Uganda's representative Quiin Abenakyo places fourth at the global beauty contest and is named Miss World Africa - a first for Uganda.
PIC: Miss Uganda Quiin Abenakyo looking dazzling when she walked on stage on Saturday. (AFP)
MISS WORLD 2018
By Joseph Kizza
SANYA, China - Indeed, there is a first for everything. And Uganda's beauty queen, Quiin Abenakyo, has done what no other Ugandan has done before - making it all the way to the Top 5 of the Miss World competition, and even further by placing fourth overall.
Although she missed out on this year's top crown, with Mexico's Vanessa Ponce de Leon taking it, Abenakyo won the continental crown by beating Mauritius' Murielle Ravina to become Miss World Africa.
She wrapped up a dream-come-true with a third-place finish ahead of Belarus' Maria Vasilevich and Jamaica's Kadijah Robinson.
When the presenter announced the 22-year-old as one of two contestants to vie for the African crown, Abenakyo, donning a lovely low-cut blue dress, exuded confidence in true Pearl-of-African spirit.
She had inched closer to an even higher pedestal. Whatever was racing through her mind at that very moment, it is no doubt she knew she was almost there. This was uncharted territory from a Ugandan point of view.
But soon, her emotions would betray her steely yet admirable presence.
After a brief, nervy pause by the presenter, the name 'Uganda' eventually rattled off his lips. And as if by cue, Abenakyo's eyes beamed in delight and welled at the same time. From that moment, she had become Miss World Africa!
And even sweeter, the Ugandan beauty had secured a spot in the Top 5, leaving her with a one-in-five shot at winning Miss World 2018.
Then came the time for the big one.
The large culturally diverse audience inside the beautifully-lit Sanya City Arena - and the watching world beyond those walls - held their breath for the announcement of the ultimate winner.
Suspense. Anxiety. Silence. And then . . .
And a huge prolonged applause followed.
Manushi Chhillar of India, with tiara in her hands, walked over to Ponce and hugged her, before crowning her as her successor, to bring an entertaining, emotions-filled and historic (for Uganda and Mexico) show to an end.
Ponce became the first Mexican to win Miss World.
Thailand's Nicolene Limsnukan placed second, finishing the 68th edition of the world beauty contest as second runner-up.
Abenakyo's journey to the Top 5
To get to Sanya, a city hosting the event for the second successive year (and eight times in total), Abenakyo had to start from scratch.
First, she had to win the Ugandan contest - which she did, by beating 21 other contestants to the Miss Uganda 2018 crown.
Her coronation on the Friday night of August 10 meant that Uganda had guaranteed representation for the Miss World competition. With the tiara sitting neat and pretty on her head, Abenakyo's next sights were on the global beauty contest, which would see her battle for the title with 117 contestants from around the world.
Uganda's representation in the years past did not make it that far up the ladder. Only in the different challenges within the contest has Uganda previously managed to get somewhere.
In 2004, Barbara Kimbugwe made the Top 20 cut in the Miss World Beach Beauty competition. The following year, Juliet Akankwatsa made the Top 16 in the Miss World Talent.
In 2011, Sylvia Namutebi was on the Top 24 and Top 20 lists of the Miss World Sport and Miss World Beach Beauty competitions, respectively.
But this time round, Abenakyo took it up several notches higher.
Abenakyo, the 'Quiin' of Africa
Can't say enough— MISS UGANDA 2018 (@AbenakyoQuiin) December 8, 2018
Made it 2nd Runner Up
and Miss world Africa. 🇺🇬
Thanks Uganda and everyone. pic.twitter.com/FEi7o45PMS
To begin with, by making the Top 30 overall, she had become the first Ugandan as yet to make it that far.
And to make that cut, the Ugandan beauty queen progressed from Round One of the Head-to-Head Challenge, before brushing aside Argentina's Victoria Soto in Round Two.
In this competition of duels, contestants had to present their Beauty With a Purpose projects before a panel of judges. Abenakyo's project on teenage pregnancies earned her a three-way decision in her favour, to guarantee her a Top 30 spot.
The Miss World 2018 Top 5, from left: Miss Thailand, Miss Uganda, Miss Mexico, Miss Jamaica and Miss Belarus
Ugandans back their queen
It became smooth sailing from then on, especially by the fact that Ugandans have been rallying behind their girl every step of the way.
It is difficult to remember a time when Ugandans were so passionate about following their nation's representative at Miss World.
This year, it was a whole new ball game. There was a proactive keenness to it, as voting for Abenakyo became part of a well-wishing Ugandan's menu.
And as more Ugandans voted, belief grew. What had for years seemed an unthinkable achievement suddenly turned into a realistic one.
On Saturday, Abenakyo slipped into the Top 12 and then into the Top 5 by winning Miss World Africa.
The final question
For the final five contestants, it had to come down to how well they answered a pre-recorded question relayed off a huge screen. A total of 13 judges would decide who best answered her question, the key to winning the crown.
Each finalist had their own question.
Abenakyo, having slipped into another, much longer dress by now, was asked what unique quality she would introduce to the Beauty With a Purpose cause.
Question: "During my year, I combined my passion for singing with my Beauty With a Purpose project. What unique quality would you bring to Beauty With a Purpose?"
Response: "Good evening everyone. I am very passionate about cooking. I believe one can show the love they have for everyone through food. My Beauty With a Purpose is fighting teenage pregancies. We can all come together and help, but we can also do this through food because when we all come together, we share ideas, we generate ideas. Just like the Miss World family, we were able to come up with different ideas to solve problems in our countries. Thank you."
It was the 90-second delivery of her Beauty With a Purpose project that had a few days back seen her into the Top 30, at the expense of Argentina's Soto.
While she did not win the overall title, Abenakyo's placement in the dizzying Top 5 cast has assured her being a part of the Miss World 2019 Beauty with a Purpose tour - on top of several other opportunities.
But more importantly, Abenakyo, who desires to do a Masters degree in Business Computing, will have inspired many young Ugandan girls who harbour similar ambitions.
She has also raised a new bar, upon which the country's future beauty queens will be aiming at.
Today our 20 Miss World Head to Head Challenge Round 1 winners will compete against each other for a spot in the Miss World Final 30!— Miss World (@MissWorldLtd) December 1, 2018
They will be judged by Miss World 2013 Megan Young, Miss World 2016 Stephanie Del Valle, and the reigning Miss World Manushi Chillar pic.twitter.com/iCGBxgC3J1
HOW OTHER AFRICAN CONTESTANTS DID IN THE CHALLENGES
Senegal's Aissatou Filly was the second runner-up in the contest won by Maëva oucke of France while South Africa's Thulisa Keyi was fourth runner-up.
Nigeria's Anita Ukah made the Top 32 here.
Finali Galaiya of Kenya was the second runner-up. Nepal's Shrinkhala Khatiwada won this challenge.
Beauty With A Purpose
Kenyan Galaiya's project was among the Top 12 while Rwandan Liliane Iradukunda's made the Top 25 list.
World Fashion Designer Award
As joint winners, South Africa' Thulisa Keyi shared the honours with China's Peirui Mao.
Sanya Tourism Promotional Video Award
And finally, Kenyan Finali Galaiya took this one, beating China, Nepal, Puerto Rico and England in that order.
Abenakyo, the new queen on the block!
Also related to this story
How Uganda's Quiin Abenakyo made Miss World history