Lesley Chapman-Andrews, Miss Universe Barbados. (Picture by Nigel Wallace.)
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Lesley Chapman-Andrews spoke her success into existence.
So to those who knew her, it was no surprise when the 26-year-old strutted her way to be crowned as the newest Miss Universe Barbados (MUB) last month.
It was a dream that she sowed the seeds for about 15 years ago.
“As a child, I always used to say I am going to be Miss Barbados. Obviously I saw the glitz and glamour of it but the older I got I realised this is more than just looking for the next pretty girl in Barbados. Miss Universe Barbados is somebody who can speak and has a chance to make an impact on different communities,” she said.
Lesley was born in Barbados to Barbadian Paulette Gill and Englishman Paul Chapman-Andrews. She is a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl, idolising the man who always encouraged her to persevere.
Her parents signed her up for a several extracurricular activities such as ballet, violin and horse riding to ensure she was well rounded.
But even after she lost interest in one area something had to take its place.
“My father never taught me the meaning of giving up. If I told him I no longer wanted to do ballet, for example, he would say you have to have a legitimate reason for it giving up and replace it with another activity,” she recalled.
When her father passed almost ten years ago, there was no substitute for him. “That was a tough time for me. I went through a lot of emotions. I was angry. I was hurt. But it taught me to appreciate the people around me and to surround myself with the people I loved,” Lesley said.
From the comfort of her Hopewell Development, Christ Church home recently, the adventurous marketing consultant recalled just how pivotal that moment was in her life.
He died of prostate cancer just before she took part in Combermere’s pageant, said the past student.
“I remember people kept asking me ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ And for me, it was without a doubt, yes. I worked really hard for that pageant. And I know he would’ve wanted me to see it through.
“But I don’t think I processed that, to be honest. I just remember that night being a complete blur,” she added. She was the first runner-up.
Unfortunately when the local franchise of Miss Universe took an almost decade long hiatus, she put that desire on ice to focus on her education.
After her secondary school experience, she went on to the Barbados Community College (BCC) where she began pursuing an associate degree in environmental science and a minor in geography before switching to mathematics.
After BCC, she attended Kingston University in London where she graduated from in 2015 with a bachelor’s in marketing management.
She described the experience of her four years of study as a culture shock, but one that she did not lose herself in.
“When some people are given that chance to live on their own, they don’t know what to do with it. But coming from Barbados, I was grounded enough to know that I was there for a purpose to focus on my education. So I didn’t have to go out every single night,” she said.
As she was picking up knowledge, she also acquired something extra: “I probably gained 40lbs in the time there. So when I came back to Barbados I wasn’t comfortable with myself and I think that’s okay when you can realise there is something about yourself that you would like to change.
“So I changed my diet and now I work out seven days a week. The MUB pageant was a nice end goal but I did this for life,” she said.
Since winning the pageant, she has represented Barbados by carrying out official obligations and has even been mentored by noted runway coach Lu Sierra as a part of the preparations. She said she was honoured to work with Sierra.
Leading up to the international event, which will be held on November 26 in Las Vegas, she has been preparing in several disciplines and is looking forward to representing the country.
And what does Lesley do on most weekends? Environmental safety is one of her many passions and with friend Tenisha Holder, they feed the homeless at Queen’s Park. (TG)