“THE past year has been a whirlwind I have felt so many emotions I never knew existed, created friendships I could have only wished for not only here in my country but all around the world and I have grown into the woman I could have only wished to become as a young girl proudly representing the pride and passion of my country.”
Those were the words of 24-year-old Cailín Áine Ní Toibín, after she handed over the Miss Universe Ireland crown to her successor, last week.
Cailín, from Cobh, had a hugely successful 12 months in the role. She was only four European contestants to make it to the top 16 in Miss Universe, in Las Vegas. She was the eighth Irish woman in history to make it to the finals of the world contest, the first since Roz Purcell in 2010.
The former student at Coláiste an Phiarsaigh in Glanmire, who works for Brown Thomas used her year in the role to advocate for mental health and has been a strong advocate for the charity Pieta House.
We caught up with her this week, after She handed over the title to Donegal woman Grainne Gallanagh.
How did you feel handing over the crown?
“Handing over the crown was most certainly a bitter sweet moment. I knew my reign would have to come to an end and I had plenty of time to come to terms with it but at the same time I wish it would have never ended. I feel extremely blessed to have the year that I had and I have handed the title on to a truly deserving woman.”
Tell us about the events of the past 12 months:
“I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit throughout my reign. I travelled the week after being crowned to Toronto, Canada for TIFF with my footwear sponsor Shoes by Chavez.
“I have been all around Ireland doing promotions shoots for Miss Universe Ireland and it made me realise as an Irish citizen we don’t do enough “stay-cations” and look at the beauty of our country.
“I travelled to New York and shot with renowned photographer Fadil Berisha for Sherri Hill which left me speechless to think little ol me was shooting with such a prestigious brand and photographer.
“I of course went to Las Vegas the city of lights to compete at Miss Universe and left my heart there to show that not only I deserved to be heard but the voice of Ireland and placed Top 16 in the world and Top 4 in Europe, the sense of achievement and pride is indescribable.”
“I made friends from around the world, learned about different cultures and beliefs but most of all I made my voice heard about mental health and how important it is to promote wellbeing to our younger generation to decrease the effects of negative mental health on our generations that follow.”
What was the highlight of the year?
“My work towards raising awareness for mental health has been the most fulfilling experience of this journey and I will endeavour to continue my work into the future to the best of my abilities.
“All the people of Pieta House welcomes me with open arms and I canny thank them enough for showing me the passion and commitment towards creating a world where hope self-care and awareness are the defining factors of their work they have inspired me to always look on the bright side of life.”
Will you continue your work with Pieta House?
“Most certainly! I enjoyed every bit of working with them and they welcomed me with open arms which I am extremely thankful for.”
What lessons have you learned over the past 12 months?
“I have learned to give everything my absolute everything and take nothing for granted. The year goes by so fast and I am beyond happy that everything I did I wrote it into a journal and in doing so it reminds me of all the experiences I have had throughout the year.
“It has most certainly changed me as an individual, I feel looking back when I competed for MUI I thought I was after growing into a woman where in fact now I’m a woman. I’m a woman who knows my own mind, I have my own opinions on topics that last year I was not so knowledgeable on and I can now say for sure I know exactly who Cailín Áine Ní Toibín is and I’m enjoying the learning process of being and adult.”
What will you take away from the year?
“Don’t dwell on the small stuff. I have face many a challenge throughout the year and I have learned not to sweat when faced with a minor task that I may think is HUGE. I make sure to think before I react and when asked for advise I always make sure that if I was to ask the same question would I take the advise I’m giving.”
What are your plans for the future?
“When starting my reign I always said I will 100% go back to college and thankfully Brown Thomas deferred my position and I will go to college to do my Retail marketing and Management degree as well as continue to work with the company. My goal to become a “boss lady” will continue to be my main priority.
“I have also worked with many amazing brands throughout the year and fortunately many of them want to keep working with me so you may keep seeing my face more often that not.”
Any advice for your successor?
“Gráinne, regret NOTHING! commitment is key to your success, the more you are willing to give and commit to everything the more successful you will be! Miss Universe Ireland has an amazing team that are willing to give you a space to learn and grow, they genuinely believe in your dreams and aspirations and will do anything to help you achieve your goals.
“Use your voice to make a difference you have more power in your voice than you will ever understand, believe in your strength, show the world you are a force to be reckoned with!
“None whatsoever, if I regretted anything I’d be kicking myself that’s why no matter what I did throughout the year I grabbed it with two hands and made the absolute best of every single experience.”
Any other comments?
“To everyone at the Miss Universe organisation especially Brittany she was not only my director but my friend who has guided me in everything and I am beyond grateful for her guidance, support and being a friend when I needed one, My heartfelt thank you to everyone on the team of Miss Universe Ireland their support has not gone unnoticed.
“To my family and friends, especially my mom dad and grandmother they have been my everyday drive to believe in the power of my voice. And last but not the least to my grandfather I did it, I made it to the top!”