What’s Hot: How did it feel to win Miss Cayman?
Anika Conolly: It was a surreal experience. I have dreamed about this moment since I was 13 years old. I didn’t think I had what it took but then I realized I didn’t want my three younger sisters to ever think that they didn’t have what it takes to reach their dreams.

WH: What has been your favorite experience so far since you won?
AC: I have many favorite memories that I cherish: Visiting my mom’s office where her team had a celebration party for me; reading at Shining Stars preschool; singing at the swearing in of our new government; and laughing at jokes with my new extended family at Renaissance Salon and Spa, my official sponsor.

WH: What do you think makes a person beautiful?
AC: To me, beauty comes from the inside. It is in the way you treat people, with kindness, respect, compassion and having a willingness to help others.

WH: What message would you like to give young girls for whom you are now a role model?
AC: Be your authentic self. Society can be harsh on us, leading us to believe that we must be someone else. I tried to live up to that expectation before and it resulted in a lot of mental and physical stress, until one day I realized that I’m pretty cool too. I just needed to believe it. So, girls, believe in yourself and your abilities. No matter what people tell you, you are enough.

WH: Do you have a favorite local or international designer?
AC: Locally, I adore the fashions of Kenzie Rose and Olivia B because they are chic, trendy yet elegant in their designs. I actually had the privilege of wearing one of Kenzie’s gowns for the What’s Hot photoshoot. Internationally, I am a fan of Louise & Eleanor’s clutches which were used for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation Gala Fashion Show, and Kate Hudson’s active wear. I also follow a lot of designers like Michael Costello, Walter Mendez, Tom Ford and Yumi Katsura Couture.

WH: Are you nervous or excited about the upcoming Miss Universe pageant?
AC: I’m excited! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a role model and ambassador for my country while rocking a gorgeous pair of heels and super stylish outfit! I’m looking forward to meeting the other girls and learning about their culture; and not to mention the fact that Miss Universe will be in Las Vegas, Nevada, a place I’ve never been. I’m always keen to travel to new and different places.

WH: What are your plans for the remainder of your reign?
AC: After my reign I have many plans, but I think my main focus will be on keeping the Youth Rebelution initiative alive. I created this initiative to give at-risk youth in the Cayman Islands the opportunity to rebel against the low expectations placed on them by giving them access to resources that will lead them on the path to success. I started with fitness, nutrition and business etiquette and I’d like to expand the program to include conflict management, branding and develop a summer program for 2018.