Next stop: Las Vegas, USA

I’ve been to America lots of times as it’s so close to Mexico, but I have never been to Las Vegas. I am so excited.

I am here as a judge for the Miss World America final and our goal is not to only crown a new representative but also to spread the word about the ‘Beauty With A Purpose’ projects happening in communities across America. 

This is also the first international trip for Jack, reigning Mr World. I grab breakfast with him, and we talk about all the things to come. My reign is almost over, but his has just started. I love listening to his ideas, he is so committed to helping others and make the most of his year. I’m glad he is here and maybe I can give him a word or two of advice!

Marisa, Miss world America 2018 has been talking to all the contestants and state directors to explain the importance of giving back to your community and motivating them to prepare amazing projects for this year’s final. And they don’t disappoint.

As Julia, Jack and I start to watch the videos the girls have prepared to capture their projects, we are in awe.

The problems America is facing are a little different from what we usually see. Extreme poverty, hunger and lack of education are replaced by homelessness, domestic violence, foster care and health issues. 

All the ‘Beauty With A Purpose’ projects are amazing, but two of them really stand out. The contestant from Washington, who has a pacemaker because of her heart condition, has her own charity to raise awareness and prevent heart problems and the contestant from Pennsylvania who works with homeless teens in a youth centre. These projects have captured our hearts and Julia makes the promise to come back and help them.

It’s Saturday night and the Orleans Arena is waiting for us. Inside is a great stage and I sit with the judges. There are designers, celebrities and the jeweller who made the Miss America crown. But the one I’m most excited about meeting is LaToya Jackson, I can’t believe I’m in the same room as her. 

We have a chat before the final starts and I am impressed by how humble she and the number of organisations she works for. She is an advocate for causes like aids and domestic violence. It was so nice to see that a famous celebrity is genuinely concerned with what the world needs and is actually doing something about it.

The evening starts and we can sense the excitement of the audience. The first round is evening gowns, they all looked gorgeous in their elegant dresses. Here in America, they have many challenges including, Sports, Top Model, ‘Beauty With A Purpose’, Talent, Entrepreneur, The People’s Choice and Top Influencer.

As their names are called to receive their awards it becomes obvious that the representative from Washington, Shree Saini is missing as she had been taken ill earlier after collapsing because of a problem with her pacemaker. And despite now being at the hospital, she is one of the strongest contenders, winning four challenges and placing high among the others. It’s a real shame but the most important thing is that she is ok and in good care.

We narrow the contestants to 25 before announcing the final 10. This is the Q&A and we get to hear from the contestants. They are all incredibly passionate and so confident it makes it very hard to choose who will make the final five.

As they announce South Dakota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Hawaii and Massachusetts the crowd really gets behind them as one by one they are handed the microphone to advocate for their ‘Beauty With A Purpose’ projects. This is the breaking point for me. As a judge, you are looking for someone who has the communication skills to speak for the people they represent and is committed to her cause. They all do so well.

Before they announce the winner, Miss World America 2018 makes her last walk and speech which reduces me to tears. She did so well at Miss World 2018 in Sanya, winning the Sports Challenge and finishing in the top 10 in Talent. She is an educated, strong, compassionate woman who has shown us that nothing is impossible if you work for it.

And the winner is...South Dakota! Emmy Rose Cuvelier was top five in ‘Beauty With A Purpose’ and did well in the other rounds. I think she will do great in London.

The next day before departing, Marissa and I take a moment to visit Shree in hospital, the representative from Washington, who unfortunately wasn’t able to go back to the competition. She is in good spirits and surrounded by her loved ones. 

She is so happy to see us both and tell us about her project, she cannot believe this happened but has such a strong spirit, it’s contagious. Before coming, Julia asked me to tell her that she would be delighted if she could come to London as her guest and hep her judge this year’s ‘Beauty With A Purpose’. When I tell her the news, she gets very emotional and starts crying, but they are tears of joy. 

Being at Miss World has been her dream since she was a little girl and now despite her condition, she will be able to come and to see behind the scenes as a personal guest of Julia. Everyone is happy, we say our farewells as I have a plane to catch, but we will all see each other soon.

With our hearts full of love, Marissa and I hug, this has been a wonderful trip and the perfect start to spreading the word about the amazing ‘Beauty With A Purpose’ projects happening right now across America.

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