Loop chats with Ashlea Smith, Miss UK Finalist representing Cayman
As we reported earlier this week, Ashlea Smith is representing Cayman as a finalist in September's Miss UK Caribbean pageant. Ashlea is a personal trainer, currently living in the UK but born in Cayman, who is passionate about Caribbean food, giving back to the community and exercise.
Lucky for us, the pandemic has slowed things down for Ashlea and she was able to give us some of her time to answer a few questions!
What’s it like being in a pageant under the new world order of Covid-19?
As this is my first pageant, I haven’t actually endured this experience in a ‘non-COVID-19 world’! However, it is requiring me and the other finalists to be innovative when raising awareness of the Miss Caribbean UK pageant, the country that we are representing and when advocating our platform. The power of technology has been incredible in keeping the Miss Caribbean UK (MCUK) community connected, and it has enabled us to build relationships despite having never met in person. It is a difficult time for people across the globe, but participating in the pageant provides you with a positive focus and a sense of belonging during a time of such uncertainty.
How are you handling the stresses of Covid-19?
I have good days and bad days as I think we all do! It is extremely difficult not seeing loved ones at this time, particularly those who are most vulnerable, but I am thankful to be able to check-in with friends and family via digital platforms. In terms of my day to day life, I try to stick to a routine as much as possible. I am currently working from home so I structure my day to ensure that I have 3 healthy meals, regular screen breaks and some quality downtime. More importantly, I aim to do at least one thing a day that makes me smile, and I schedule some ‘self-care time’ within my week which for me usually involves reading, listening to a podcast or exercising. I am also a personal trainer, so I am currently teaching online fitness classes to support women to stay active during lockdown. The response that I have had from this has been so positive, it has been so moving, and I feel to some extent that this has created its own mini-community! To know that I can make a positive impact on other females at this time is extremely rewarding and keeps me motivated! We have to remind ourselves to take each day at a time, to look after those around us, but more importantly, protect our own physical and mental wellbeing in whatever ways work for us as individuals.
What do you love most about Cayman?
Where do I start? I would certainly have to say the people! With the Cayman Islands being so small, it comes with extremely patriotic, ambitious and warm people. The sense of community on the island is infectious, and the people truly are the heart of the country. Even living in the UK you feel that sense of belonging. On the few occasions that I have come across someone from the Cayman Islands we become elated at the common connection, usually as we know what a rarity it is! In addition to the people I would have to say the incredible, stunning environment. Many people know of the Cayman Islands for the ‘tax haven’ references you come across in the media, however this detracts away from the unique beauty of the island. The beaches are unimaginable. In addition to the golden sands, and crystal blue water, the marine life such as the majestic stingrays and turtles make the island that extra bit special. You really do have to see the beauty of this country first hand to believe it. I would also have to say the food! I’m a sucker for traditional Caribbean dishes, and some of the most delicious foods can be found by the road, my personal favourite that is usually my first stop off of the plane is ‘Chef John!’.
What do you hope to achieve with your platform should you win?
My platform advocates using sport and physical activity as a tool to make social impact and improve a person’s mental wellbeing. As someone who has benefited from sport first hand, physically, social and mentally, I want to spread this message to encourage others to be active. My platform is also promoting ‘The Perfect Day Foundation’ charity who use sport as a tool to support disadvantaged young people in Zambia, which is a charity very close to my heart. I have spent a significant amount of time volunteering in Zambia since 2012, and I want to continue to raise both awareness and funds of the incredible work that the charity has done. If I had the privilege of gaining the MCUK title I would use the opportunity to continue raising awareness of my platform and associated charity. I would also aim to positively promote the Cayman Islands and the wider Caribbean in the UK. Whilst the UK is a diverse country there is still a lack of understanding of countries like the Cayman Islands, despite it being a British Overseas Territory, so I would want to bridge this gap and advocate our distinctive country and all of its beauty.
Ashlea in Zambia
JustGiving page for her charity campaign here.
Facebook page: AJFitnessTraining