Kenisha Thom-Selvon is all about beauty with purpose. "Helping people is not my calling, it is my responsibility," said the Tobago-born beauty who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
Thom-Selvon placed in the top 15 in the Miss World competition in Sanya, China, and was second runner-up in the Beach Beauty and Miss?Sports categories. She also placed in the top 25 in the Miss Talent competition. At the Miss Universe competition in Los Angeles, Thom-Selvon placed in the top ten.
The 28-year-old former beauty queen now juggles her duties as a mother, wife, student and director in a non-governmental organisation, as well as her job at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). She is pursuing postgraduate studies in international relations at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and has a First Class Honours degree in management studies.
But what brings Thom-Selvon a great sense of satisfaction is helping the less fortunate. Arts-Insight was incorporated in 2010 to assist the disabled and less privileged. The group's most recent project was in collaboration with the US Embassy and the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) where close to 20 living with or affected by HIV/Aids attended a six-week art workshop in March.
Several pieces of artwork were showcased at the XIX International Aids Conference in Washington DC in July and received rave reviews, Thom-Selvon said. Two pieces were sold and the funds given to the participants. On September 21, an exhibition was launched at Soft Box Studio, Alcazar Street, Maraval, to exhibit the artwork locally. It was titled Through Art There is Realisation.
In an interview last week, Thom-Selvon said: "Our main focus is using art as a form of therapy. People suffer physically but also mentally and art allows you to think from within." She said the idea to form an organisation started in 2009 when one of the directors-a stranger, who suffers from cerebral palsy, contacted her via Facebook. She said they began communicating, then met one day with another person and it was agreed that Arts-Insight would be formed.
"We were three strangers who came together," she said. The organisation's directors are Thom-Selvon, Jacelle Alexander, Torrencia Cardinal and Alicia Smith. "We want to become involved in policy-making decisions to help improve the life of our members," Thom-Selvon said.
She said people who suffered from HIV/Aids experience fear, isolation and a range of other emotions and art is able to help them overcome some of those fears. At the six-week art workshop, participants ranging from 16 to 26 years, were asked to express through art, an incident in their lives based a certain topic and emotion.
Thom-Selvon said a counsellor and an artist were present to give guidance. She said some of them were overcome with emotion: "I have always been involved in social work and giving my time and effort towards a greater cause for humanity.
"It was a natural thing to be part of the NGO. "I believe it is our responsibility to assist those who are less fortunate," Thom-Selvon said.
Contact Arts-Insight: twitter.com/artsinsightngo, facebook.com/arts.insight.ngo or Kenisha Thom-Selvon at 354-4670, kenishath[email protected]fightngo.org