Back to the title’s halcyon days, and then ………..Nicole Wallace, a student of mixed-Caribbean, but primarily Jamaican, heritage won the 24th Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth contest – at the Polish Centre in Hammersmith – in October 2012. She was recommended to the contest by entrepreneur Rudi Page. Rhandelle Legay, recommended by Angela Cox, organiser of Miss Trinidad &Tobago UK, and Jernita Esprit, a Dominican, were her deputies. The show was presented by former title-holder Shirley Dee, and saw Angel J’s return as principal singer. The accompanying entertainment, in which the Silver Dancers were outstanding, was arranged by Shirley Dee and Jacqueline Matovu, promoter of Miss Uganda UK. For the first time in over twenty years the show included Asian as well as Caribbean and African candidates.The promotion was more than merely the contest – just as it had been in its halcyon days. 

The judging panel included international sports stars in athlete Donna Fraser and cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent. Shiri Achu, the celebrated Cameroonian artist, exhibited her paintings. Count Prince Miller, the legend of Jamaican entertainment (who had attended several previous contests as a private guest), joined Archbishop Dr Bancroft McCarthy and the United Harmony Christian Group on stage. Model/actress Beverley Heath and body-builder champion Ian Dowe, two of the title’s long-time supporters, were again in the audience. It would be last time that founder/supporter Clayton Goodwin, who had presented (or assisted in the presentation of) every contest for the title hitherto, would fulfil the role in which here, he and Shirley Dee, provided an effective professional double-act performance.The decision to hold the promotion over for two years gave Nicole – and Jernita – the opportunity to establish an unusual record. The former had had to wait longest of any title-holder between her application and winning the crown.  

Nicole had been recommended just before (and too late to enter) for the preceding contest – won by Curmiah St Catherine. It replicated and exceeded the experience of Natalie Galloway, who, similarly, had applied over a year early to the contest which she won. Jernita has been in the audience two years previously, repeating the experience of Valerie Stephens who had been a spectator for one show and runner-up (to Margarette Kyei) in the next back in the mid-1980s. That was the only previous time that a Dominican, Eartha Burke, had finished in the top three positions.Nicole’s sashing, performed my former title-holder Shirley Dee, was arranged by Jerome at the Jewel night-bar near St Paul’s. Beverley Heath and Miss Guyana UK promoters Tracey/Felicia Benjamin were principal guests. Appropriately Nicole was guest at the Miss Guyana UK promotion at Brixton town hall and later at their Christmas party at Club Scandal in Streatham. Before the end of the year she was also received by the High Commissioner for Jamaica and was guest at Miss CameroonUKat the Porchester Hall in Paddington. In the new year Nicole was a guest at the opening of the new Benalex television studio in Docklands, and discussed with Gregory Alleyne at Croydon how she could best promote the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust.

Then, while in full flow, the first life of the Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth title, which had been founded 33 years previously, came suddenly to an end. The day after his meeting with Nicole and Shirley Dee at the Novotel Hotel in Greenwich, promoter Clayton Goodwin suffered a heart problem which caused him to be taken into hospital. On recovery he was advised to “take things easy” for a while. Shirley Dee took over the administration of the title. Nevertheless, it was inevitable that the procedure of promotion should stop. While Clayton was “de-activated”, something strange happened. It seemed that fortune was trying to tell him something. Attempts to re-start the promotion were frustrated by Hopelyn Goodwin’s unexpected, and serious, hospital operation and the heart attack suffered by the venue manager when a re-launch was projected for Tulse Hill, south-east London.The concept, however, continued, primarily with lunches for title-holders held by Clayton/Hopelyn and through Nicole still promoting the cause, even if it were less formal than hitherto. In November 2017, Shirley Dee video-ed those former title-holders who lived comparatively close to the Benalex studio and could get there on the day.  

In addition to herself these included Hadda, Margarette, Uchenna, Theresa and Natalie. Several others, who were otherwise engaged at the time, expressed an interest to be filmed similarly later. It was obvious that the spirit of Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth could not die. Other promoters, including long-time supporter Angela Cox, organiser of MissTrinidad Tobago UK, considered if they could take over the promotion, and although Jacqueline Matovu consented to a draft agreement other commitments, included a prolonged visit to Uganda, caused a slip between the cup and the lip.There was really only one answer. Shirley Dee had become the “voice” of Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth following Clayton’s illness, and she was trusted by the former title-holders and by other promoters. It remained only for her to obtain the financial backing and to form a new team for the new era …….And that is to where we have come today.



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