Kathleen Victory, radiant in her off-the-shoulder long sleeved deep-slit forest-green gown, was crowned Mrs Gibraltar 2018 at a lively and vibrant pageant held at the Alameda Gardens on Friday 13th July. Kathleen will be participating in the Mrs Universe pageant in the Philippines in December, where she is required to present a talent round.

The largely female audience defied superstition and negotiated steps and slopes in high heels accompanied by gentlemen in tuxedos and Sunday best. The show started at dusk, when the pond was buzzing with a fly-by of turquoise dragonflies, and it was a medley of strobing lights, neon colours and booming music as Urban Dance provided the grand opening with a fast athletic routine over orgiastic rhythms.

The theme was Latino music throughout, which presenters and organisers Mark Andrades and Angel Ressa described as a choice based on Gibraltar’s Mediterranean heritage and Spanish-speaking culture, without wanting to be ‘political’, as they put it, and getting away with it through the consideration that it was all about Latin-American flamboyance, apart from the contestants’ sexy flamenco number in polka-dot dresses and red fans, a fitting tribute to the late Vicente, the founder of Los Salineros dance group.

Frothy gowns and tropical-print jumpsuits didn’t distract from Mrs Gibraltar’s mission: raising awareness against domestic abuse and violence. To this purpose and under the creed ‘beauty with a purpose’, Ideal Productions shot a strong-image heart-wrecking video starring the nine contestants to promote local helpline number 8018, which will be hopefully broadcast on television to help abuse victims identify their issue, understand they aren’t alone and quit suffering in silence. The nine women also participated in several charity initiatives in the run up to the show (and more to come), including Mental Health Day in May, and the Lunar Walk in June.

An intense rendition of Emeli Sandé’s Read All About It sung live on stage by last year’s winner Megan Danino was the wake-up call not just for the real meaning behind those popular lyrics, but also for understanding how domestic violence can hit hard when and where less expected. Dainty Megan, admittedly at her first experience in public singing, surely hit the bullseye with her powerful, unwavering, warmly dense voice carrying the notes all over the auditorium as everyone else held their breath – and a tear or two rolled down a few cheeks.
The ladies performed their dance and catwalk routine in ‘uniform’, i.e. matching outfits in different colours, provided by the sponsors, and didn’t have to bear to bare it (almost) all in the swimsuit routine, like their Miss counterparts – indeed a step forward in knocking down the stigma of women’s objectification which looms over beauty pageants. Eventually their own personalities were allowed to shine through the interviews – a traditionally dreaded but essential moment in the stepladder to Mrs Europe and Mrs World’s heaven – touching upon themes like gender equality, motherhood, domestic violence and ecology in true ladylike fashion.

They also showcased their evening gowns, individually designed for them, ranging from solar-yellow to lush-green through the classic dark and ivory, backless, strapless, sleeveless (not all at once!) shimmering materials and laces were sweeping the catwalk with trains for added poise to the gait, and sparkling with sequins and diamante details to match the glint in the wearer’s eye.

Thence it wasn’t an easy job for the six judges: former model agent Sonia Golt, male model Luisandro Moreno and Mrs Europe 2017 Davinia Baglietto, whose ‘beauty with a purpose’ career had started one year earlier on that very stage when she was crowned Princess to Megan. In fact, the panel took their time in deliberating, also because many awards were at stake, but the audience was kept entertained and on their toes by the solo performance of former Metro Motel singer Dani Rios. He belted out a selection of ‘S-pop’ (Spanish and Latin American pop) floor-fillers and swooped upon the audience harvesting volunteers to join him on stage and shake their moneymakers (booties, if you are British), while he sauntered along the catwalk, mic in hand and heart on sleeve, calling out to all the cardeosos out there.

The prize-giving ceremony spilt over the silent side of midnight not to wake the neighbours: sashes were handed out by former GSD Minister for Culture Edwin Reyes, overwhelmed by so much beauty and elegance surrounding him on stage, aided by former Miss Gibraltar and Ideal Productions president Rossanna Ressa. Giovanca Afzan, in glossy summer white, was crowned First Princess and awarded the Your Gibraltar TV Best Interview and the Ana Luisa Ressa awards; Carla Sedgwick, in dark shimmering halter-neck, Second Princess, alongside the Elegance award. After a lengthy dramatic pause, the overall winner was announced, and Kathleen’s young son leapt on stage across the pond to congratulate the new beauty queen, who also won the Photogenic and Catwalk awards. The Personality award went to Leila Ben Allal, and the Ideal Productions award to Rachel Bentley, coincidentally both wearing powder-pink frocks. The other contestants were Rebecca Patterson, Joelle Marin, Demelza Duo and Inga Perez.

And so, new ambassadors were elected to represent Gibraltar at international events offering second chances to women who hadn’t entered the Miss circuit, to prove that beauty with a purpose comes in all ages and sizes.