A video of a child growing up in the San Juan community plays on a screen. Romanesque columns line either side of a well-lit stage and dancers can be seen peeking out from behind.
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Miss World T&T a John John hero
Cameras flashed and autographs were signed, as scores of supporters gathered at a basketball court in John John, Laventille, yesterday to cheer on T&T Miss World Athaliah Samuel. She took pride of place at the head of a motorcade organised by the John John and Environs Improvement Organisation.
“Can I get a picture with you?” “Sign my schoolbook, please,” “I love you, you are my hero” were some of the comments heard from the youths of the community as they surrounded Samuel’s vehicle. Although the motorcade organised in her honour was delayed by the numerous requests, Samuel waited patiently, showing no signs of diva-like behaviour while accommodating everyone.
Samuel will be representing T&T at the upcoming Miss World pageant in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China, next month. She said she was overwhelmed by all the support she has been receiving from her John John community. “It feels like a light has been shone in the community,” she said. “Communities like John John are always projected in such a negative light, it is good to know that the people have something positive to celebrate.”
Samuel said her journey has been long but her faith was never shaken in the process. Having entered both the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants a number of times but never passing the first stage, she says her strong sense of self and her faith in God made it all possible. “I have been screening since 19 years old but each time I didn’t make it. The reason cited was the gap in my front teeth,” she said.
She said pageant directors told her that was her only hindrance. She now wears braces made possible by the Ministry of Health, one of her sponsors. Samuel, 24, says her accomplishment has created a sense of peace in her community. “Everybody is just focusing on supporting me and advertising the community in a positive light.” Samuel is scheduled to leave for China tomorrow.