What made you want to get involved with this year’s Miss Gibraltar pageant, and how did it come about?

After nearly 25 years of directing and producing shows and events, Yalta Dance Studio (YDS) felt ready for the challenge to produce the Miss Gibraltar pageant, as it is one of the most prestigious and traditional events in Gibraltar’s socio-cultural calendar. The award of the tender allows producers to use the budget responsibly to create a show that focuses on the contestants and provide top quality entertainment for the audience.

What’s your message to people who consider beauty pageants to be archaic or even damaging?

Honestly, I used to be one of those but seeing the positive changes that are being made in traditional beauty pageants to focus on the individual’s personality, background, intelligence and independence made me reconsider my perceptions, and I have become aware of the positive aspects that this type of event can bring to young women who decide to enter Miss Gibraltar. We have to embrace and admire those who are brave enough to enter as it is their choice. Each one uses this opportunity as a platform for their own personal development or career path.

Yes, obviously beauty does play a significant part but its more about their overall appearance and not about stereotypical shape or size. For example, the interview round which is held a day before, behind closed doors, plays a significant part in the final score, so beauty becomes secondary. At the end of the day the Miss Gibraltar show is an event to select an ambassador to represent Gibraltar at the Miss World pageant internationally.

I have become aware of the positive aspects that this type of event can bring to young women.

What do you think needed to be changed with the format of previous years?

That’s a difficult question to answer. We have introduced some ideas and changes, such as removing the swimwear round, the contestant number labelling, the anonymous sign up and not unveiling contestants until the closing day, and general changes in making the whole event more contemporary and relatable to young women.

What are you bringing to the table that is new to the pageant? What are you most excited about?

The vision is to provide a top-quality show integrating the pageant with music, fashion and the arts in general. The contestants are actively involved in all of the routines and working hard to bring out the best in themselves with fresh original concepts for the night. Even the official photoshoot has been different and taken them out from their comfort zone. For the official photoshoot we have worked with photographer Stephen Perera to capture the contestants in a natural look, bare faced, using black and white film with no retouching. We believe this is the first time this has been done.

We have engaged with the contestants from the first day and empowered them to share their views and aspirations. They have a voice and must be heard because they are the ones that make this pageant possible.

We also have a great team working with us on this project such as Fresh Entertainment for staging, make-up artist Deepak Ramchandani from Mac (Gibraltar), hairstylist Karina Walker from Fringe Benefits, coach Bianca Zammitt, photographers Stephen Perera, Gerry Fagan, Josie Barcelo and Mark Galliano and mentors Davinia Baglietto, Giovanka Afzan and Aysha Pratts.

What is your message for girls thinking of applying in the future?

This is a platform that can be used positively for their own personal development and aspirations. Those who enter should not be afraid to have a voice and portray their own individuality as they can be a positive role model for young girls in society. Previous contestants have made life-long friendships and it is a unique experience.