Popular model Soowan Bramble of Claxton Bay participated in the very first staging of the Best Model of The Universe Pageant in Panama recently and emerged as the winner.
The Moruga beauty got the better of 15 delegates when the pageant was held in Panama City, in April.
Bramble, who's been a professional model for the past seven years, was "handpicked" by Oneness Entertainment T&T CEO Vanessa Sahatoo-Manoo, franchise-holder for the Model of the Universe pageant.
Revealing something of herself, Bramble said: "I come from a large family; three brothers and two sisters. I originally grew up in Moruga, which is in the countryside, on a farm. We had lots of animals, so I grew up seeing about animals, including looking after pigs and ducks.
"There was also a lot fruit trees on the land, so I am somewhat of a tomboy. I came after my three brothers so I did everything they did, including climbing trees and fishing. I must remember my father's bee farm as he was very proud of it. We supplied our community with honey, eggs and goat milk. My mother did a perfect job as a homemaker, raising us.
"I attended St Mary's Government School, then went on to Marabella Junior and Senior. I went straight into modelling after graduating from school. Modelling was my destiny and my childhood dream was to be a model.
"Though I am well-qualified academically, modelling remains my first love. I was trained by Jacqui Koon How and did my very first show with her, at a small tea party and fashion show. I still remember that like if it was yesterday. Everything I've learned in this business, Jacqui is responsible for that.
Bramble takes issue with people who smirk at the modelling and fashion industry as she thinks it a positive character-building profession.
She said: "I've never entered a Miss T&T pageant but I have entered many other beauty queen pageants. I think queen shows can be like a positive extracurricular activity for young girls. It should also be about building self esteem and developing communities, and helping people. Now, I find that there is too much politics involved in pageants."
"Modelling has helped me in many ways, beginning with my self esteem. I was a somewhat shy child who didn't act out on doing things I inwardly wanted to do.
"Modelling gave me that self confidence to venture into several areas, as well as gave me a positive voice in the modelling arena. Young ladies now seek my advice on several things pertaining to making a career in modelling and fashion. I see myself as a positive influence in the business."
Describing herself as a role model for aspiring young models, Bramble said: "Young women wishing to enter this business need to first realise that if this industry is for you, you will know it. If however, it is not for you, you will also know it–just don't become too passionate about it.
"It's about being prepared to do work very hard to be successful, especially in a small place like T&T. It's not just about the glitz and glamour. Modelling is a business which should not be taken lightly but, as like any other profession, is serious business."
Gemini-born Bramble said she intends staying in the fashion industry "for as long as possible."
She added: "I know that I have a future in this industry, though not knowing right now exactly what. Who knows? I may open a modelling agency, designing and styling, doing consultancy, maybe an all-purpose modelling training centre which focuses on personal development. I definitely would like to get married, and do so before having any kids. I want to have a family."
About her participation in the international pageant, Bramble said: "Vanessa (Sahatoo-Manoo) saw me at a fashion show in south, contacted me and the rest is history."
Interjected Sahatoo-Manoo: "I was simply enthralled by Soowan, the moment I saw her on stage. She electrified the stage and the audience also seemed captivated. I then did some research, asking people about her, and everyone spoke favourable about her.
"To me, she had all the ingredients to represent T&T in this pageant. This was my first year as franchise-holder of Miss Best Model of the Universe. My company has previously selected other girls for other international pageants, and we've always had good results.
"Soowan will be travelling to Panama and other regional destinations as Miss Best Model of the Universe.
"She will be modelling with the parent company there, and will also be promoting projects my company is devoted to. I would like to have Soowan go to Latin America and USA to promote T&T as a tourism destination, and as a place where fashion and modelling play an integral part in the tourism thrust."
Aside from winning the main prize in Panama, Bramble also won awards for Best National Costume (Goddess of the Pitch Lake, designed and made by Gerald Hart of Harts Mas); Best Catwalk Model; Best Body; and, Best Photo Model.
Amongst her numerous sponsors, Bramble is particularly grateful to her designer Heather Jones, Ministry of Arts & Multiculturalism, Francis Fashion, Sascha Cosmetics; A-Lan swim wear designer Rhea Ahong; Jen Care Skin Farm; Steve Samaroo; LeShorn Prescott's Elle Dance Company; and, New Wave Health Club in Couva.
On her return home, Bramble was well received in the VIP Lounge of the Piarco International Airport by Ministry of Multiculturalism & The Arts official Vel Lewis; Heather Jones of Heather Jones Designs; Miss Oneness T&T Beauty Pageant Director Vidya Mungal-Bissessar; Kendell Placide of Nissi Tours and Travel Ltd; and, Sahatoo-Manoo.