You may think beauty queens are just a group of girls who learn to walk in stilettos, paint their lips red and say all they want is “world peace.” That notion couldn’t be further from the truth. As a former Miss T&T delegate, I can vouch for that firsthand.
From the moment a young woman walks into her first screening she has to make herself stand out from the hundreds, who are just as beautiful and intelligent. How does she gets the judges’ nod? Only the judges themselves can divulge that information.
It is an experience that can either make or break you. A lot of how you cope has to do with your level of confidence and self-esteem. However, at times, that too can be tested and tried, as in the case of this year’s Miss World representative Athaliah Samuel, who was subject to heavy criticism from social media users.
It’s as if you’re completely naked and under a microscope with every detail of you magnified. Suddenly everything you thought of as perfect about you is called into in question, not by the pageant organisers nor your fellow delegates, but by you. And that’s simply because you are involved in fierce competition.
The upside to that? Competition is healthy and because you want to make the cut, you learn to put in the extra work. You become more disciplined, you understand the need for patience and commitment. You also learn to accept your individuality and make what you’ve got work for you—whatever that may be.
But there is something else—never make the crown your main focus! Pertinent advice to the delegates in my time, from Miss T&T Universe 2002, Faye Alibocas. She advised delegates to use that time to network as it’s the best opportunity to market yourself. Her reason for such a mindset? Focusing only on the crown can cause one to miss out on the many other opportunities that come out of pageants.
We have seen the fruit of this philosophy in the many who were not crowned but went on to greater successes nevertheless. Some of them shared their experiences with the T&T Guardian.
Bascombe was one of the two Rastafarians to enter a Miss T&T/Universe pageant in 2003, the other being me. She is now married with children and works as an educator. In her own words she describes her experience as one that has really taught her basic life skills that are so often taken for granted.
“I underestimated the value of things learnt during the training period of the pageant. Diets, make-up, appropriate fashion, etiquette and charity work, are some of the basic skills and knowledge I acquired throughout the experience. “I also learned how to be more economic—it doesn’t have to be expensive to look good,” said a jovial Bascombe.
Most importantly Bascombe said she learned how to accept being different—embracing uniqueness.
Candi Acosta competed in the Miss T&T pageant with Alibocas. That year there were many rumours that Alibocas was the favourite from the start and no other girl stood a chance. Did Acosta let that faze her? No! She was doing her thing.
Describing herself as a go-getter, the Tunapuna native said being in the pageant just boosted her career in the multi-media and entertainment industry. It also afforded her the chance to meet and form relationships with influential people in various industries.
After the pageant Acosta continued in media, but also delved into promotions, costume design, public relations and marketing. Currently, she is enjoying being the host of ROLL CALL on Synergy TV and the co-producer of the East Indian programme Talkarie also on Synergy. Her advice to pageant hopefuls: “If you are mature enough (mentally capable) and yearn to be a part of an experience that will enhance you like no other then yes, enter. But if you just want to prance around in a swimsuit and smile—go to Maracas on a Sunday afternoon and play yourself! Pageant life is a lifestyle as it is very demanding and challenging.
Denise Richards entered the Miss T&T pageant some 25 years ago and was described as a “diva.” To her she was just someone who knew what she wanted. Richards only called for the best and the best was what she got. Confessing she had a great team of people on her side, including House of Jacqui, the late Jean Inniss, Bobby and Sally Ackbarali, Wendy and Ivan Kalicharan and Fernandes Black Label Rum as her sponsor, Richards said she could not disappoint and she didn’t—she walked away with the crown.
At the international competition, she did not make the top ten, but did win third place in the national costume segment—an achievement of which she was proud. Asked how she felt about the production of the competition today, Richards said in her time, corporate T&T did not support the pageant in the way it should when compared to what delegates from other countries received when they won. “They did not have to go begging for stuff to take to the pageant to represent their countries,” she added. She said looking on over the last nine years—the pageant still has a long way to go before that notion is killed that it is not important.
She also feels it is much more of a fashion show concept than a pageant. Richards eventually migrated to London where she continues to work in the beauty industry, and says although her life went back to normal after the pageant she would not trade the experience, as she walked away being a more developed person both professionally and personally.
Miss T&T is back
On Sunday T&T saw the crowning of the new Miss T&T Avionne Mark who beat out her nine competitors. The show took place at NAPA and was organised by the its new franchise holder—Tribe. Speaking to the T&T Guardian via telephone, interview skills and personality development trainer, Adrian Raymond praised Tribe for undertaking the task of reviving the pageant company. “The candidates are really the show and I think overall it was a better show than we have seen in the recent years,” said Raymond.
He expressed satisfaction with the results of the show, including Mark’s victory. “Even international sites that follow pageants have listed her as a favourite already,” revealed Raymond. In regard to the struggle over the past years with the pageant company, Raymond said the problem mostly lies with the lack of financial support from corporate T&T. “Corporate T&T only gets involved when the girl wins, for the most part they are not involved.” He said over the years, because of limited finances, they were forced to choose where best to invest the money—putting on a fantastic production or keeping the funds to ensure the delegate is properly prepared to represent the country.
The latter was always more important. Raymond said with Tribe as the new franchise holders, they are hoping to have the best of both worlds but will still require help from corporate T&T. Regarding some comments made on the social media networks Facebook and Twitter about the questions the delegates were asked, Raymond said the questions were formatted in recognition of the nation’s 50th anniversary and were not necessarily prepared to challenge the girls’ intelligence, as this would have already been done in the pre-interviews. So is the Miss T&T pageant on the right track? Raymond believes it is. “These women are representing this country and if we don’t support them positively how can they be encouraged to take us internationally?”