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A world wonder
My name is Giselle La Ronde-West and I was Miss World. I was born in the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. But grew up all over Trinidad, ending up in South for most of my life. Now I’m living in the North, it’s like an outing to get to San Fernando. I’ve heard Trinidadians say, “They have South people, and then they have Pointe-a-Pierre” people. Being in St Peter’s was a little secluded. Quite a few people went from St Peter’s to Naps and Convent; I chose to stay in the secondary school and I don’t regret it. The golf course was there—I didn’t play golf; but I went to school with Stephen Ames, though!
My father died three years ago, unfortunately. I loved my Dad to death and he was the joy of the family. Always cracking a joke. I miss that. But I can’t say I was desperately close to him. My husband Heathcliff and I have two boys, Kye, 16, and Kristof, 11. I’m the one always yelling behind them. All he has to do is look at them and they jump! Young people don’t respect adults the way they used to. We’re so used to doing what the Americans do, children feel they have a say and a right and all of that. Growing up, I always wanted a boy and a girl; I did lose one in-between my boys so that may have been the girl. Who knows?
It’s a hard thing to lose a child (in pregnancy). You think about it for a while. When the next child comes, of course it’s easier—even though it increases the worry during the pregnancy. When you get over the fifth month, you say, “Whew!” You hear so many older wives say, “My husband wasn’t even around the hospital when the child born!” The things you see fathers doing now, it’s so commendable. I’m glad I’m in the time where men don’t say, “I would never change a diaper!”
Our boys like going to the beach with us. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just for the lift because, when you get to the beach, they disappear. Yes, I want to be successful in the corporate world and, yes, I am independent. But I’m definitely not a feminist, where I don’t understand there is a certain role in a family for a woman. I hope my boys meet girls who don’t get so caught up in the working world that they neglect the role of the mother in the home.
I knew I was good-looking but never thought I was exceptional, more gorgeous than anybody else. I was a tomboy, too, was never glamorous, never ever a girly-girl, getting my nails or hair done or anything.
When I was maybe five, Mummy says, everywhere I went, I’d tell people, “I’ll dance. For ten cents”. Thank God that didn’t develop into dancing for more! In my early 20s, people began saying I had a resemblance to (former T&T Miss Universe) Penny (Commissiong). But, once you have a cute little face, they’ll say you kinda resemble the last beauty queen. I never took it on. So it’s ironic that, just nine years after she won, I won.
People literally forced me to enter Miss World. Got me a swimsuit and an evening gown and said, “Okay, we’re taking you to the pageant!” It was the last day to be eligible and they dragged me to Port-of-Spain.
There were all these gorgeous women who were better-looking than me, had better wardrobes than me, coming from aristocratic backgrounds and had, naturally, all the airs. I was coming from a normal background, little family in Marabella, working at a credit union. It was a big achievement, for me, to be even among all that. I think it’s all divine because why did friends encourage me that year, and not the year before or after? I think, where you’re supposed to be, God will guide you.
My exposure to life changed after Miss World–being thrown into society. Not in terms of who I am. My values have stayed the same. Fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with men approaching, “Miss World.” People said I was aloof and unapproachable before and after Miss World. I never had flocks of guys swarming all over me. I encourage young women to forget all those negative things people say about beauty pageants being all sexist and racist. Know that you’re going into the competition for a purpose and can only get good out of it, because it’s all about development. But if you feel you don’t have what it takes, don’t embarrass yourself.
The best thing about being Miss World was getting the money to go to university at once. I was saving money to go to UWI, but went abroad and did it on a bigger scale. There was no bad thing about Miss World. But my life isn’t as private as it was before it. I don’t call it a negative because I understand people want to know and I deal with it. Being Miss World has followed me up to now. And it’s 25 years ago, this year. When I meet people, the pride and love they extend, it’s so great. It’s almost like I did it for them!
I watch Miss World sometimes. People expect me to be glued to the television when it’s showing but not all the time.
Being Miss World hindered entering the corporate world. There are male—and female—egos that had preconceived notions: she was Miss World, so have to be a bimbo! Up to this day. A Trini is vivacious, outgoing, loving and giving. Very much a people’s person. Trinidad and Tobago means the world to me. This is where my parents were born, I was born, my husband and children were born. It’s my rock at the centre of the universe. Giselle La Ronde-WestRead a longer version of this feature at www.BCRaw.com
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