Caitlin Tyson’s childhood dream finally came true when she was crowned Miss Cayman Islands Universe 2018 this past August, edging out six other contestants.
In addition to receiving a CI$70,000 scholarship and free roundtrip airfare from Cayman Airways to a destination of her choosing (amongst other prizes), she’ll represent the Cayman Islands at the Miss Universe pageant in Bangkok, Thailand, in December.
The 24-year-old striking beauty hopes to use the scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in performing arts and help foster the creative arts community.
The Bodden Town native found her passion for performing early on whilst growing up in the Cayman Islands, having participated in many local theatre productions, festivals, and dance and talent competitions. The professionally trained actress, model and dancer is also a writer and certified yoga instructor.
Tyson spoke with Cayman Airways Skies about claiming her prestigious pageant title, her passions and plans for the future, plus her most cherished Cayman holiday traditions.
What went through your head when you were named the winner?
My mind went completely blank. I just paused to make sure it was my number that was called… I had flashbacks of the entire process leading up to the pageant night: the rehearsals, fittings, meetings, the long days and nights… I felt this overwhelming wave of joy and gratitude.
What kind of training was involved?
The training involved weekly meetings with the Grand Cayman Toastmasters Club. We were given many techniques on writing, developing and giving a speech; answering impromptu questions; and public speaking. We were also strongly encouraged to keep abreast on current, local and world affairs. We also received etiquette training with Sherryl Ebanks-Miller, founder of Pinnacle Reach Success; dance rehearsals for our opening number; and weekly runway training.
I grew up dancing four days a week, and I think that discipline has carried over into my adult life. I received my degree in acting and conservatory training in an accelerated programme from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and we had no breaks at all, so I think it prepared me well.
What were the most enjoyable and most challenging aspects for you?
The most challenging were the emotional ups and downs. Being in the public eye at this capacity was a very new and vulnerable experience for me. Some days I was on top of the world, and other days I was second-guessing everything. But what got me through was the support of my family and friends and focusing on the positive things in my life and transforming that into an unshakeable confidence. The Toastmasters meetings were my favourite part of the process, and what I took away was to be true to myself and always speak with confidence.
What are your responsibilities as Miss Cayman Islands Universe 2018, and what are your social impact initiatives?
My responsibility is to be of service to my community and to be an international representative of who we are as a people and our core values. I’d like to continue working with charitable organisations like the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Association of the Cayman Islands and get more involved with local schools to provide our youth with different programmes and activities so they can express themselves and know they are being heard. I’d also like to use my experience and training in the arts to spearhead different initiatives that will benefit the Cayman Islands’ cultural heritage.
There is an amazing video on your personal and professional website called the “Self Love Series,” which you created. Can you please explain its purpose in more detail?
Thank you so much. The purpose of this piece was to show the effects that other people’s words and opinions have on us and how much of that shapes who we are as a person. The “Self Love Series” raises the question of “When do we define who we are for ourselves?” This is just one part of an ongoing conversation that I believe is so important for us to have.
Who has inspired you in terms of career and life goals?
My mother, Catherine Tyson, has always inspired me. She’s an amazing mother, social worker and author. As a single parent, she received her master’s degree whilst pregnant with me, so I have always looked up to her strength and determination when it came to following my dreams. She has always been my biggest supporter and has motivated me to do what makes me happy.
You recently starred in the indie film Canvas, which was shot and based in the Cayman Islands. What was that experience like?
It was amazing. I always love having the opportunity to work at home. I was so inspired by all of the wonderful talents that we have here in the Cayman Islands — a collaboration right from the beginning — and I’m so proud of the end result.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself experiencing many different creative outlets, travelling the world, married to the love of my life and opening a world-renowned performing arts school in the Cayman Islands.
What do you do for fun?
I like to go to the beach, read, and binge-watch my favourite series, like Star Trek: The Next Generation, 3%, RuPaul’s Drag Race, New Girl, Shameless, Orange Is the New Black and Downton Abbey, to name a few.
What are your favourite holiday traditions and dishes?
My all-time favourite tradition is to drive all over the island and look at the Christmas lights. I have my top five houses that I visit several times throughout the season just to see their decorations. My favourite local dishes are conch stew and heavy cake. I’m guilty of eating way too much heavy cake during the holidays!
What advice would you give to young girls aspiring to follow in your footsteps?
I would tell them to get ready because it’s not an easy path, but it will be worth it. Always believe in yourself, get your education and learn as much as you can from everyone that you meet. Push yourself far beyond your comfort zone because that is where the real growth takes place — and be kind and uplift other people while you’re at it.
Author: Lisa Boushy