"Never let go of your dreams... Don't give up for you can achieve great things." That's the advice from newly-crowned Miss T&T Universe, Gabrielle Walcott, to women hoping to follow in her footsteps.Walcott beat out seven competitors at O2K Park, Chaguaramas, on Saturday evening, to cop the coveted title.She now goes on to represent T&T at the highly-anticipated Miss Universe Pageant, in São Paulo, Brazil, on September 12.No stranger to international competition, Walcott, who was second runner-up at the 2008 Miss World Pageant in South Africa, said while she was happy about her performance, she is still "shocked" that she had walked away with the crown."I'm still in disbelief...I honestly feel that I'm going to wake up any minute," she said."It really hasn't sunk in as yet."From the minute I saw Wendy (former Miss Universe Wendy Fitzwilliams), it's been my dream to win this competition...She crowned me last night (Saturday), so it's come full circle and it's so amazing."
But while the 26-year-old beauty managed to maintain her composure on stage, she confessed that her nerves almost got the better of her, as she "broke out in hives," mere hours before the pageant. Walcott said: "My entire body was covered in hives the night before. My neck was swollen. I had to get myself into a zone. I put on my ipod and listened to some music and I said to myself 'stay focused.'"Stating that she "grew up in church," the Petit Valley resident said she relied heavily on her strong faith in God to get her through the event."I prayed the Holy Spirit prayer about 100 times. My father is a deacon, so I've always been involved in the church. I've also found my own relationship with God and I know that he knows what's best. He never gives you anything that you can't handle," she said:
Meanwhile, Ian Lee, franchise holder and national director, Miss T&T Universe Pageant, said he was pleased with the quality of Saturday's show, despite the noted absence of Miss T&T Universe 2010 winner, La Toya Woods. Lee said he contacted Woods a few days before the pageant to ask that she attend the event. Woods, however, never responded, he added."The invitation was offered to her via a telephone conversation and via e-mail," Lee said. "La Toya did not indicate that she would attend or not...But the show must go on."He said Woods did a tremendous job during her reign, but stated that it may have been a "guiding light" to have Fitzwilliam crown Walcott as the winner, as "everything happens for a reason."
He said: "The night really belonged to Kim Sabeeney and her tribute. Overall, it was a fantastic show. Gabby's win is phenomenal for all of us. Maybe it was God's guidance to have Wendy crown her. We're well poised to do something good at that show."Former franchise holder, Peter Elias, who resigned from the post in 2008, told the T&T Guardian that Walcott was his "last queen" and he had "no doubt" she would do well. "My team and I have worked with Gabrielle and she was a diligent student," he said. "She always gave 100 per cent and I feel confident that she will give her best and that she will represent our country. I think that the experience of the success she earned previously will only make her a more credible representative for us."