WITHOUT ever having to stepped foot inside the Sheraton Hotel, Houston, Texas, Mekelia Miller was able to sway the judges virtually and earn second place in Miss Plus World.
Speaking with Newsday at Eight Street, Barataria, on April 22, 26-year-old Miller boasted that had she been there personally, the title would have undoubtedly been hers.
“Coming into the top five was a major accomplishment. To push pass ladies who were there physically, because I was the only delegate from the Miss Plus World that was virtual and also made it into the top five. To not even be there physically and leave an impact on the judges was great.
“I know I would have been able to connect even better physically, but just to be considered for the top five to rank among the top five with these ladies, was an honour. I knew I would have been able to make a stronger impact physically. The British Virgin Island won. Me saying I would have placed higher is not to take anything away from her success but I do believe that I would have had the competence to take the title if I was there physically.”
Miller and Cara Samlalsingh represented TT in the Miss Plus World under two separate categories. Miller fought for the Miss Plus World title while Samlalsingh competed for Miss World Intercontinental. Both categories had an additional Miss Plus World Intercontinental Humanitarian Ambassador competition, which neither of them won.
The queens were crowned last year to represent TT on March 11 and 12 in Texas. Due to restrictions on visa appointments at the US Embassy, the women were unable to receive their visas in time to compete in person.
Samalalsingh made it to the top 15 but did not advance further. She said competing virtually hindered her advancement. Not new to beauty pageants, Samlalsingh said the virtual experience was strange and exciting.
“It was a very strange and exciting experience. It's the first time I've ever done a virtual competition, which was a little weird for me. You know, because how I sit with you one on one here, it’s difficult, to show people who you really are via camera. It was weird but I enjoyed it though, I must say.”
Asked if she believed her not being judged in person hampered her advancement, Samlalsingh said, “I think so. Because for me, I interact with people better when I can see you, connect with you face to face. You can see the genuineness of my smile. I always tell people, I know what my superpower is; my superpower is I can walk into a room and you'd be having a bad day and all I have to do is smile with you and your mood will automatically change. I don’t mean to toot my own horn but I am such a people person.”
National director, pageant producer and franchise owner of the Miss Plus World TT Adina Pollard-Simon said Miller’s placing is an added boost for her and her passion to showcase full-figured women as the beauty queens they are.
“With plus-size women I will say that (Miller’s second place) gives us a chance and gives other plus-size women who are looking on, the confidence to say okay, if she did it, I can do it too.”
Leading up to the March competition, Pollard-Simon said there were issues regarding financial support from both public and private sector and hopes this will end now that Miller has shown TT is capable of greatness. Having spent her own money to ensure the candidates had what they needed, Pollard-Simon said she hopes financial support will be given in the future, adding, she hopes to be self-sufficient one day.
Since placing second, Miller said she is now focusing on finishing her bachelor’s degree in theatre arts at UWI. She said she received positive feedback from the organisers and is confident that if she is to represent the country again, she will return with the crown.
“Since competing locally, my platform has always been mental health awareness in teens and women. I have had a passion for that sometimes. I believe in mentorship for teens, because we've seen teens lashing out for different reasons and having interesting behaviour. To me it’s more than the issue of the violence in schools, I feel like it's a cry for help in a way because there's something that we may be missing as far as the mental states of these children.”
She said while competing in various pageants locally, she launched her humanitarian platform the Pink Purpose Project. She said this project aimed at spreading mental health awareness is beyond a pageant project, one she will continue well after the glitz and glamour.
After being featured in Newsday's Women's Magazine (WMN) last December, and then placing first runner-up, Miller said she gained overwhelming support.
“It's almost like people needed to see that I could do it and we can make a name for ourselves for them to believe in the vision and see that what we're doing is not a joke, it’s serious.The turnaround was welcomed. It was refreshing and I'm glad we could have changed the hearts of so many.
“The article actually was a major turning point for the perspective and overall view. I got a lot of support following that. We got the support, and after coming second I remember the show ended at 1 am and I just put up one status on Facebook telling everybody “Trinidad and Tobago first runner-up” and over 400 comments later, people were just showering me with congratulations and I was like 'Wow, imagine if I had won!'”