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Karena Gayle
Miss St James Festival Queen 2023

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Karena Gayle Miss St James Festival Queen 2023Karena Gayle Miss St James Festival Queen 2023

By Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

The path to pageantry in Jamaica is a narrow one and it all starts with the JCDC (Jamaica Cultural Development Commission) Festival Queen competitions at the parish level, and this year we had a very special winner, Wellesley’s (our founder) very own pride and joy, Karena Gayle. Let me tell you all about it.

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The "Miss Jamaica Beauty Contest" which is now the "Miss Jamaica Festival Queen Competition" first took place in 1963. However, in 1975, the emphasis was changed to include a stronger emphasis on cultural understanding.

The Competition has developed over the years to become the top venue for educated, culturally aware, and poised young women looking for a platform to contribute to nation-building.

One of the centrepieces of the celebrations honouring emancipation and independence is the competition.

The candidates for the National Coronation are the Parish Queens who were crowned in the 13 Parish Coronations (Kingston & St. Andrew naming one Queen) conducted yearly throughout the island.

This year the competition celebrated its 60th anniversary, paying tribute to some of our most Iconic women in theatre, including Fae Ellington, Iris ‘Terri’ Salmon, Melita Samuels and the late Dr Louise Bennett-Coverley, Barbara Gloudon, and Leonie Evadne Forbes.

The crowning of Miss St. James Festival Queen took place on Sunday, June 25, 2023. After approximately 10 weeks of preparation, the contestants were ready to take to the stage to display, their talents, and knowledge and share with us their aspirations for the future.

Karena proudly represented her sponsors M&M Jamaica Limited and took to the stage with poise, elegance and confidence, proclaiming herself to be “an 18-year-old Powerhouse”, which she later proved to be true.


She captivated the crowd with her upbeat Riddim Pastor talent performance before changing into a blue gown for the contestants' evening dress parade.

She also revealed to us the details of her upcoming parish project, where she plans to emphasize youth-focused education together with physical fitness. She received two sectional awards—Most Culturally Aware and the Most Poised—in addition to being proclaimed Queen.


I got the opportunity to ask Miss Gayle about her experience throughout the 10 weeks of preparation, whether she faced any challenges and how she overcame them. This was her response:

I actually didn’t prepare for a whole ten weeks; I was there for roughly six (began on May 16th) as I was preparing for my CAPE exams. It was extremely difficult keeping up as I always felt like I was behind.

Oftentimes, I told my mother I wanted out, but she insisted that I remained and reminded me that working under pressure is what I do best. “Mi neva know say diamond break unda pressure”, she said. That was all the motivation I needed to get my head in the game.

Honestly, God was steering me and I was just relaxing in the passenger seat because he always shows up and shows out for me. When the time was winding down, I still felt unprepared and he sent me literal angels who would literally drill me after practice until up to 10 pm.

I had friends calling me throughout the day to ask me questions. After a short while, the feelings of anxiety completely vanished. I was truly astonished.

In essence, the biggest challenge I was facing was anxiety but my support system never stopped pushing me and for them, I’m truly grateful. It really goes to show that when you have a reliable team behind you, you’re more motivated to do well and far more confident in your abilities.

For the young medical doctor to be, being in the spotlight is not new. She has earned several incredible achievements thus far. One of her most outstanding achievements was graduating the Montego Bay High School with 12 CSEC distinctions and you can read all about how she did it here.

She is also a recipient of the prestigious Governor- General's Achievement Awards for Excellence in 2023.  You can read more about that award here.

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References & Sources For Karena Gayle Miss St James Festival Queen 2023

  1. Miss Jamaica Festival Queen Competition. (n.d.). Miss Jamaica Festival Queen Competition.
  2. Karena Gayle, Montego Bay High Student, Cops 12 CSEC Distinctions. (2023, June 28).
  3. Karena Gayle crowned Miss St James Festival Queen 2023. (2023, June 27). Karena Gayle Crowned Miss St James Festival Queen 2023 | Entertainment | Jamaica Gleaner.
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