“I was telling them that ‘I found the key to answering the questions’”, said Tonoya Toyloy, “and they said ‘What was it?’ And I said well, if somebody asks you a question you answer it. Everybody started to laugh, and they said ‘That’s the key?’”
“Composure is the key”, she says. Tonoya Toyloy is the winner of the Miss Jamaica World 2004 pageant and Jamaica’s representative to the Miss World 2004 competition in Sanya, China, later this year.
She seems composed as she speaks. Tonoya displays the confidence and poise of a seasoned beauty queen, without the studied charm. The 5’9” tall caramel-complexioned beauty is wearing a slinky orange, knee-length dress with asymmetrical ruffled hemline. that falls smoothly over her ‘beach beauty’ frame. But her thoughts are not on what happened on the coronation night. Tonoya is already looking ahead. She carries with her, along with a small handbag, a large box-type folder in which she keeps her diary, schedule and the information which she believes she must know in preparation for the Miss World pageant.
“I just like to keep myself organized,” she says.
A Childhood Experience to Remember
She seems at ease on the platform of the gym at Spartan Health Club, where she sits for the interview. She speaks about her most memorable childhood experience, when she burst her forehead swinging on the steps of her family’s home in Edgewater, Portmore. She was only three years old. She points to a small scare on her forehead, the visible reminder of that traumatic experience. “They thought they had lost me,” she said of her parents.
It has been just three days since Tonoya won coveted crown, but her composure belies the fact that she entered and won her first beauty competition. She exhibits none of the self-consciousness of someone adjusting to a new role. She speaks freely and openly.
A flashback to the night of her coronation reaffirms that image of composure. As one of three women waiting on-stage to be crowned, Tonoya appeared to be the most relaxed, smiling reservedly. “Why be nervous? There’s nothing you can do about it. When something is out of your hands, why be nervous about it? All you can be is yourself,” she says.
“I don’t view it (the pageant) as a competition. Because there is nothing you can do to ensure that you win more than be yourself. It’s not like a 100-metre race or a football match, where you have a direct opponent besides you. It’s just being yourself and then it’s the judges’ and the public’s decision to decide who is the best person,” she says.
That coolness translates the Miss World pageant as well. “I think my chances are good. I think that on the Miss World level every country has a different look and something to bring to the table. Whereas in Jamaica based on your socialization and cultural awareness, awareness of the world issues, intelligence, confidence, grace, poise, style; I think those things are very important. I have every confidence in myself. I am Jamaican and the last four letters in Jamaican say ‘I can’, so I can do it.”
A close-Knit family
Tonoya grew up and still lives in Edgewater, with ‘a very close-knit family’ that comprises both parents and her only sibling, her brother ‘Timmy’. Her face lights up whenever she talks about her family. “We have always been very close,” she says of her brother. It’s something that my grandmother would tell all the other cousins, ‘Why you can’t you get along like Timmy and Tonoya?” she says, smiling.
She smiles as she talks about her father. “As a young person I thought he was very strict and uncompromising, but as he always would say, when you have your children you will understand, or when you are older you will understand,” she says. “I grew up in a very strict home,” she continues. My mother, she had a lot to say with what went on with us, but my father always had the last word. So parties and all those things, they weren’t commonplace in my home.”
At 24-years-old, Tonoya says she now understands: “I appreciate it now because I think that it has definitely contributed to the person I am today. I appreciate his impact on my life.”
As Tonoya peaks, it becomes obvious that ‘family’ is an important part of her life, the impact spilling over into her career choice. She speaks about the guidance she received from her family in the choice to pursue Pharmacy; the sleepless nights, marked by frequent checks by her father to ensure that she did not overwork, and her desire now is to operate a pharmacy whose patient-pharmacist relationship is at best unconventional.
“My ambition is to own a pharmacy in the rural area and if a patient can’t pay for a medication I’d just love for them to bring a handful of banana or a sweetsop, just to say thanks. I want to have a level of relationship with all my patients, where we’re friends. And everybody would be on a first name basis. I’m just picturing a nice family situation,” she said.
Tonoya also speaks passionately about health care in Jamaica: “Health care is quite expensive but the National Health Fund is definitely a good move. What I would like to see is that it probably gets more funding, so that the patient can benefit more. Even though it’s a great help, sometimes it’s not enough.”
Tonoya speaks about health care with the confidence of a professional. She speaks about decease prevention, patient education and availability of treatment options. Even though she vows to take a year off from working to complete her reign, Tonoya says she will not venture far from her profession for fear of regression.
“It’s a very dynamic field, health care, so it’s not good for me to get out of it like that. I have to keep abreast. Changes are made quite often,” she says.
A Time to Give
However, a year off from work, Tonoya believes, will give her more time to engage in charities and complete the duties of a Miss Jamaica World. “I want to do everything. Honestly, part of me wants to win Miss World and, at the same time, if I were to win Miss World, would I be able to do all I want to do in my reign?” she says as she visibly tries to conceptualize the situation.
Among the charity organizations that Tonoya wants to work with are Food of the Poor and the Red Cross: “Especially now that Ivan has left I think the flood relief, that’s very important right now. This Friday, we are going to talk to Red Cross about working with the relief fund.”
But even in Tonoya’s preparation for her reign, support from the Jamaican public has been tenuous. There have been criticisms that her look may not be suitable for the Miss World competition.
Tonoya is direct and open, even about this: “People are entitled to their own opinion and we all have our preferences and our favourites. I can’t say I didn’t deserve it, because I did deserve it. I worked so hard. It (the pageant) is about beauty, but it is about so much more. If I didn’t deserve it I would not have won. I understand their concerns and disappointments; I’d much prefer their support right now that I’ve won, so that I can really represent with Jamaica behind me.”
Source: Gleaner article by: Alicia Roache