The reigning Miss Haiti Legacy, beauty queen Jessica Saint-Georges hopes to leave a legacy as a crusader against sexual abuse. Born in Boston and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the 23-year old RN student may be shy when it comes to everything else, but she’s not timid when it comes to denouncing sexual abuse.
Through her self-founded organization NOSA, the one-time Miss Leogane is using all the resources available to her to raise awareness about pedophilia and sexual abuse in the county where she was raised, as well as her parents’ native land.
Her personal story is heart-wrenching, but her determination to speak out on behalf of those abused in the community and her decision to not be a “forever victim” will inspire you and draw your admiration. I promise.
Kreyolicious: Your platform is sexual abuse. Why do you think it’s so important to spread awareness about this?
I was sexually abused at the age of eight and again at thirteen years old. At the time, it didn’t really occur to me that what happened was a crime. I was threatened to not say anything or else…so I never said anything until I turned Twenty-One. Being able to let that out felt like the biggest load was lifted off my chest, my back, my head…I just felt free like all chains were broken. I spent eight to thirteen years of my life being afraid, feeling guilty, and not really knowing who “Jessica” is as a person. Thinking of every older man as a pervert who wanted nothing else from me but my body. I could never really be just me. I spent summers in sweats, basketball shorts, and tee-shirts to hide my body.
Raising awareness about this topic, especially in the Haitian community is so important to me because it’s not something that is spoken about in the Haitian household. We all know the saying “Tifi ak ti gason se gasoline ak alimet” [Girl mixed with boy is like gasoline and matches put together]. Young Haitian kids are afraid to confide in adults because they’re afraid nobody will believe them and fear being punished. I found a statistic that showed 7 out of 10 girls in Haiti will be sexually abused before the age of sixteen. To me, that’s mind-blowing. You hear about the stories of women getting raped in the tents after the earthquake and even during the election that just passed. Homes were being broken into by robbers. Mothers were being forced to have sex with their sons and fathers being forced to have sex with their daughters. We hear about it. We get mad, then what? We do nothing, and that’s the problem right there.
Kreyolicious: And you’ve created an organization called NOSA…
I decided to create my organization called NOSA (NO Sexual Abuse). I created the idea back in 2012 and finally brought it to life in 2014. NOSA focuses on raising awareness on sexual abuse but also has events such as “Christmas in Haiti” and “Back to School Haiti” where I give back to the community. This organization is my baby. I’ve gotten alot of great support and feedback from family, friends, and people who I don’t even know. It’s an awesome feeling and I appreciate it so much.
Kreyolicious: Tell me about the whole pageantry process, and what it was like to be named Miss Haiti legacy?
Pageantry actually happened by accident to be honest. I was on Facebook one day scrolling down and I saw a picture of Sarodj Bertin with a link to apply as Miss Haiti. I was like, “Oh let me try and see what this is about.” I applied and got a call back the next day. I was in shock. I didn’t think anyone was actually going to call me. From there, I did join the pageant and held the title as Miss Leogane. I’m glad that I did get into pageantry because it gave me a chance to be able to create a platform where I can share my story and be a voice for others. Pageantry is definitely a lot of work. It’s not all glamorous like it seems. You have to be 100% committed. I decided to join a different pageant system last year (Miss Legacy) and I now hold the title as Miss Legacy Haiti 2016! It feels so great and it fits me perfectly. The Miss Legacy organization is focused on you building yourself while showcasing your talent and beauty. It gives you a chance to build your platform and leave behind a legacy. Being that I am the first Miss Legacy Haiti, I already left a legacy right there. Being one of the queens of Haiti and being able to show Haiti in a positive light is very important to me because at the end of the day, I am a reflection of Haiti. Everything that I do or say is a reflection of what Haiti is. We are not the “earthquake” or “poor” country. Haiti is beautiful, fearless, and resilient and people need to know that.
Kreyolicious: Were there times in your life when you didn’t feel pretty?
My dad left when I was six years old. So not having him in my life and then experiencing sexual abuse two years later really took a toll on me mentally. It didn’t really make me feel like I wasn’t pretty, but more so worthless. Almost like I was here on earth just to be here with no purpose at all. I didn’t really overcome this issue until I turned Twenty-One.
Kreyolicious: How did you overcome that?
I had to learn all over again. I had to learn to love myself. I had to learn to not have so much anger towards my father. I had to learn to be me and not worry about what anybody else thought of me because that right there is poison. We get so caught up in trying to please mankind and this somewhat of a fake society, that we forget to love ourselves and put us first. So after I came to that realization and that light switched on, all negativity and anger went out the window.
Kreyolicious: A lot of things come with time. Is there anything that you used to be really bad at, that you’ve gotten better at as time went along.
I would say being confident, putting my trust in someone else, and being comfortable with myself. I think those three things are what has held me back from being Jessica. The things that have happened in my life held me back from being able to put my trust in others. They held me back from dressing how I wanted to because I was afraid every older man would look at me like meat. They held me back from being the fun, big-hearted person that I am. When I decided to let go and let God and started going back to church, I felt like my mind and heart were cleansed. After I let go of the rage that I had inside my heart, it’s like I was reborn again into this new life. I read this quote from Gerard Way that says: “Sometimes you have to kind of die inside in order to rise from your ashes and believe in yourself and love yourself to become a new person.” That’s exactly what I had to do in order to free myself.
Above: Jessica Saint Georges..Miss Legacy…Photo Credit: Earle Brown
Kreyolicious: If you could send out a message to all the young women out there, what would you say?
Know your value. Know who you are as an individual. Never allow anyone to make you feel less of a person. If you’ve gone through anything tragic in your life, it’s ok. Release the anger. Release the hate. All it will do is eat you up inside and send you into this dark place. Know that it is okay to not be okay. Our trials are what allow us to have a testimony and just because we have trials does not mean it is the end of life. It’s bootcamp for greater things that are coming our way. Love yourself before anything else and find your voice.
Above: The beauty queen basking in her beauty, and newly-found confidence. Photo Credit: Davion Forbes
Kreyolicious: What’s next on your agenda?
I am currently working on my “Back to School Haiti” project. Back to School Haiti is basically focused on giving back to the Haitian community. I travel to Haiti and hand out school supplies to the kids whose parents can’t afford to buy them these items. We give out backpacks, notebooks, hand sanitizers, toiletries, etc. This is the second year that I’m doing it so I’m making it bigger and better than last year. Right now, there are drop off locations in Broward and West Palm Florida, Westbury, New York, Nashville, Tennessee, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for those who want to donate school supplies. The locations can be found on my Instagram at iamjessica_saintgeorges and on my Facebook at Jessica Saint Georges. I believe in helping our own, but I believe in giving back to anyone who’s in need so I’m in the works of possibly doing a give away in Jamaica as well. I should have more information soon, just working out some details. I have found my purpose in life and that’s to be who I was born and created to be…Be a voice for the voiceless, give back to my community, and to excel in anything and everything that I put my mind to.