Chantel O’Brian’s year as Miss Bahamas Universe is just beginning, but looking ahead, she said the hallmark of her reign will be that she competed, represented The Bahamas on the world stage, left a foreseeable mark, and that people will really see change.
“The theme for this year’s Miss Bahamas Universe pageant was game changer, and I plan to be a game changer and that hopefully will help to change how people view pageantry,” said O’Brian.
Twenty-seven-year-old O’Brian captured the Miss Bahamas Universe title in her second attempt, which she said was “relieving, to be honest” coming off a rough year in which she and her mom found themselves faced with eviction during the pandemic.
O’Brian, who has a bachelor’s degree in business enterprise and wears many hats – motivational speaker, marketer, model, entrepreneur and a Christian – founded P.S. O’Brian Consulting – a pageant, etiquette and runway coaching and consultation agency – resigned from her job to focus fully on coaching and was then faced with a pandemic that caused life as she knew it to grind to a halt.
“The pandemic hit me with a curveball I didn’t see coming – like everybody else.”
As she entered into the year 2021, she did not do so with thoughts of contesting for the beauty title. She said it just “kind of happened” as she was looking back at a reel of her life with a friend and she came to the realization that she still had it in her to go after the coveted title.
“Based on what I have to offer my clients, I said why not take this leap of faith and try again.”
O’Brian first competed for the title that affords the winner the opportunity to compete at Miss Universe, in 2013. She placed first runner-up to Lexi Wilson.
She went on to compete for the Miss Bahamas World title in 2014 and placed second runner-up in the pageant that was won by Rosetta Cartwright.
In 2015, O’Brian returned to compete for a national title in a year that saw three queens from one competition. O’Brian was crowned Miss Bahamas World; Toria Penn was crowned Miss Bahamas Universe; and Darronique Young was crowned Miss Earth Bahamas.
Six years later, after competing for each title twice, O’Brian has claimed the Miss Bahamas Universe title and the right to represent The Bahamas at Miss Universe, when it’s held in Eilat, Israel, in December.
Selvenique Wright, first runner-up Miss Bahamas Universe 2020, crowned O’Brian.
While she had the confidence that comes with multiple attempts at the crown to her credit, O’Brian said she still didn’t think it could happen.
“I know I had the experience and it would be an advantage at Miss Universe [if I won the national title], so my prayer was God will you do this again [me not win]. When they said first runner-up Danielle [Dean], I was like wow, you really did it!
For the queen, donning the sash and crown also speaks to her resilience.
“One of the things I’ve been able to share is perfection is a myth. My ultimate thought was if I had won in 2013, I would not have gone on to compete, so I think a lot of my experience led up to this. So, it was resilience and faith, what the journey has to offer and being relentless.”
O’Brian also joins an elite group of women who have held the titles of Miss Universe and Miss World.
Ava Marilyn Burke-Thompson represented The Bahamas at Miss World in 1975 in London, England; and also represented The Bahamas at Miss Universe in 1982 in Lima, Peru, where she won the Miss Photogenic Award.
Braneka Bassett represented The Bahamas in Miss Universe in 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada; and at Miss World in Sanya, China, in the same year. Bassett made the top 25.
During her reign, O’Brian said she aims to changes people’s perception of pageantry, which she said has evolved.
“You have beautiful women, beautiful gowns – at Miss Universe, they want a woman that is community minded, who is beautiful and who feels beautiful in her own skin and is just overall passionate about people and what is happening around her. So, I think that if people start to pay attention again, they will see that the women who are competing, they have a lot to offer. Their résumés are incredible.”
O’Brian also plans to take to the Miss World stage with her pixie haircut, rather than adding extensions.
“I’m going to Miss Universe with the short hair. It’s a symbol of how I’ve transformed and grown into my own. I’m excited to go in bare and give it my all.”
In preparing for the national pageant, she dropped 15 pounds and said while there is always something that can be worked on, she will focus on maintaining her current physique and fitness for the Miss Universe stage. And continue to work on her communication skills.
“It’s great to have the look and walk the walk, but Miss Universe is looking for that person who is well-rounded and when she speaks, it’s something to be heard.”
O’Brian wants people to know that she is super down to earth, and a big dreamer who will dream the impossible. But at the end of the day, she said she does not only think about her betterment but the betterment of people around her and what she can offer, which she said is one of the things she is proud of.
And at five-feet, seven-and-a-half inches, O’Brian appears to be taller but she said it’s all owing to the fact that she photographs well, and commands the stage and the room.
“It’s all about confidence,” she said.
With a short window between her crowning and the world stage, O’Brian said the period will be about tightening her platform, which is youth development with a focus on education.
“A lot has been built around confidence building as well, so that is important to me. It’s youth movement.”
A certified national youth leader, O’Brian is looking forward to being a part of the project to advance young people in the country.
And considering what many people think of pageantry today, she thanked her sponsor Traveller’s Rest for the confidence and support they showed in her through the process.