Meghan Theobalds literally and figuratively stood head and shoulders above the other competitors in the Miss Universe Barbados 2018 pageant in September. And now that she has been chosen to represent her island on the world stage, she has her sights set on the Miss Universe title. She shares with M People Barbados her journey to winning the local crown and all the hard work it’s taking to prepare herself for a chance at the bigger prize.
What went through your mind in the moments you were announced winner of the Miss Universe Barbados title?
I couldn’t believe I had won! I thought to myself: “Are you sure?” and then when I saw Lesley (the outgoing Miss Universe Barbados) approach me with arms wide open, that is when it sunk in that I had won. It was a surreal and fantastic feeling.
During the course of the competition, and knowing that truly any one of your counterparts could have emerged winner, did you at any time think that it would be you?
I entered the competition thinking I had a good chance of winning, simply because I knew I had the qualities necessary to be a Miss Universe Barbados. I was confident in my abilities. I was committed. I had experiences in my life I could draw on and, above all, I had an awesome support system that was there for me through it all, especially my mother.
Why did you enter the competition? What was the deciding factor?
Funnily enough, it was not something I had planned to do. A member of the Miss Universe Barbados casting team approached me about entering and was insistent that I at least apply. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I had done many things in my life of which I’m proud, including studying and living in Canada and France, as well as exploring Europe on my own; however, I had never entered a pageant. I figured this would be an opportunity to go outside of my comfort zone and also challenge myself. Once I also realised that participating in the Miss Universe Barbados pageant could help me fine-tune my soft skills, I was sold!
How does one prepare mentally and physically for a world title?
We were all very fortunate. The organisers of Miss Universe Barbados are amazing at preparing all the delegates for the job of being Miss Universe Barbados. We had free membership at Surfside Gym in the months leading up to the pageant, as well as three hours of training three days a week on interview skills, elocution and developing our personal brand. We even did yoga! However, having now won I can say that nothing can really prepare you for how your life changes as Queen. Strangers now recognise me in the street or even at the airport, which I’m still getting used to, and I’m now so acutely aware of my brand and image and what it means to be a Miss Universe Barbados. I constantly remind myself to enjoy every moment since this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
What qualities did you bring to the table that you believe may have given you the edge and seeing you emerge winner?
I reminded myself that the most important part in this whole experience was to be myself and to have fun at all times. I had fun with the judges during the personality interview and I also had fun on stage. I stayed in the moment and let it all sink in and I believe that came through to the judges and helped me on my path to victory.
Once your reign is over, how do you intend to take advantage of the benefits this title and role will undoubtedly bring?
I plan to use my voice to speak up for women in the workforce who do not have a voice of their own and young ladies who are seeking mentorship on how to navigate life in the business world in general. In my personal and professional life, I’ve had the immense privilege of being surrounded by strong, supportive women who have advised me and helped me to navigate various work-related situations. I also recognise that not everyone has this network of support or even someone they can seek advice from, and I want to be that support for women.
Tell us a bit about your prep for the main event – Miss Universe. How many wardrobe fittings; how many events attended; what’s your social calendar like?
We recently went on an exciting trip to New York and Ohio. In New York, we visited the Miss Universe Organisation’s offices to get better acquainted with the people that I will be meeting in Thailand. Selina Howard, my stylist from Vainglorious Brides (a sponsor), was with us one day and we visited several major designer houses to begin working on my wardrobe for Thailand. I also met with Lu Sierra, the official trainer for Miss USA and Miss Universe, for training. In Ohio, we visited with my evening gown sponsor, Henri’s Cloud 9. They are also styling me for my pre-judging interview. They have dressed several Miss USA winners and also Miss Canada! I cannot tell you how excited I am to be on stage in my evening gown. It’s the most beautiful creation I’ve ever seen and I felt absolutely beautiful in it. I can’t wait for you all to see it!
How do you maintain a healthy diet, a healthy number of hours of sleep, and still feel energised for gruelling days on end?
What is sleep???? (Laugh). Between my duties and responsibilities, I am kept quite busy most days and I’m thankful when my head actually gets to touch my pillow. But it is all worth it as I know I will be ready to take on the challenge at Miss Universe. Regarding my diet, I don’t mess around with that because food is what keeps me going and so I’ll usually have a banana or granola bar and some other snacks to keep going between meals.
What kind of training have you been going through? Help us to get a sense of what competitors face before competition.
It’s quite intense but all very necessary to make sure I’m in tiptop shape for Thailand. Just take a look at what my preparation consists of: Multiple hours of training in New York with Lu Sierra, the official walking coach of Miss USA, and the Miss Universe delegates. Multiple hours of training with the co-founders of Pageantology101, Susie Castillo and Shandi Finnessey. They are both former Miss USA winners in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Shandi went on to be first runner-up at Miss Universe and Susie made the top 15. 15 hours a week with local trainer Sharon Sargeant on interview skills and personal branding until my departure for Miss Universe in Thailand. Personal training at Bassa Bassa Gym five days a week inclusive of a full diet and exercise plan. Media training three times a week with Gaynelle Marshall. Walking training with local coaches six days a week. One-on-one hair styling with Adzil Stuart and makeup classes with Ackeem Francis.
What’s a day like for you leading up to the event?
My day typically starts at 6 a.m. when my alarm goes off and I head to the gym. I love being at the gym but getting there is the hardest part! After a session with Cary I usually have appointments or pageant-related errands to complete. That is followed by walking training and stage presence for about an hour. After a quick break I head to evening training. This training would be with either Gaynelle Marshall or Sharon Sargeant as they prepare me for the interview segment of Miss Universe and managing the media. I then head home after a long day and start my preparations for the following day to make sure I know what I need to schedule. In between all of that I also have appearances with sponsors, which is so much fun. For instance, I visited the offices of our title sponsor, Yello for their 15th anniversary celebrations and I also got the opportunity to go the Barbados Food and Rum Festival as the guest of our sponsor, BTMI. I’ve met so many amazing people through these events and I feel so fortunate!
What were your expectations of the international competition and have they been met?
The competition actually takes place on December 16. I’m looking forward to the experience, particularly meeting the judges during the interview stage. I’m excited to find out who they are!
Have there been any surprises?
My National Director, Brian has provided me with so much information and given me an idea of what to expect along the way. Lesley and Shannon, our former queens, have also been extremely supportive and shared with me their own experiences. Between the three of them I feel as if I’m prepared for anything and so I haven’t had any surprises yet! What I’m still getting used to, however, people is referring to me as Queen; I chuckle every time I hear it!
What has been, thus far, your favourite memory between the local competition and today?
Being on stage the night of the show and having fun in front of my friends and family will always be memorable to me. Everyone who was there to support me knew how much work I had put in to get to that point and I was so happy to share the moment with them! It was also extremely special to share that with my eight new sisters. We truly became very close over this process and we were all cheering each other on every step of the way.
Tell us a bit about the (new) relationships you’ve created.
As a delegate, I formed incredible friendships with my pageant sisters that will last a lifetime. I’ve also been lucky enough to develop friendships with both previous queens, Shannon Harris and Lesley Chapman-Andrews and their help and guidance along the way have been invaluable. I’m always asking for tips and advice and they’ve been more than willing to assist and show me how it’s done. Lesley accompanied me on my trip to NYC and was the perfect chaperone and big sister to me, making sure I was Miss Universe Barbados-ready before I stepped through the door and always ensuring any doubts or questions I had were answered. Shannon showed me the ropes when it came to my first official photo-shoot and because of her, I’m finally learning my angles! I call her Coach Shannon which makes her roll her eyes but it’s such an apt title and I’m so grateful!
What stands out as the most significant moment throughout this journey, other than being crowned winner?
When I tried on my official Miss Universe evening gown for the first time will always be a moment I remember. That’s when I realised that this entire experience is real and that I have a real chance of winning. I felt like a queen and looked like one as well.
You are beautiful. Did you grow up being told this and being encouraged to love the skin you’re in or is this something that never came up and never needed to be reinforced?
I have always been the tallest and slimmest person in the room which tended to make me stand out, and as a teenager that was the last thing I wanted. I didn’t always feel like I was beautiful enough because of my height. However, thankfully, my mum was there to reassure me and tell me I was perfect just as I was. She also made sure I stood up straight because if there’s one thing I learnt from my mum is that nothing is more unattractive than a tall girl with a slouch! I had to learn to be confidently beautiful and to rock my height.
What’s your style like?
What do you feel most comfortable in? – A maxi dress. Make-up or nah? – Depends on the occasion. Dress or jeans and t-shirt? – Depends on the occasion. Hair up or down? – Hair down whenever possible! I love my curls!
Who are the people here on island on whom you depend for support?
My mother is my biggest supporter. She was the one who kept me calm when the pressure of the pageant was getting to me. She was also the one who always checking on me to make sure I had eaten, so I always keep my energy up. In the days leading up to the pageant, she drove me around and was with me through all of my appointments. I can definitely say that I could not get through the pageant without her. I was able to focus on myself because she was there to take care of everything else 🙂
What’s your secret skill?
I can twist my tongue into the shape of the letter ‘U’.
Tell us five things we don’t yet know about you?
I LOVE my mom’s coconut bread like no one’s business! It’s a deep, real love! (Laugh) I have a younger sister, Jessica who was recently called to the Bar. She’s very smart and I’m very proud. I have two rescue dogs called Ollie and Missy that I love dearly. I speak French fluently and have lived in France and Montreal. I have done quite a bit of solo travelling, including to Istanbul, Scotland and Vienna.