In celebration of Cayman Airways’ 51st anniversary, and as one of the key sponsors of Miss Cayman Islands Universe, Skies shines the spotlight on three Caymanian women who are linked together by culture, crown and career.
On an Island deeply rooted in tradition and community, it should come as no surprise that the country’s National Flag Carrier has greatly impacted the lives of thousands of Caymanians over its 51-year history. Here, we look back at the careers of three women whose résumés boast the titles of Miss Cayman Islands and Cayman Airways flight attendant, and we discover how those experiences created a long-lasting impact on their lives.
Harriet Lott has the double distinction of being Cayman Airways’ first-ever “air hostess” (as they were referred to back then) for the jet service and Miss Cayman Islands — simultaneously. The George Town native began her career at the airline in December 1971. By January she was flown to Costa Rica to train alongside flight attendants from LACSA Costa Rica (now known as Avianca). Cayman Airways had recently introduced its jet service, and an arrangement was made with LACSA to use their BAC One-Eleven airplanes. At the tender age of 19, Harriet’s first weeks on the job were on Cayman Airways’ historic inaugural flights.
Harriet’s bosses decided to enter her name in the pageant, unbeknownst to her, and that Summer she became a contestant alongside 10 other young Caymanian women. “It was the largest group of women to date. They made me number 11 in case a CAL flight would take me away, thereby missing the pageant. I ended up being there and winning the pageant,” says Harriet.
Later that year, she represented Cayman at the Miss Caribbean Tourism pageant in the Dominican Republic and the Miss Caribbean pageant in Venezuela. “I didn’t win, but what a fabulous experience it was. I encourage all young girls to enter the pageant and get the experience to help them grow,” she explains. “Representing the Cayman Islands in 1972 was certainly an experience that I have grown from, and I still cherish all the wonderful memories of an unforgettable year.”
Whilst at those pageants, she discovered that it was the runners-up from each country who were actually competing — the winners were all competing at Miss Universe. Harriet decided in 1974 to get involved with organising the pageant and was instrumental in acquiring the franchises for the Miss World (1977) and Miss Universe (1980). She also acted as chaperone for the Miss Cayman Islands winneres who travelled to the international pageants.
Harriet remained with the airline for a decade, working herself up the ranks to become chief flight attendant before moving to part-time shifts in 1978.
During this time she also assisted with etiquette and makeup training for new flight attendants whilst at the same time working at her family-based business, Caymania Duty Free.
Now a real estate agent for Engel & Völkers, Harriet still counts her customer service training all those years ago as an invaluable experience and makes sure it is her top priority whenever she interacts with clients — or as she likes to say, “I go the extra mile with a smile since 1971.”
The Proud Representative
Wendy Daykin (now Moore) was just 18 years old when she beat out five other contestants to take home the Miss Cayman Islands crown in 1978.
“I was completely shocked when my name was called. It was unbelievable and overwhelming,” says Wendy. “There were no judges’ questions that year. Instead, we had to give a speech. Mine was based on the benefits of taking dance lessons with Miss Jackie at the ballet school (now Miss Jackie’s School of Dance).”
The George Town native worked as a teller for the Bank of Nova Scotia before winning the title. Afterwards, she worked for the Department of Tourism, which allowed for more freedom to go on the promotional trips required as Miss Cayman Islands. Shortly after her reign ended, Wendy began working for the airline as a flight attendant and continued there until early 1981.
“I was thrilled to be an ambassador for the Cayman Islands and thoroughly enjoyed the experience and opportunities of being Miss Cayman. I travelled to Berlin, Germany; Nassau, Bahamas; New York; Houston for Cayman Airways’ inaugural flight; and all over Florida for various travel trade shows.”
She was also the second Miss Cayman Islands to compete in the Miss World pageant held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. “I was voted Miss Personality — it was an incredible experience, and I feel honoured to this day to have held the title of Miss Cayman.”
Her flight routes were Kingston, Jamaica; Houston, Texas; and Miami, Florida. “The overnights in Miami were always fun. I remember the sense of camaraderie. We took our roles seriously, but I fondly remember the laughs, too,” she says.
Wendy now works as a property manager at Cayman Renaissance Villas, but her time with the airline allowed her to evolve and hone her time management and people skills which ultimately prepared her for a career in property management.
“No matter where I travel, as soon as I reach the Cayman Airways counter, I am ‘home,’ and I’m filled with pride to know so many of our captains and first officers are Caymanian.”
The Hollywood Star
It was 1981 when 19-year-old George Town native Donna Myrie (now Myrie-Stephen) took home her crown, beating out seven other contestants.
“It was the most exhilarating, euphoric feeling I have ever experienced, particularly as I entered with no expectation other than for the experience. Being crowned remains a treasured memory to this date,” says Donna.
At the time, she was a bank teller at Washington International Bank (now Butterfield Bank), which was a pageant sponsor. She travelled extensively with the Department of Tourism to promote the Cayman Islands during her reign, with stops in Europe, Canada, the United States and the Caribbean. Donna also participated in both the Miss Universe and Miss World pageants held abroad.
Along the way she met several world-famous celebrities, like conservationist Jacques Cousteau, football icon Pelé, crooner Julio Iglesias and Lee Majors, who at the time was the star of the hit TV series The Six Million Dollar Man.
As Miss Cayman she discovered some valuable life lessons that she still lives by. “Always be fearless and confident to stick to your goals and never give up,” she says.
In 1983 Donna began working as a flight attendant for Cayman Airways and remembers having a close-knit, family-style working relationship with colleagues. “I learned a lot about people and about accepting other cultures, having travelled so much and having met so many diverse people,” she says.
At 22, she opened Le Classique, a shoe shop which grew to four locations over a 36-year period and is still in operation; and for the past 18 years, she’s been the chief planner and organiser of Cayman’s national annual carnival, Batabano, along with a dedicated team of volunteers. Donna remains a loyal customer of Cayman Airways, preferring to travel with the national airline any opportunity she gets.
For all three women, representing their country amongst two different — yet equally coveted — positions has undoubtedly given them wings to fly through life.
Author: Lisa Boushy
Photographer: Blue Dot Studios