In The Gambia the first recorded Beauty Pageant was organized by Roxy Vous at the UAC Tennis Lawn in 1963, when the glamorous Miss Joana Jahumpa won what was then “Miss Bathurst”. In 1965, as part of The Gambia’s Independence celebrations, government included a Miss Independence Beauty Contest in the program following a suggestion by the METTA Youth Club. The Miss Independence was well organized at the Independence gala and was one of the highlights of the celebrations. The competition was won by Miss Elizabeth Thomas now Mrs. Elizabeth Renner, Ex Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Motivated by the success of the Miss Independence pageant, the late Mr Val Phatty, the then director of Social Welfare Department, invited the Metta Youth Club to organise a contest to select a beauty queen who would represent The Gambia at a contest in the Middle East. That contest was the first Miss Gambia in the country and it was won by Ndey Jagne. She was the first beauty queen to represent The Gambia at the Miss World Pageant in 1965.Oumie Barry (1966), Janie Jack (1967), Mary Carayol (1968), and Princess Margaret Davies (1970).
After a lull of about a decade, in 1981 Atta Promotion started organizing pageants again. In 1983 Abi Janneh won the coveted crown. Abi Janneh proceeded to compete in the Miss World pageant where she won Miss Congeniality in that year. In1984, Mirabell Carayol won the Miss Gambia crown and also competed in Miss World. Baturu Jallow was Miss Gambia in 1985and competed in the Miss Universe contest. Baturu was later disqualified and replaced by Adam Sanneh who participated in the Miss World that year. The other winners were Rose Eunson in 1986; Ellen Forster in1987, Oumou Haidara Faye in 1988, Fatou Jarra in 1989. According to Mr George Gomez, Fatou Jarra (Mrs Houma) resigned for family reasons and the first runner-up, Ade Clarke was appointed to continue her reign. In 1990, Mai Coker was crowned Miss Gambia. Atta Promotions also organized a Miss Senegambia Contest in 1986.
In 1984, BanZig International established the Miss Senegambia Pageant on a formal basis and in1985 organized the first Miss Senegambia Beauty Contest with six contestants from Senegal and six contestants from The Gambia. To help select the contestants from The Gambia, the Banjul Branch of BanZig International organized the first Miss Gambia, BanZig. The winner of that coveted crown, Osai Gillen and the next five ladies in the competition represented The Gambia at Miss Senegambia1985 with Miss Gillen becoming the first runner-up. In1987, Monica Musa was crowned Miss Gambia (BanZig); in 1988, Jorjo Touray won the crown and in 1989 Majula Jallow was the winner. BanZig International organized the first Miss Senegambia at the Atlantic Hotel in 1985 and it was won by Santal Lobillo of Senegal.
In 1987, the contest was held at the Teranga Hotel in Dakar under the chief patronage of the Mayor of Dakar and it was won by Monica Musa of The Gambia. The then president of Senegal, Mr. Abdou Diouf received the officials of BanZig International and Miss Monica Musa in audience at the presidential palace in Dakar and invited Miss Monica Musa as a special guest at the Senegal Independence anniversary dinner at state house that year.
In 1988, the competition was again held at the Atlantic Hotel in The Gambia and was won by Jorjo Touray of The Gambia. In 1989, the contest was held in Ziguinchor, Casamance and was won by Rohey Gaye, commonly called “Gaiya” by her friends, from The Gambia.
The 1989 contest was the last time BanZig International organized Miss Senegambia due to the dissolution of the Senegambia Confederation. As a result of this and also the absence of Miss Gambia for almost five years, Gomis Promotion was registered and took over the organisation of not only Miss Gambia but Miss Tourism, Miss Elegance and Miss Jongama and on two occasions organized Miss Roots.
For a long time, The Gambia was seen as a minor in the fashion world. Today the fashion industry in the country has really come of age, as The Gambia can now boast of having numerous internationally acclaimed designers who are mostly self taught. A passion for real African garments has led many well-known and top-rated designers to join the industry and today they are making waves in the fashion scene. One of the earliest to become a house hold name was the late Musukebba Drammeh, who capitalized on the tourism industry with her specialty in tie and dye and batik. Nowadays many young and middle- aged women and men have established workshops housing tailors who produce their designs whilst they use the same outlets as showrooms. They produce designs mixing fabrics and using embroidery with admirable results and styles that are a mixture of both vintage and modern.
As The Gambia gets an even younger and more exposed population, the desire to explore creativity and re-create the tourist industry has brought in a flurry of ideas such as Fashion Weekend Gambia, Gambia Fashion Night, Gambia Next Top Model, Queen of Companies etc… attracting countless young and talented designers who explore an infusion of Gambian and African roots. In 2010, the Association of Fashion Designers Gambia (AFDG) was formed and now not only working to promote fashion design but also support causes for the empowerment of women.
The Department for the Performing Arts collaborates with The Association of Fashion Designers Gambia on matters of fashion and beauty pageantry.