Twenty-four-year-old Kadejah Bodden won the hearts of the crowd and judges when she took centre stage at this year’s Miss Cayman Islands Universe pageant and claimed the title and crown. But her long legs, striking smile and winning personality aren’t the only qualities worth mentioning.
Bodden holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Kent, a master’s degree in regenerative medicine from Queen Mary University in London, and has her eyes set on pursuing a doctorate in the near future.
Before she heads off to Seoul, South Korea, to represent the Cayman Islands at the 2019 Miss Universe pageant on December 19, Bodden sat down with me to talk about her experience in the Miss Cayman Islands Universe pageant, her plans as Cayman’s reigning queen and even a few personal tidbits that reveal the real Kadejah Bodden.
Why did you decide to enter the Miss Cayman Islands Universe pageant?
We’re in a time where pageants like Miss Universe are looking for well-rounded girls — the full package. They encourage the notion that women can be both beautiful and intelligent, and whatever they aspire to be; we no longer have to feel like we have to choose. Women can have and do it all. The chance to win Miss Cayman Islands Universe and be part of that was exciting because it aligned with my beliefs and values and presented the opportunity to promote myself and network through the pageant.
How did you prepare for the competition?
The committee made sure that all the girls received adequate training so we would be as prepared as possible. This included dance rehearsals for the opening act, runway training and Toastmasters sessions to help us with public speaking, interviews and the much-anticipated onstage question.
What personal goals have you set for yourself as the reigning Miss Cayman Islands Universe?
My personal platform is climate change and something I advocated for well before I even considered taking part in the pageant. Throughout the year, I plan to continue working with my advocacy and hopefully start a project of my own.
Also, Cayman has never placed in the Miss Universe pageant, and it’s something I would really like to see happen for us… so, fingers crossed!
In what ways would you like to see Cayman’s leaders strike a balance between the progression of our islands and protecting our unique environment?
I think one of the best examples is the ongoing debate about the cruise berthing facility. Whilst expanding our tourism is important for the growing demands of our country, protecting our environment is also very important.
I would like to see our leaders explore and exhaust all other possible options that would be less damaging to our precious environment before carrying out a project that could do irreversible damage.
What do you think is the most important issue your generation is facing?
I would definitely say one of the most important issues is undoing the damage to the environment caused by past generations who didn’t know and do better. It’s one of the most urgent matters that needs addressing because climate change is and will continue to affect everyone.
What one Caymanian attraction would you describe as “not to be missed” if visiting the Cayman Islands for the first time?
I would say Stingray City. It’s the only natural one of its kind in the world, and I think it’s one of the most unique and special attractions that Cayman has to offer.
What is your favourite childhood memory?
Taking family trips to Morritt’s Tortuga Club and Resort in East End with my family on Sundays. We would do that a few times a year, and it was something I always looked forward to as a kid. I love it there!
Which person or moment has had the most influence in your life to date?
My parents are definitely a big influence and the motivation for me to keep going and do my best because, even as I get older, they are still so involved; and I love breaking new limits and making them proud.
Have you been involved in any local charity work?
A few years ago, I helped a friend start a recycling initiative within her neighbourhood. Something I love to do, which is therapeutic for me, is to pick a beach to go to in the early morning and pick up any trash I find. It’s a good way to have some alone time with a beautiful view whilst still doing something helpful for our environment.
What’s your one guilty pleasure?
I love reality TV shows. Love Island is a personal favourite.
What’s next for Kadejah?
In terms of long-term goals, research is my passion and I want to continue doing that in my field of stem cell and tissue engineering research. I would eventually love to do my own research here in Cayman, whether it be in partnership with one of our hospitals or universities or a centre of my own.
By Nasaria Budal
Photos: Cortez Vernon Photography
Photo Shoot Director: Amanda Jane Pennington/Direction Event Planning
Hair/Makeup: Stylebar By Sonia Sajnani
Jewellery: Charlie Lapson & Island Jewellers
Stylist: Norma Ebanks/Creative Fashion And Design
Author: Nasaria Budal
Photographer: Cortez Vernon Photography