jackson said she will spend the next two weeks preparing for the pageant – her first. She has to choose a song to perform, find fishnet stockings and six-inch heels to “spice up” a Bermudan outfit and scour clothing racks for a swimsuit in the middle of October.

Although the half-Jamaican Jackson originally applied to compete for Miss Jamaica, she received a phone call from the pageant’s coordinator asking whether she would like to represent Bermuda instead because she was the only applicant with ties to the country.

The pageant will be broadcast through an Internet feed to the Caribbean islands. The pageant will offer online voting on its Web site,, until the day of the pageant. The winner of the pageant is chosen by a panel of judges and will receive a $1,500 scholarship.

Jackson, an African American studies minor, said she hopes to use the pageant as a vehicle to raise awareness of women’s issues in African and Caribbean societies.

“It’s a very male-oriented, patriarchal society and women’s issues are often ignored,” she said. “Just being African or Caribbean is a minority itself, and being a minority within that is even more silencing.”

Jackson said she has tried to inspire similar activism in black and Caribbean women on campus through her roles as CaribNation’s president and choreographer of the organization’s dance troupe.