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2005-09-02 17:54:20

Amid Controversy, Teen Stripped of Pageant Title

Ms. McDonald announced at the press conference on Wednesday that she was a lesbian and claimed that the committee was discriminating against her as a result.

Members of the Miss Teen Bahamas Pageant committee announced on Thursday they have decided to strip Gari McDonald of the title because she went ahead and held a press conference without their knowledge.

Ms. McDonald announced at the press conference on Wednesday that she was a lesbian and claimed that the committee was discriminating against her as a result.

In a defensive move aimed at crushing allegations of discrimination lodged against them, organizers of the pageant said that prior to Ms. McDonald's press conference, no decision had been made to strip her of her title.

However, they added that the committee does not condone or support homosexuality.

"At no time (prior to now) did the Miss Teen Bahamas Committee make a decision to divest Gari McDonald, the reigning Miss Teen Bahamas, of her crown and banner. It is our view that in a matter that attracts moral controversy, we thought it best to meet in a more private dialogue between herself and the committee," said Chakita Bonimy, pageant director.

Ms. Bonimy said a young woman, whose name was not revealed, had called the committee claiming that its queen was harassing her. She also threatened to take legal action, according to the pageant director.

Ms. Bonimy said that the committee then asked the young woman to put her allegations in writing so that the matter could be properly addressed.

On Wednesday, Ms. McDonald claimed that she had not gotten the prizes she won as a result of being crowned Miss Teen Bahamas.

But according to pageant secretary, Kasprintine Jones, the teen received numerous prizes.

"Every year at the end of our pageant there is a presentation party which is where we present our queen and her runners up with various prizes presented to us from public houses throughout the country," Mrs. Jones said at a press conference at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel.

"At that time she received the prizes given to us and with regards to the remaining, those are done during presentations at the [sponsors' establishments] for publicity purposes. That did not take place due to failure on the part of the reigning queen who was not available for those presentations.

"With regards to the scholarship award, it is to be obtained once the queen applies and has been accepted into the College of The Bahamas, with which we have an agreement or you must have been already enrolled and maintaining a certain grade point average."

Mrs. Jones said Ms. McDonald left C.O.B without notifying the committee or administrators at the college.

But Ms. McDonald has claimed that she took time off from college because of the demands of being Miss Teen Bahamas.

She also claimed that she was promised an opportunity to represent The Bahamas at an international pageant that was held in Chicago in June, but the committee did not send her.

Mrs. Jones said on Thursday that the committee had already paid her entrance fee and submitted her photo as the Bahamian representative in the pageant when the allegations surfaced.

She said the committee decided to cancel those plans as a result of the situation that had developed.

Pageant assistant director, Richa Sands, reminded the media that the pageant is based on Christian principles.

She feels that teenagers should not have an established sexual identity and said that is why the committee promotes abstinence.

Perez Clarke, The Bahama Journal

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