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Reigning Miss BVI World Rikkiya Brathwaite


It happens to many; you are passionate about a hobby or an activity as a child. For various reasons, you discard it when you reach the teenage years, only to rediscover that this childhood activity was so much more. It was actually a talent or a gift that, if honed, can be life-changing. This is a discovery that reigning Miss BVI World Rikkiya Brathwaite made miles away from home, in the middle of one of the most contested competitions– the Miss World pageant.

To date, Rikkiya is the only Virgin Islands queen to make a significant impact at an international pageant or one of the “Big Four” as the four leading pageants are referred to. The impact was winning the Miss World Sports Challenge, a grueling activity that tests determination and endurance through multiple sporting activities. The news that Rikkiya won this challenge took many by surprise, including Rikkiya, who explained that she was astonished because her love for sports was placed on a shelf many years ago.

In sharing about her previous love for sports, Rikkiya disclosed, “Growing up in my pre-adolescent age, some may say I was quite the “tomboy”, believe it or not. My parents did an exceptional job making sure that my brother and I were always involved in extracurricular activities. Whether they were afterschool programmess or summer/Christmas camps, we were always involved in various activities to ensure that we would find our niche one day. Around the age of 6, I seemed to veer more towards athletics. I enjoyed my tee-ball team (The Chicklets). I was also very interested in track and field while attending the best primary school ever, Althea Scatliffe Primary School, where I lived for sports day and all its glory.”

The packing away of the sporting talent was gradual. Rikkiya noted that the shift first began towards the end of her primary school sojourn. “At Althea Scatliffe, at that time, my peers and I were not only striving to bring home good grades, but it was the age where you were introduced to the notion of earning one’s respect and identity. As I transferred from Althea Scatliffe to Cedar International School at Grade 5, There was a distinct shift in my life. There was an immediate pressure not only to focus on academics but also to fit in, and a pressure to make my parents proud. I was very adamant about not transferring to Cedar school because I was already in class four, had my friends, and was super excited to attend the great Elmore Stoutt High School. Needless to say, I was ten years old, and I did not own myself; therefore, I attended Cedar School’s 5th grade class by the next fall.”

The final packing away of athletic interest happened when Rikkiya settled into her new school. She recalled, “At Cedar, my love for athletics diminished as my focus for academics heightened. As I grew, my focus shifted from the “athletic Kiya” to more of, I would say, an academic Kiya. I was in a class of very high achievers, individuals that strived for success and never missed the honour roll/honour roll with distinction list. I used the same perseverance I developed in Althea Scattliffe for athletics towards my academics at Cedar School.”

Like so many other things in life, when we close one door, others open, and in Rikkiya’s case, the opening door became her lifelong passion, dream, and forever aspiration — Art and Music. She nostalgically recalled this step into a path that ultimately shaped her life, saying, “As my years went by at Cedar School the academic classes were indeed tough. The only classes I felt relieved at were music and art classes. I started to grow a huge love for the art world from all perspectives. Visual arts, music, musical theatre, and the list goes on.”

“I performed in my first musical theatre show at Cedar School, the production of Alice in Wonderland. I remember auditioning distinctly for the role of the Queen of Hearts. I was confident that I would get the part because I was a part of the New Life Baptist Church youth choir, and I felt like I could out sing everyone at the audition. With all that being said, I did not get the role of The Queen of Hearts, sadly; however, I did land the role of Alice. I was very unhappy initially because Alice’s role does not sing; the Queen of Hearts does.”

While acknowledging that growing up, there were major interests in sports, Rikkiya said that she became determined to further her artistic education in the end. This love for the arts motivated her to attend the Interlochen Centre for the Arts every year (2011-2014). “While there, I pursued vocal and musical theatre training. By the time I got to the 10th grade, it was recognized that I’d outgrown the artistic capabilities that Cedar International school could provide to me. I was transferred to North Broward Preparatory School in Broward, Florida, where there was an exceptional art program. I later attended Yale University, where I completed a six-week summer course. In the fall of 2015, I attended the University of Miami, where I obtained my BFA in the Spring of 2019.”

The artistic path was right for Rikkiya. She prepared to take the performing arts world by storm; however, in her preparation, she saw an opportunity to serve her community and graciously accepted the ambassadorial path by being crowned Miss World BVI on 11 August 2019. This crowning meant that Rikkiya would represent the Territory at the annual Miss World competition in London. 

Looking back at the crowning moment, Rikkiya still relives the emotions. “I was very nervous about accepting this title because I had never competed in a pageant before, although pageantry has been around me most of my life. I’ve watched my mother, Ayana Hull ​, and my uncle, Kareem​ Nelson-Hull ​, successfully chaperone several Queens.

This new role of title holder was not about the stage for Rikkiya, no. It was an opportunity to help carve a path for others in the Territory who are just as passionate about the arts. The crown was a platform, and Rikkiya was excited to use it to help many in the Territory advance to the international performance arts stages.

She explained, “Due to the fact that I had recently educated myself, so much about my craft, I felt the distinct need to bring that same knowledge home to those who have the same passion as I have, but who didn’t have the opportunity to train and or learn more about this craft. That need turned into my Beauty with a Purpose project. Every queen that attends the Miss World Pageant has to imperatively have a philanthropic project within her community. It is the biggest part of the Miss World pageant.”

However, before delving into any of her plans, Rikkiya had to compete in the renowned global competition. She recalled, “I boarded a flight to London, with my Beauty with a Purpose Project in hand–– my love for arts, slight capabilities in sports, and the love for my country in my heart. That’s all I had apart from a few bags, dresses and shoes, of course. While at Miss World, I immediately became aware of how small of a country the BVI is compared to the countries that I competed against. Day one of Miss World was media day, where the big news reporters such as CNN, Fox News, you name it, attended. The most popular countries, such as the USA, Australia, India, and countries that are deemed to be very attuned with pageantries such as Mexico, Venezuela, and Nepal, were all specifically asked to be interviewed, and all attention was on them. At that moment, I immediately realised that this was not going to be simple, and I was most definitely not in “Tola” anymore”. 

Amidst the adrenaline rush that being in a massive competition with over 100 contenders would have, Rikkiya reunited with her love for sports. For it was there, in London, that that box that she tucked away all those years had to be reopened.  She recalls, “Within the second week, we were all to attend sports day. That excited me, of course, because I didn’t recall the last day I participated in sports day. The nostalgia/excitement of sports day flipped a huge competitive switch in me.”

“On that day, I made up my mind that our little country, the British Virgin Islands, WILL BE interviewed. I competed in various events such as a beep test, long jump trials,100m sprint, 100m suicides, and 4×4 relay, all within the same day. Holding the passion and the competitive nature of sports day that lives inside me, I finally got interviewed! I was fortunate enough to win every event that I participated in, earning me the very humbling title of Miss World Sports Woman 2019. Stepping on the podium as first place for the BVI was a moment that I’ll hold dear to my heart with pride forever. This also, fortunately, made me the first 2019 contestant to advance to top 40 in the competition and also the first BVI contender to advance to the top 40 in the pageant’s history”.

Miss World BVI recalled attending dance rehearsals and demonstrating her best rehearsal etiquette. Rikkiya noted, “I ensured to pay attention no matter how long rehearsals were, and always to be the one girl that knew all the dance moves to every number”. Her tenacity and dedication were quickly recognized by renowned dance choreographers who worked on Broadway and multiple professional shows. Throughout long hours of rehearsal, the talented Miss World BVI started to develop relationships with them, enough to the point where they would even ask her to assist with choreography that would be performed on stage the night of the show.

While the forgotten talent skyrocketed Rikkiya, the current passion – Arts was not to be minimized; as like the cherry on the cake, Rikkiya was able to artistically advance further. She told us, “Three days before the show, we were at Miss World talent finals, where I was humbled enough to be a part of the top 5. Later that evening, I was announced the second place winner, where Miss World herself, Tonni Ann Sing (Miss world Jamaica), was announced the winner of talent. This also fast-tracked her to the top 40.”

Miss World BVI encapsulated the experience by saying, “I am grateful for such a humbling experience. After a few weeks of rehearsals and attending various balls and interviews, most contestants and I began to develop very special relationships that I still cherish today. We all held each other up throughout the hardest days.  I also couldn’t be more grateful for Mr. Damion Grange and the Ms. World BVI committee for having the audacity to believe that I can actually do it. Most of all, I would love to thank the BVI community for the outpouring of love and support it provided to me while representing my Beautiful Virgin Islands on the world stage.”

Rikkiya is hopeful that this article will encourage every reader to rediscover those hidden talents and great gifts. She affectionately noted that all of hers combined when she needed them the most.

Summarising, Rikkiya said, “All in all, growing up in the BVI made me who I am. It helped me find my gifts and talents, and it’s no surprise to me that I was able to showcase these exact talents learned here in the British Virgin Islands, on behalf of the British Virgin Islands. I couldn’t be more happy to have been the chosen ambassador to represent and show love to the BVI in a way in which it has represented and showed love to me. I couldn’t be more grateful for Mrs. Ann O’Connor ​and my experience at Cedar International School for teaching me that I can show up on any stage. I couldn’t be more grateful for Althea Scatliffe for helping me build a strong foundation in athletics.”