• Sharin Hussain

Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers: From Runner to Pageanter

Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers is the first Black women to win the Miss Universe Great Britain pageant. She was also in the top 20 for Miss Universe 2018. With a law degree and having previously been an athlete, the young 26-year-old has been busy, establishing herself in not just one field.

How are you feeling today?

I’m feeling really well!

Can you tell me where you are right now?

I’m in Waterstones in Birmingham right now- it’s my favourite little me time spot.

Can you tell you me what you do in your typical day?

A typical day starts with jogging to the gym, then a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout. I get back home and start my admin work, plan some events and send off all the emails I can.

Can I ask you what you are wearing?

Well, I’m out meeting a friend right now so I decided to go for something comfy and cute. Black leather trousers, an emerald green satin button-down blouse and some black heeled boots.

How did you hear about the Miss Universe competition?

I’ve known about the Miss Universe Competition since I was a small child. It would always air on the television although I had no specific interest in it at that age.

What made you want to get involved with it?

I became involved after entering a local pageant in Anguilla in 2017. After winning that competition I decided I wanted to do something a little outlandish. Being raised on a tiny island in the Caribbean can make some dreams feel a little improbable. Luckily for me, I had a team of very supportive family and friends and they supported my decision to try out for Miss Universe Great Britain.

What does the actual pageant consist of?

The pageant is split into different segments. In total, there are 4 interview segments although everyone only completes the first one which also happens to be the longest. There’s a preliminary competition with swimsuit and evening wear and a final competition a couple days later.

Did you face any obstacles during your time on the show?

One challenge that I faced was trying to create time for me to personally recharge after socializing with almost 100 girls and with a roommate who I did not know. Everyone had to try to find a balance there. In the end it worked out well for me because my roommate was quite understanding.

Did it surprise you that you were the first black women to win Miss GB and why?

I’d say I wasn’t surprised until I was directly informed that I was the first black woman to win Miss Universe GB. In the pageant’s history, I did not remember a black woman in Miss Universe representing the United Kingdom but I did not realise until after I won how big of a deal this was.

What are your thoughts on diversity within the pageant industry?

I can only speak with a certain amount of certainty on this particular issue since I am still considered very new to the industry. My take on this issue is that there are external factors which prevent certain ethnic minority communities from entering into pageantry as an extracurricular activity (barriers to entry) like cost, religion and lack of familial approval. That being said, there is definitely a need to make space for more ethnic minorities to enter into the industry because it heralds itself as being representational. There is only one way of something being truly representational and that is if all people can participate and feel comfortable engaging with the industry.

Speaking in a general manner, what does diversity and inclusiveness mean to you?

Ironically, diversity and inclusiveness are catch words that do not mean much to me. Too often they’re used in isolation used to include an ethnic minority in a space where they ordinarily wouldn’t be included and where there is no consideration for the culture that they bring. Diversity means nothing without also incorporating inclusive environments.

Have you found any difficulties with balancing out your career as a barrister and as a pageanter?

The only challenge I’ve faced in this regard is to ensure that I remain confident in my choice to engage in pageantry so that when I am questioned on it by persons in the profession they cannot make me feel uncomfortable about that choice.

What made you decide to choose law?

The law is a family tradition. On both sides of my family, I have a great number of cousins, aunts and uncles who became lawyers. I grew up listening to my family debate over the dinner table. That passion was ignited from a young age and I went on to lead the debating team and entered university to study law.

You were also an athlete; how long had you been running for? Have you won any medals?

I’ve been running for around 20 years. I started out as a jack of all trades, eventually focused on the 400m and then returned to a jack of all trades as a heptathlete. I’ve won several medals over the years but only 3 noteworthy ones at the leeward Islands championships, CARIFTA Games and the Central American and Caribbean Championships.

What was the transition from being a runner to a pageanter like for you?

The transition from the track to the stage was hard in some respects and easy in others. For starters, my ankles had never been forced into so many heels before and then asked to move gracefully. But in other respects, the discipline I had developed over the years in track and field meant that training in pageantry wasn’t pulling teeth. Early mornings did not bother me and neither did training for hours at a time.

You are an advocate for acid attack victims, what made you support this cause?

Initially I was exposed to this cause when I signed up to join Miss Universe GB. When you get to know these girls and listen to their stories there’s absolutely no chance that you would be able to leave without pledging your support for them to bring awareness, change and treatment for those who have been scarred and to prevent more women from suffering the same fate.

What are your thoughts on equal pay and do you think there has been an improvement in implementing this in workplaces?

Equal pay isn’t some abstract, hard to understand the concept that alludes businesses. It is the intentional devaluation of women for no other reason than the fact that they are women when they are doing the same job as their male counterparts. Yes, there has been an improvement in this decade due in no small part to women lobbying and protesting but there is still so much more to do.

Would you call yourself a feminist and why? What does it mean to you?

Yes, I call myself a feminist. I know there’s a lot of negative stereotyping towards women who label themselves feminists but I’m not ashamed to wear the label. Feminism is about equality and mutual respect. Fundamentally, it is about freedom of choice and having the power to make that choice reinstated where it belongs- with us, women.

How do you relax or chill out during your free time?

I usually go salsa dancing or host a dinner party with my close friends. I’m also a bit of an adventure junkie and I like to go bungee jumping. Next on my list is sky diving.

Who is your inspiration?

My inspiration will always be my late grandmother who had to leave school at the age of 10 to provide for her family and worked tirelessly to ensure that each of her children and grandchildren could have a future. I will always work towards fulfilling her legacy.

What motivates you?

Being passionate about something motivates me to start something new and discipline motivates me on a day to day basis.

You have a beautiful voice, ever thought about becoming a singer?

No, I’ve never thought of becoming a singer and my cousins would demand that it remain that way haha.

What’s next for you?

Next is whatever the universe unfolds. I’m planning on starting my legal career now that I’ve had my turn around in pageantry.

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