A Star is Born: Monyque Brooks, Miss Cayman Islands 2016

Poised, graceful and passionate of the arts, culture and Caymanian heritage are the qualities that separated the reigning Miss Cayman Islands Monyque Brooks from the other contestants and ultimately won her the crown in January, along with titles ‘Best in Gown’, ‘Best Smile’ and ‘Miss Photogenic’.

Monyque was enthralled in music and dance as a young child and her love of both has continued through adulthood. According to her official Miss Cayman Islands biography, she is “set on leaving her footprint in the local arts industry”. She has performed at both pop-up festivals and major national events in dance and theatre and has used her talent to raise funds and awareness for local charities and individuals in need.

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The colourful Monyque at Cayman’s carnival festival, Batabano (photo: Monyque Brooks)

In addition to her dance and performing arts career, Monyque has a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Florida International University and works at the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Monyque to chat about everything from her childhood memories to her intentions as the 33rd Miss Cayman Islands.

Tell me about your family and childhood.
I am the daughter of Morvin and Junilee Brooks and I have four siblings. I grew up in a rather large, yet close-knit family. I would consider my family to be one full of life, laughter, love and entertainment. I had the pleasure of being raised in West Bay and I definitely strive to maintain the Christian morals and values that I was taught.

What is your favourite childhood memory?
Christmastime has always been my absolute favourite. For Caymanians, Christmastime is all about friends, family and worship. I also thoroughly enjoyed helping my grandmother bake traditional Caymanian heavy cakes in the kitchen.

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Who is the most influential person in your life?
There are many people who have touched my life in positive ways which has resulted in the person I am today. However, my parents play an extremely important role. My mom is my support system and best friend. She has been there every step of the way and words cannot express how grateful I am to have her by my side. In addition, with my father making such a huge impact on the entertainment industry, I always strive to continue his legacy.

Has your background in the performing arts influenced your perspective on life?
Dance has heavily influenced my life in a number of ways and the discipline has allowed me to carry myself with grace and poise at all times. I consider it a privilege to be able to express myself in a way that many others cannot. The ability to express myself through movement and choreography is a gift that God has blessed me with and for this I will be forever grateful.

Which charities have you worked with?
Although I’m involved in various charitable organizations, I find the ultimate pleasure in raising funds through performing arts. I always draw reference to my efforts to raise funds for the late Dimitrie Connor’s medical expenses. I coordinated a performing arts show in conjunction with the Cayman Islands Watercraft Association at the F.J. Harquail Theatre and this has resulted in me coordinating additional charitable events through the same medium.

Why did you decide to enter the Miss Cayman Islands pageant?
Ultimately my desire to inspire and [make a] positive change was the real motivator for me. As a contestant in the Miss Cayman Islands pageant, I was given many opportunities to give back to the community. Because of that I now have an even greater opportunity to do so as the reigning Miss Cayman.

How did you prepare for the competition?
During the six months leading up to the pageant, I did interview training with a coach for one hour every day. In regards to runway training, I did various sessions in Miami and Jamaica to prepare me for my presentation on stage.

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Monyque stuck to a strict regimen to lose weight prior to the Miss Cayman Islands pageant (photo: Monyque Brooks)

What was your greatest challenge? 
My greatest challenge was entering the Miss Cayman pageant while being overweight. I’m your typical island girl who loves Caribbean food – especially a good plate of rice and beans and Cayman style beef! However, I knew that I had a goal to reach so I had to be disciplined. The weight loss regimen I followed contained a diet of no sugar or carbohydrates.

What goals would you like to achieve as Miss Cayman Islands?
From a local standpoint, I would like to use my passion for performing arts to give back to the community through charitable efforts. In regards to representing the Cayman Islands internationally, I want to continue to strive to prepare myself in order to represent as best as I can to place in the international pageants.

You were awarded a $70,000 scholarship. How do you plan on using it?
I would like to pursue a master’s degree in entertainment in the hospitality industry or art therapy. I’m still slightly torn between the two because I have deep love for both. Nonetheless, I want to be able to get a degree where I can give back to the Cayman Islands regardless of what path I choose.

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In your biography, you expressed that you are passionate about sharing the CaymanKind essence with others. Why is that?
I want the world to know that the Cayman Islands is the gem of the Caribbean and one of the many attributes that sets us apart is our people. Caymankind isn’t a choice; it is a way of life and our people are who keep the visitors coming back to the island time and time again.

If a visitor had only one to day to spend in the Cayman Islands, how should they spend it?
I would encourage them to ‘Do it Like a Local’! Although we are well-known for the luxury aspects of the island, we are a country that is rich in culture. Visiting craft stores, eating at local restaurants, going on fishing trips or even getting involved in a heated game of dominoes would be recommended items on my list.

What advice would you give to young women looking to enter future pageants? 
Be yourself and remain humble. Although I sought assistance for my interview and runway coaching and styling, I always tried to make my personality shine through. During the journey, people want to get to know the real you.

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Monyque will represent the Cayman Islands in the Miss World 2016 and Miss Universe 2016.

. . .

Published: Skies Magazine, May 2016

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