Kayla Mcletchie adorned in national colors of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in talent segment.
Photo by Nelson A. King

For the second successive year, a Vincentian has been crowned Miss NY Continental in a pageant in the Caribbean community in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn-born Kayla Mcletchie, 22, the daughter of a Vincentian mother and a Trinidadian father, snatched the Miss NY Continental 2019 crown Saturday night from a field of five other Caribbean beauties at the Wingate Campus Auditorium, between Ruthland Road and Winthrop Street in Brooklyn.

Mcletchie’s compatriot Kaila Phillips, last year’s winner, crowned Mcletchie, to loud cheers from her Vincentian supporters, after co-Master of Ceremonies Atiba Williams announced the winner after much suspense. The other co-MC was Claudia Titus.

Mcletchie, the niece of lawyer Jomo Sanga Thomas, Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, also won the Miss Photogenic prize.

“I feel proud to win it,” said Mcletchie, a junior at the predominantly Black Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, pursuing a Bachelor degree in Nursing, told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview afterwards.

“I feel proud mostly how everyone came out to support me – my family and friends and Vincentians,” said McLetchie, who lives with her parents, Cecelia Thomas Mcletchie and Gregory McLetchie, in Far Rockaway, Queens. “It was very motivating.

“I am glad to have the opportunity and very grateful for all the support,” added the waitress at Applebees, a restaurant at Gateway Mall in Brooklyn.

For her Evening wear, Mcletchie wore a Jovani gown — of gold undertone, with a short skirt with crystals and a low, open back — which she purchased at Roosevelt Field Mall on Old Country Road in Long Island. She also purchased her swim wear at Bloomingdale’s at the same mall.

For her talent, entitled “SVG Diaspora,” Mcletchie explained how Vincentians migrated over time and the reasons for migrating.

She also explained how her compatriots adopt to their new homes, how proud they are in returning to their native land and the “goodies” they bring back to the Diaspora from frequent trips.

Mcletchie said she used an old suitcase, formerly called a grip by Vincentians, as a prop of the story line “to get the crowd to understand that we were always moving.”

In the Interview segment, she said she would educate the public “and do everything this pageant has thought us to do,” in response to a judge’s question on how, as a queen, she would promote her community.

“Me and my husband, we are very proud of her,” Cecelia Thomas Mcletchie, originally from Murray’s Village in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, told Caribbean Life, also in an exclusive interview. “She worked very hard, and she was very committed to it (pageant).

“Of course, we did expect her to win,” the proud mother added. “We don’t support losers. We wanted her to win.”

Mr. Mcletchie, who hails from Santa Cruz, Trinidad and Tobago, said he and his wife have “been cultivating this child from an early age.

“Mind you, we always emphasize spiritual training, but not religious training,” he said. “You can see it in her presentation. She has that purity – clean-hearted, very kind, never rude and super smart.

“We knew we had a winner,” added the recently retired captain with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). “There’s no question in my mind, this child is a winner. She was born that way.”

Mr. Mcletchie said he was “one of the few firefighters who walked out alive” after the 9/11 terrorists attack on the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.

The Mcletchie’s other child, Ishma, 28, followed in father’s footsteps in becoming a firefighter just months before his dad retired a few months ago.

Mcletchie is a graduate, with an Associate’s degree in general studies and mathematics, of Tompkins Cortland Community College in Cortland, upstate New York.

She said she chose mental health as the social issue for her platform.

“As Ms. New York Continental, I will work with advocacy groups and organizations that are committed to helping individuals with mental illness to bring more awareness to this important issue,” she said. “I chose mental health as my platform because, in our Caribbean culture, speaking about or dealing with our mental illnesses is almost always discouraged.

“It’s an issue that many within our culture do not want to acknowledge exists, and we are always told to toughen up and just deal with it,” she added. “But this is not a healthy way to address the issue; and, as a person who values kindness as one of my finest qualities, I hope, one day, I can be instrumental in increasing awareness and helping those who suffer from mental illness.”

The new queen said hiking and traveling are her favorite hobbies. She recently returned from Utah, where she said she hiked towards the hot springs in Salt Lake City.

She also plans to travel to St. Lucia in July to climb the Piton Mountains.

Guyanese Tiffany Whittaker, 24, a recent graduate of Medgar Evers College, was adjudged first runner-up; and Trinidadian Zaza Blackman, 18, was second runner-up.

The other contestants were: Haitians Jessica Pierre, 19, and Dalexis Helphdgine, 23; and Belizean, Jasyra Franklin, 24.

The Brooklyn-based Caribbean American Cultural Group (CACG), whose president and founder is Vincentian Yvonne Peters, organized the ninth annual pageant.

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