On Friday, December 2nd, 2011 I had the opportunity to sit with the reigning Ms. Jamaica Universe 2011, twenty-five year old Shakira Martin. The Jamaican-born Florida beauty was at the Grand Palms in Pembroke Pines, collecting items for her Toy Drive for children in Jamaica. From the moment the interview began I felt as if I was catching up with an old friend. Ms. Martin sat every bit with poise and grace of a beauty queen while managing to make me feel very relaxed.
Shakira’s platform for the competition is sickle cell anemia awareness, a cause she champions at every opportunity. When asked why she wanted to start a research clinic in Nigeria, Shakira explained that the disease was first discovered there. While Jamaica has its own research clinic, there was no direct link with Nigeria. She felt having a clinic there might give more insight to the disease and aid in finding a cure. She immediately told of her personal fight with the disease having been diagnosed at 3 months old. Support groups in Jamaica have reached out to her as she continues her campaign.
School has always been a challenge for her. Due to her many absences teachers were not always accommodating and she was forced to interrupt her studies while at Broward College. However, after her reign she will resume her studies as a Hospitality Management major at Nova Southeastern University.
Since her return from Brazil in September for the Ms. Universe pageant, Shakira has been busy travelling, raising awareness about the disease. She’s excited about upcoming projects in the pipeline for the duration of her reign, however, with a smile didn’t want to spill any secrets.
Her decision to enter the competition was as a result of encouragement from her friend Yendi Phillips, a former Miss Jamaica World 2007 and Miss Jamaica Universe 2010. Shakira saw the impact her friend had and saw it as a way to make a difference, using the pageant as an avenue to get the word out about sickle cell. Her passion and commitment to her cause is both moving and admirable.
Whether beauty queen, student or advocate, when her reign is over, I don’t think that’s the last we’ll be seeing or hearing of Ms. Shakira Martin. You Go Girl!