Miss Bahamas Universe Chantel O’Brian went into the Miss Universe finale feeling “hopeful, filled with expectation, and prepared” – then she made history becoming the first Bahamian contestant to place in the semifinals in the 70 years of the competition.
“I was thrilled. I knew I wanted our name to be called, and the suspense is a real emotional ride,” said O’Brian, 27, from Eilat, Israel, before she returned home on Wednesday, December 15.
“I felt like God had purposely led me to this very moment, and I was prepared,” said O’Brian, who broke the Bahamian beauty pageant drought when she named in the top 16, then again made it through to the top 10.
What she was feeling in that moment, she described as “incredible”.
“At [that] point, everyone has seen and realized your hard work, so they’re now in the audience rooting for you. I felt excited to know that I had done what I had to do in the beginning – leave a mark.”
She was also awarded the Carnival Spirit award from Carnival Cruise Line. It is given to the delegate that embodies the company’s values of fun, friendship, diversity and inclusion, in honor of the work done by her charity, The Leading Ladies Project, and the positive energy she displayed while in Israel. She received the award after she competed in the pageant’s preliminary competition.
“Chantel has a passion for childhood education and mentorship that led her to co-founding The Leading Ladies Project, an organization prioritizing the education of underprivileged girls,” said Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy.
“It was an honor to announce her as the recipient of the ‘Spirit of Carnival’ award as she joins a group of esteemed women who have served in this time-honored role for Carnival, and we look forward to supporting her and her initiatives in The Bahamas,” said Duffy.
“I was so totally surprised by the award,” said O’Brian. “I have been committed to community work for a long time and never did it for rewards. Nonetheless, it was a pleasure to see that an entity such as Carnival saw the value in my work.”
O’Brian who wears many hats – motivational speaker, marketer, model, and entrepreneur – is the founder of P.S. O’Brian Consulting – a pageant, etiquette and runway coaching and consultation agency, said her showing on the 2022 world stage proves that preparation is key. And that she can take her experience and apply it to her brand.
“Even more ways to encourage my clients to reach for the stars. I really hope that people will see the importance of etiquette and grooming well in advance.”
O’Brian’s pageantry career started in 2013. She contested for the Miss Bahamas Universe title that affords the winner the opportunity to compete at Miss Universe. She placed first runner-up to Lexi Wilson.
In 2015, O’Brian returned to compete for a national title in the year that saw three queens crowned from one competition. She was crowned Miss Bahamas World; Toria Penn was crowned Miss Bahamas Universe; and Darronique Young was crowned Miss Earth Bahamas.
Six years after competing for each title twice, O’Brian claimed the Miss Bahamas Universe title and the right to represent The Bahamas at Miss Universe in Israel, which culminated in her making history.
“Eight years of training took me to top 10 at one of the major powerhouse pageants in the world. Will it take everyone eight years? No – but preparation is key,” said O’Brian.
Her advice to future beauty title contestants is to go into competition passionate about “shaking the table”.
“We work just as hard as every country, with most times the least amount of resources. But once you’re in the room, you outwork everyone. That’s what sets you apart. Be confident. Be faithful.”
The highlight of a Miss Universe aspirant is the Miss Universe stage – O’Brian took to the platform a little over two months after winning the national title and, as a result, has months before a new queen is crowned. Without a world stage to look forward to, she said she anticipates pushing more of her platform, especially in the Family Islands.
“There are also quite a number of organizations I would love to partner with as well. I plan on being visible and impactful during the course of the year.”
O’Brian stood proudly on the Miss Universe stage without Bahamian presence in the audience cheering for her, and she did it with a smile on her beautiful face.
“I didn’t have any physical Bahamian presence – but with a little Bodine playing in your head and knowing that everyone is at home cheering you on, that encouraged me.”
She actually said she gained Filipino and Thai friends while there, who graciously cheered for her.
Prior to O’Brian’s historic semifinal showing, Ava Marilyn Burke-Thompson represented The Bahamas at Miss Universe in 1982 in Lima, Peru, where she won the Miss Photogenic Award.
Braneka Bassett represented The Bahamas at Miss Universe in 201,0 in Las Vegas, Nevada; and at Miss World in Sanya, China, in the same year. Bassett made the top 25.