Cara Samlalsingh, Mekelia Miller: Celebrating big, beautiful women

Mekelia Miller dreams of the day when beauty queens won't be separated by body type. Photo courtesy Mekelia Miller -
Mekelia Miller dreams of the day when beauty queens won't be separated by body type. Photo courtesy Mekelia Miller -

BEAUTY, for some, is skin deep. But for two queens chosen to represent Trinidad and Tobago in the Miss Plus World, beauty is down to their big bones.

Cara Samlalsingh and Mekelia Miller who will represent TT in Texas in March, told WMN they are hoping to add to the country's regalia at beauty competitions.

Samlalsingh, who boasts of being a jack of many trades and the master of four, is a chef, cosmetologist, caterer and an administrative assistant, when she is not modelling professionally. She said she started taking pageantry seriously after entering and placing third in Talented Moms in 2016. Her first crown was at Miss Fabulous Plus, also in 2016. The following year she won Miss Plus Universe.

The 38-year-old mother of two will represent TT as the delegate for Miss World Intercontinental under the Miss Plus World banner. She, like Miller, can also be crowned Miss Plus World Intercontinental Humanitarian Ambassador based on the number of points they receive for their humanitarian efforts.

Miller, 26, will vie for the Miss Plus World title.

The two women were placed in separate categories because of their age differences. Miss Plus World is for women 19 to 34, while women 35 and over compete for Miss World Intercontinental. Both categories have the additional humanitarian title to fight for.

A full figure is not unhealthy

Cara Samlalsingh, Ms Plus Intercontinental TT, says being a full-figured woman is not about an unhealthy lifestyle. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

Samlalsingh said over the years she was pushed to enter pageants and be a mouthpiece for full-figured women.

“Now I'm being able to talk to young women and help them learn to love and appreciate themselves. My platform is women empowerment. Accept yourself for who you are and in turn share that love with others. Encourage other women to accept themselves because self acceptance is important. And that is what being a full-figured woman is. It is not about obesity or being unhealthy.”

Both women said they were always plus-sized and struggled with accepting not just their inner beauty but their outer beauty as well.

“I always wondered where people like me fitted in terms of beauty and the way beauty is portrayed. That is what encouraged me to start pageantry at 16. I was in love with beauty pageants and what it did for young women,” Miller told WMN.

She said at one point in her life she never thought pageantry was for someone of her size and thought she needed to change her figure. Her first pageant was Miss Full Figured Teen, which she entered ten years ago and she was the first runner up. Two years late she competed in Miss Fabulous Plus and was the first runner up.

Miller, also a cosmetologist, said it was being around women with her body shape that changed her, for the better.

“I will always credit them for changing my life because prior to these competitions I was very shy. I would never take risks. I did not believe in my capabilities. If I didn’t compete in that pageant I don’t know who I would have been today."

Support 'di big beauty queen'

Jamaican dancehall artiste Sean Paul sang praises to "di big beauty queen" like Miller and Samlalsingh in his hit Deport Dem. And Adina Pollard-Simon, national director, pageant producer and franchise owner of the Miss Plus World Trinidad and Tobago, wants just that – support.

Cara Samlalsingh, Ms Plus Intercontinental TT, wants young full-figured women to celebrate who they are. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

She told WMN her main grievance is a lack of support for full-figured beauty contestants. The 2019 Miss Plus Intercontinental and Miss Plus Intercontinental humanitarian ambassador said when she compares TT with other countries in the plus-size pageantry, TT is far behind in support, but head above the rest in beauty and personality.

“I am calling on TT to support us plus size woman more because like myself, I have been flying the flag for a while and I when I say a while, for few years. I have represented my country in Tortola, regionally and Hollywood internationally,” Pollard-Simon said.

The former queen said she wrote to the Ministry of Tourism Culture and the Arts requesting assistance when she represented the country and will be making another plea for the delegates, who are also sourcing their own funds. Other countries crowned their delegates months ago and have a leg up on Samlalsingh and Miller who were bestowed their titles on November 27.

“There is a national costume category so I am calling on all those bandleaders out there to get on board. TT is the land of calypso and pan and Carnival. So this will be again us showcasing our beautiful island. We also have the evening gown category and they need to be prepared."

Miller said she can only dream of a day when beauty queens won't be separated by body type. She said while it may be far in becoming reality, she still has hope that beauty will not be limited to slim women.

More than their size

Samlalsingh said growing up she had to deal with being called names like “boboloops” and “fatso”, but thanks to her grandmother Eris Angela Taitt, she learnt to navigate those troubled waters.

“Granny always instilled in me, 'accept yourself for who you are. Let no one change you by the words they say about you because they don’t determine your future.' Now that I am older and I have a daughter I am realising that boys are teasing her about her size because she is the opposite of me. She is petite but she has my butt, and I remind her of what granny used to tell me.”

Miss Plus World contestant Mekelia Miller said being around women with her body shap helped her confidence. Photo courtesy Mekelia Miller. -

Miller, on the other hand, said an indirect social media comment by someone questioning the beauty of the full-figured women left her emotionally scarred. She said thanks to the support of her parents she was better able to weather that storm.

“The greatest compliment I ever received came from a child when I visited Newtown Girls' Primary School. She was like, 'Aunty you are the best princess I ever saw.' That took a lot for me not to cry. If a child in all their innocence can acknowledge you in that way it is really heart warming. I knew I was in the right place because it allowed them to see another representation of what a queen looks like."

Asked about the societal switch which sees full-figured women as being just as beautiful as slim women, Miller said it is an opportunity to remind the young women who are plus-sized that their beauty is not defined by society’s acceptance or latest fad.


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