70 years of Miss BVI: The Evolution of Pride, Beauty and Culture
by Anika M. Christopher Photography by Theo Thomas

For 70 years the Miss BVI pageant has epitomised elegance and beauty, becoming one of the Territory’s most recognisable household names. As the 69th Queen, I am honoured to reflect on the enduring impact of this pageant. In conversations with two past Queens, Honourable Luce Hodge Smith (1981) and Jaynene Jno Lewis, the current chairperson of the Miss BVI committee and titleholder in 2014, we delved into this beloved tradition.

The concept of the Virgin Islands’ annual Emancipation Festival was brought forward in 1953 during the festivities surrounding the coronation of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of England. As part of these celebratory events, the community decided to introduce a Queen and Troupes to honour our emancipation and in the summer of 1954, Ivy Chinnery of Jost Van Dyke captured the first ever title of Miss Festival Queen. In 1975 with influences from other regional and international pageants, the title of Festival Queen was officially changed to Miss BVI. The title was claimed by Miss Irene Penn that year, marking a new chapter in the pageant’s history.

Over the span of 70 years, pageantry has expanded in the Territory, featuring a diverse array of competitions such as Miss Valentine, Mother and Daughter and Mrs. BVI. However, Miss BVI stands out as the most prestigious of them all. Often hailed as “the Queen of Queens”, it is the official ambassador of the Virgin Islands, symbolising the epitome of elegance and beauty.


Participating in the Miss BVI Pageant has been a life-changing experience for me. It has helped me discover my inner strength, resilience and potential, shaping me into the person I am today. This is not just my own unique experience. Every contestant who has competed for the title can attest to the profound impact that the pageant has had on their personal and professional growth. “Miss BVI and pageantry on a whole has taught me the true definition of resilience,” Jaynene shared. Now 10 years later, she proudly holds the position of chairperson of the Miss BVI committee. Honourable Luce Hodge Smith also spoke about the impact that the pageant has had on her life.

“I was shy and very reserved as a young girl. Participating in this pageant helped to increase my self-esteem and enhanced my personal and professional development.”

Apart from personal achievement, the crown also allows one to be a cultural and tourism ambassador, representing the Virgin Islands at regional and international pageants. Until 2021, Miss BVI beauties also graced the Miss Universe stage. “Participating in Miss Universe was the highlight of Miss BVI’s reign.” Honourable Luce Hodge Smith shared. Striding across the stage at Miss Universe, adorned in a radiant cultural costume that embodies our heritage. This is not merely a fashion statement. Every stitch of the costume tells the story of the traditions, history and resilience of our people.

Beyond the global stage of Miss Universe, regional pageants like Miss Carnival in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Miss OECS in Dominica and Miss Jaycees in Antigua and Barbuda have served as spaces for reigning Queens to participate in. Delegates from various countries come together, not just to compete for a crown, but to engage cultural exchange. I have been privileged to have competed in the 2024 Miss OECS pageant in Dominica. Through dance, music, cuisine and conversations, long lasting friendships are forged, stereotypes are shattered, and the beauty of the Caribbean is celebrated. For the 70th Emancipation Festival, Miss BVI 2024 will make history yet again as the first Queen to compete in Miss International. This move illustrates the evolving nature of the pageant, with Jaynene securing the Miss International franchise, further expanding the platform.


Miss BVI is more than a title, empowering young women to dream big, amplify their voices and drive change within their communities. From dazzling audiences at Miss International to gracing the stage at our annual Emancipation Festival, it is an opportunity to become a symbol of the treasures of the Virgin Islands, inviting the world to discover the magic that lies within. This year marks 70 years so for all the Queens reading this, I encourage you to step into your heels, adjust your crown and let your journey as a cultural and tourism ambassador begin.