"I am not Donald Trump; my eyes are not blue; and, my skin is black," said Caribbean Prestige Foundation (CPF) executive chairman William Munro two days ago, as he reflected on the future of the annual International Soca Monarch competition.
He was referring to the state's support for Trump's 1999 Miss Universe Pageant, staged in T&T, and its comparative indifference to his competition.
Munro continued: "Let's compare these two products. What is Miss Universe? Basically, Miss Universe is beautiful girls, in gowns and bathsuits. You get all the beautiful girls and bikinis in Soca Monarch too, plus all aspects of T&T culture–mas, pan, soca, and a live audience in excess of 40,000 people, in harmony, dancing together. You also get thousands of television viewers watching the event locally, without being charged Pay Per View fees.
"There is no way you can compare Miss Universe to Soca Monarch, or the benefits accrued for our country.
"Donald Trump was given $150 million when Miss Universe was staged here 14 years ago. He wasn't asked to supply government with any audited accounts. I am asked to account for every cent, every year. I have never even received as much as five per cent of what Trump received, for one of my productions. I want the T&T public to compare the benefits to the country derived from Miss Universe and Soca Monarch."
Munro claims the fiscal benefits to be derived annually from the Soca Monarch product are limitless, but substantial investment must be made. He said: "If we want to go forward with anything of worth internationally, we must invest. We need a lot more assistance than is now given.
"I cannot be distracted by the small talk, with people asking why the state must fund this one private organisation. People must understand that the world does not accept mediocrity and our product is a world class one. This product sells out airlines and hotels every year; everybody makes money, everybody, the taxi drivers, vendors, security people, everybody. If you have a product of this magnitude and appeal in your hand, with 21 years of experience and success, and growth, and can't see its benefits to our nation, then you are extremely blind.
"The state shouts aloud about the millions of dollars it invests in Carnival, but is very silent on the benefits returned. The taxes that the state receives when so many people come here, specifically for Soca Monarch, that comes up to millions that benefits government and nation, nothing is heard about this.
"I challenge government to take over the Soca Monarch and stage it. Then, it will understand, with first hand knowledge, what it takes to produce an event of this magnitude and appeal."
CPF hosted an impressive prize-giving ceremony last Monday at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain, which celebrated the stars of soca music. It was a most prestigious event as no effort was spared to stage a production deserving of royalty in the arts, attended by government officials, diplomats and many of the who's who in the nation's arts and entertainment fraternity.
The decor within the spacious ballroom was inspired by the 21st anniversary of CPF's International Soca Monarch competition. The event was hosted by popular media personalities Mark Anthony and Wendell Constantine from a stage flanked by large screens displaying artistes' introductions, montages and sponsors' brands, compiled by Dinesh Maraj. The seamless flow of video was flawless. A comprehensive and well documented Soca 21 in Review video was produced by Leroy "Gotti" Thomas.
CPF deserves no end of praise for staging a prize-giving ceremony that complimented its well produced 2013 competitions, inclusive of the Flavorite Supreme Ice Cream National Schools Soca Monarch, Digicel International Groovy Soca Monarch and International Power Soca Monarch contests.
Despite the anticipation by all in attendance to see the performances of Machel Montano and SuperBlue, the winner who seemed to capture everyone's heart was 11-year-old National Schools Soca Monarch (Primary) Jeromy Rodriguez, a Moruga resident who attends St Mary's Government Primary School. As a prelude to his performance, the youngster gave a well articulated speech, thanking all who helped him, especially SuperBlue, declaring him his "hero."
Each champion and guest performer turned in a splendid performance, much to the delight of the audience. These included Ferdinand Smith, Sheldon Blackman, Fya Empress, Patrice Roberts, Montano, SuperBlue, and Rodriguez.
International Soca Monarch Fashion Police
People's Choice Awards
Machel Montano - Best Presentation -1st Place
Patrice Roberts - Best Presentation - 2nd Place
Ravi Bissambhar - Best Presentation - 3rd Place
Precision Productions - Best Production House 2013
Patrick "Mr Vybe" Gordon - Best Writer 2013
Destra Garcia - Fashion with a Passion - Female
Kenneth Richards - Fashion with a Passion - Male
Team Destra - Multi Media Soca Star 2013
Machel Montano HD - Soca 21 Energy Award 2013
International Soca Monarch
Julian Nelson - Outstanding Arranger - Fantastic Friday
Precision Production - Outstanding Arranger- The Fog
Kernel Roberts, Precision Productions & Studio 758
Outstanding Arranger - Float
Benedict Mc Millian - Award of Appreciation in the field of long standing service and commitment
Robert Amar - Award of Appreciation in the field of lifelong contribution and dedication to cultural development
Karena Sukhu - Award for exemplary leadership