The forward thinking and outspoken second runner-up of this year’s La Reine Rive pageant is more social than sociable. A singer all her life, she confessed to not being the most eager entrant to the competition, but walked away with enough life lessons and a renewed sense of purpose for which she is grateful.
Unlike many other pageant entrants, Aneka Ayanna Audain is not a fan of competition – or even keen on pageants themselves; this being only her second. “There was an Emancipation Day Queen show that I placed first in a couple years ago, but I prefer to perform on a stage rather than to compete on one. I was told that I have been singing from since the time I could talk, so I used to compete in calypso competitions when I was younger too. My mom would dress me up and I would go to various places to perform as a child, and I really preferred that than competing,” she recalled.
She said the director of Soul Oasis Cultural Ambassadors, a company with which she is affiliated entered her in the competition, and she didn’t think much of it until it was time to sign off on the entry. “It wasn’t something I would jump at doing but I know how passionate he and the group are so I did,” she said. “I don’t want to be better than anyone but myself; so competition wasn’t my thing. My spirit is mine. My energy is mine. And I don’t believe in having to compete against others for it.” However, she walked away with a solid experience in learning how to up her ‘selfie-game’; meaning her eye for photography and many other of the skills acquired while being in a pageant. Her favourite takeaway, however, are the friends she made while there – the other girls in the competition. “We haven’t closed our group chat as yet – we are all still friends and supportive and loving towards each other. The organisers of the pageant noted that this was one of the best groups they’ve ever had to work with,” she added.
However, she does believe there is much more to do be done with the Prime Minister’s Best Village Competition and La Reine Rive. “This competition has been held for years and there are so many areas that need improvement in terms of the organisation of the event. We need to get serious about our culture as a product. Best Village could be a major revenue earner,” she noted, “but for instance the tickets are given away free to the public and then on the night of the pageant, the attendance is half of what it should be. If there was a nominal fee it would encourage people to come! We just like freeness,” she opined. “The grant to fund theatre aspects of the show have only just been received and the entire Best Village has been executed, judged and we’ve moved on – while everyone had to beg and borrow or spend their own money to get everything done at that point – and that’s sad,” she chided. “We don’t know what is culture. We got colonised and many aspects of our cultures and religions were made illegal and taboo. Sure, today, we are ‘free, independent’ and all that but unfortunately we are very much still slaves – always aspiring to what foreigners have and to European and American standards. Those same foreigners will pay money to attend something like Best Village if we can get it right after all these years,” Audain lamented. Her way of thinking holds itself to the notion that in TT, we often don’t say what we need to say in order to make things better. “I don’t believe in stooping to conquer,” she said.
Despite her seriousness when it comes to talking about making things better in TT wherever we can – at her core, Audain is very much a free spirit. “I aspire to inspire. During the competition I would be backstage, or during rehearsals always ensuring everyone was having a good time or I was making them laugh.” And she’s still trying to figure out her own free spirited path in life. “I make my own beaded jewellery under the name Honey Cocoa Adornments and I spent some time completing my practitioners’ certificate in Drama, Theatre and Education a few years ago. I also sing under the sobriquet Ire, which comes from the word Irenic, which means to promote peace and reconciliation.”
And she remains ever more passionate about the performing arts. “Theatre is a space to provoke thought and emotion,” she highlighted, “while TV is for entertainment. I want to provoke that thinking by performance here. I hope to one day put on my own shows on the performance side not so much the competition side. I have wild ideas to create mixed performance pieces that people will love. Perhaps I can also start a choir as I love to do vocal arrangements and perhaps I may even teach one day.”
Ultimately, Audain simply wants to share ideas and thinking that promote inner peace which can go a long way to a better country for everyone else too.