More than a year ago, before COVID-19 “reared its ugly head”, Shauntae Ashleigh Miller made the decision to contest for the Miss Bahamas Universe (MBU) crown for a second and final time. She wanted to fulfill a dream she has harbored since childhood. To make that a reality, she had to enter this year’s competition to meet the age eligibility requirement.
Winning the title would also mean carrying on a rich family legacy. She is the third person in her family to carry the title of “queen”.
“I remember as early as the age of seven, sitting with my parents (Shaun Sr. and Mabelene Miller) watching Miss Bahamas on ZNS, and I always told myself that I wanted to be Miss Bahamas someday.”
Miller’s someday is now.
The six-foot-tall beauty follows in the footsteps of her great grandaunt Zoey Powell (formerly Miller), Miss Commonwealth Bahamas 1976-1977 (now known as Miss World Bahamas); and Leslia Miller-Brice (Miss Bahamas 2004).
“I really wanted to keep the family tradition going,” said Miller.
Two weeks after she was crowned in a boutique screening, Miller said realizing her dream feels “amazing”.
During the boutique screening, contestants met with a panel of judges via Zoom, which provided a safe, physically-distanced engagement structure. The young ladies moved through a three-stage judging process which included their platform pitch, swimwear and judge’s interview.
At hearing her name called as the next Miss Bahamas Universe, Miller said she immediately shed tears of joy and relief, but said that her accomplishment honestly didn’t sink in until the following morning when she woke up.
“I literally pinched myself to see if I was dreaming.”
She wasn’t dreaming. She felt the pinch that she gave herself, but that slight sting helped her realize she had accomplished one of her lifelong goals.
As Miss Bahamas Universe, Miller hopes she can use her position to bring a greater awareness to health and fitness.
A health and fitness advocate, she started an initiative called “Get Fit Bahamas” through which she works with people that need help with starting and developing a healthier lifestyle. The platform focuses on the importance of having a healthy lifestyle, lots of physical activity and healthy eating.
Statistically, The Bahamas is highly ranked in the world and number one in the Caribbean as it relates to obesity. Miller’s goal is to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
“I plan to get Bahamians involved with the help of [the] Miss Bahamas Universe Organization, with fitness sessions and tips on healthy food recipes on my social media platforms – Facebook, Shauntae Ashleigh Miller; Instagram; Iamshaunatemiller. Eventually, I plan to get into the schools and host fitness sessions to help encourage kids to get excited about being healthy and active.”
Miller said she is working on quite a few initiatives, and that people will be hearing from her – a lot.
“You can expect a lot of community service work, giving back to those in need. It’s important for us to unite and work together for the greater good. We must continue to be our brothers and sisters’ keepers.
Miller, 27, is not just another pretty face. She also brings a wealth of intellect to the title. She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree at Carson Newman University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine, biology, and a Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.
The new MBU said she also brings a lot of love and faith to the position.
“I’m an ambassador or love, and my faith elevates me higher in all things.”
As for the takeaway – she realizes there is beauty in growth.
“Something that I’m looking forward to taking away from the experience is growth. I’ve recognized that each time I competed locally and internationally, there were areas that was able to mature in.”
Quoting Oprah Winfrey, Miller said, “We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
Miller has won the crown in a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting fallout has stolen much of the spotlight, but she said that did not diminish the experience for her.
“When I got the email explaining what the process would be, I expected it, because many other countries opted for the same process of a closed process with most things done virtually. Having had the full experience in 2018 with the same director (Anthony Smith), I thought it wouldn’t be as exciting or that I wouldn’t get much from it. I was very wrong. The seminars were very informative, and I got more and more excited after each session. It also made things more difficult, because I wasn’t able to size up my fellow competitors the way I would usually do as an athlete. The actual day of competition was also very difficult and different in that much more emphasis was placed on the way we carry ourselves and on our interviews. We had two very long and intense interviews during the process and a final question.”
Not to be overlooked, Miller is a member of a very competitive and successful family. Her younger sister is Olympic 400 meters gold medalist Shaunae Miller-Uibo. In fact, her entire immediate family at one point in time has represented the country at a national level.
“It definitely played a major part in me re-entering the pageant. My parents are extremely supportive of me and my siblings (Shaunae, Shaun Jr. and Shaunece Miller) – always motivating and encouraging us in everything that we do to give it our very all – and to the best of our abilities. Being the eldest of four, and having the perfect role models as parents, I’ve taken it upon myself to be an example to my younger siblings. I always tell them that we can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us.”
With that in mind, Miller said after placing first runner-up in 2018 in her first attempt at the crown, she knew she couldn’t give up, and had to give it another go.
“I had younger siblings that were looking up to me. I also thought about the type of example I would be setting if I gave up so easily on such a major dream. So, I re-entered to show them that giving up should never be an option. Fighting the good fight is definitely necessary.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 69th Miss Universe pageant will reportedly not be held this year, and is planned to be scheduled within the first quarter of 2021, at which point Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tuni will crown her successor. The official date and city have also not been announced as yet.
Whenever the pageant is held, Miller said, it is her goal to show what it is to be a proud Bahamian who exemplifies a confidently beautiful woman of today’s world.
“I plan to show the universe what my small but mighty chain of islands has to offer.”
It’s only been two weeks since she’s been crowned, but she has already begun putting in the work to do what it takes.
“I am working diligently and intentionally to bring the crown home to a country filled with strong, resilient people that are most deserving of something to celebrate. [I am preparing] to bring the crown home to The Bahamas.”
The newly crowned Miss Bahamas Universe describes herself as God-fearing, family-oriented, loving, compassionate, educated and a comedian, as well as a person who engages in a lot of philanthropic endeavors.
In her downtime, Miller said, she loves spending quality time with her family.
“I love the relaxing and calming feeling when I’m with them. Apart from that, I’m an active church member at Prophetic Destiny Ministries International, and you can always find me at the Thomas A. Robinson National Track and Field Stadium, coaching my little angels – Bahamas Speed Dynamics ‘Speed Kids’ – helping to ensure that The Bahamas has its next generation of Olympians.”
Her favorite color is pink.
Her favorite food, like a true-true Bahamian, is conch salad.
Her favorite pastime is jogging.
She is also a proud dog mom of four French Bulldogs (Blue-Reign, Fendi-Amore, Princess-Aurora and Diamond-Dior), and an aunt to two German Shepherds (Taavi and Amina).
Selvinique Wright placed first runner-up to Miller; Nyisha Tilus was second runner-up.