Miss Bahamas Universe 2023 goes on to compete for world title

After cruising to the top spot, Miss Bahamas Universe, Melissa Ingraham, center, is sailing on to compete on the world stage in November. She is pictured with pageant executive Anthony Smith and Wendy McDonald, VP of Government Relations for the Caribbean for Royal Caribbean Group, whose member cruise line, Royal Caribbean International, was title sponsor of the 2023 event, part of the Anniversary of Independence celebrations. Photo by: Jeremy Eastmond

Royal Caribbean International celebrates Miss Bahamas Universe 2023 Melissa Ingraham as she prepares to represent The Bahamas and compete against more than 80 delegates from around the world at the 72nd Miss Universe Competition in El Salvador on November 18th, 2023.  26-year-old Ingraham bested nine other confident women for the crown and title, sharing her platform centered around climate change, in which she is completing her Master’s degree.  “I’m really happy that I was able to win being myself and doing what I love, which is shedding more light on this global issue of climate change,” Ingraham said.  

“I’m proud to know that competitions like this celebrate the whole woman, beauty and brains. I was able to come here, give it my all, share my platform and I feel great to see that the hard work paid off. Now, it’s time to prepare to take on the universe and I’m looking forward to it. I stand proud as an ambassador of The Bahamas and of the environment to highlight the importance and urgency of addressing climate change.”  Royal Caribbean Group Regional Vice President, Government Relations, Caribbean Wendy McDonald served as a member of the judging panel that selected Ingraham as the winner. The cruise company’s largest and most popular brand, Royal Caribbean International, was the title sponsor of this year’s pageant and the winner was given a free 7-night Caribbean cruise as a part of her prize package.   McDonald gave the pageant top marks.   

“The pageant was nothing short of remarkable,” she said. “The contestants truly exemplified the essence of beauty, grace and intelligence throughout the competition. Each candidate showcased their unique qualities, making the pageant a captivating experience for both the audience and the judges. 

“From the preliminary rounds to the final stage, the level of preparation and dedication demonstrated by the contestants is commendable. Their performances, both on and off the stage, have left a lasting impression, showcasing their commitment to representing the beauty and diversity of the Bahamas. It is a privilege to witness the journey of these exceptional young women as they strive to become ambassadors of the Bahamas. The pageant provided a platform for them to showcase their individuality, their passions, and their commitment to making a positive impact in their communities.” This year’s pageant was under the patronage of Miss Bahamas Universe 1973 Cyprianna Munnings-McWeeney and held under the theme ‘The Jubilee’, as a part of the country’s 50th Anniversary of Independence celebrations. Junkanoo and timeless performances by world-renowned Bahamian artists made the night even more special.   The competition was intense as contestants wowed judges in the swimsuit and evening gown segments, celebrating all things Bahamian. The night was also historic as for the first time one of the contestants was a wife and mother, thanks to a change in the Miss Universe rules.   Not before long, 10 contestants were cut to the Top 5, who were then asked questions to help judges determine who would be best to represent the country at the world’s biggest pageant.   

At the end of the night Ingraham, representing Long Island, was named the new queen, walking away with the crown, title, prizes and the opportunity of a lifetime.   “This feels like a dream,” Ingraham said. “This was a tough competition, but so rewarding. Aside from winning the crown, I feel like I’ve gained nine sisters. We’ve gone through so much together. We’ve learned and grown. And now I get to wear my country’s name at Miss Universe. I’m looking forward to the training and will certainly give it my all on the world stage.”  Miss Cat Island Taja Hudson was named 1st runner Up. Robyn Rahming, representing Exuma won 2nd runner up, while Danielle Dean of Acklins took 3rd runner up and Beyonce Forbes of Grand Bahama got 4th runner-up.   2nd Runner-Up Robyn Rahming is Miss International World Bahamas, and will go on to compete in St. Lucie, Florida, this coming October for the coveted title of Miss International World. Her selection came by way of a guest judge who presented the pageant system to the Miss Universe Bahamas Organization. She was selected above the 1st runner-up in part because of her greater availability to assume the duties of the queen, should that become necessary.   The distinguished judging panel featured international and local names in civil society, business and industry.  

In recent years The Bahamas has had quite the success at Miss Universe with Chantel O’Brien making history in 2021 as the first to ever make the semi-finals, placing in the Top 10. Previous representatives have also won Miss Congeniality and Miss Photogenic.   Other sponsors of this year’s Miss Universe Bahamas competition included The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation, Toastmasters Club 1600, Empire Fitness, Go to Bahamas, FME, Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture, Blue Lagoon, Wild Seed Designs, Wildflowers, Atlantis, Rosewood, Biore, New York Performing Arts Academy, Diamonds International and Home-Grown Media.   

Royal Caribbean has a longstanding history of supporting local organizations that promote Bahamian culture. It recently announced it was renewing its sponsorship of the Royal Caribbean Music Makers, supporting the Junkanoo group with a $100,000 sponsorship. The cruise line also aligns with small business development, particularly in the tourism sector, and empowers entrepreneurial efforts while driving local economic growth through partnerships including with the Small Business Development Centre and the Tourism Development Corporation. Additionally, the company has supported education and training partners, such as the LJM Maritime Academy, the Bahamas Maritime Cadet Corps and the National Training Agency.