Reigning Miss La Reine Rive, Mekelia Miller, in many ways defines much of what the Best Village tradition represents.
She has had a longstanding love and respect for the tradition, and has vivid memories of watching every available episode of the show with her grandmother. She was intrigued by the presence of people who looked like her, doing the things that she loved and telling stories that resonated with her.
Her victory as the representative for the group Eh Bien Oui Don Don, based in the Trincity community, has been roughly ten years in the making and well worth the wait.
Miller was born and raised in La Horquetta, but has roots in Tobago. She regrets not growing up experiencing Tobago’s rich heritage.
As a graduate of Bishop Anstey High School East, she was delighted to formally study theatre arts, and to meet and bond with a number of other like-minded young people.
"Attending Bishop's afforded me the opportunity to delve into the world of culture, and to become involved in the Best Village competition," Miller told WMN. She and her schoolmates agreed to form a cultural group to ensure their “sense of camaraderie among the alumni that had studied the performing arts, was maintained.” In this way, they “would continue creating and working together post-graduation.”
This was where Eh Bien Oui Don Don was born. The name is a Patois expression that translates to "allyuh listen to this, is a good one."
The chance to represent her community as the Miss La Reine Rive aspirant was a singular honour, partly because she feels that her ten-year journey of trial and error prepared her to comfortably step into this role as queen, as well as to be a mentor to the other members of her team. At 27, Miller considers herself a Best Village veteran, having gained experience with the competition just out of secondary school. Her selection by colleagues then to be the pageant entrant was almost a foregone conclusion, since she had participated in the 2012 Ms Full-Figured Teen Trinidad and Tobago pageant. With a difference of five points separating her from the winner, Miller walked away with the second prize. She describes this as being “a life changing moment,” which she said allowed her “to unlock a whole new world, in terms of my identity, my confidence and my approach to life in general.”
“It was like a debutant moment for me, I received the right kind of training and refining that I needed at that time. As a plus-sized teenager in 2012, the world perceived us very differently from the way they do now.”
In hindsight, she acknowledges that the Miss La Reine Rive contest has a certain prestige when compared to the other competitions, and she may have underestimated what was required.
“I don’t think a 17-year-old version of myself would have been able to deliver what was expected of a Miss La Reine Rive queen at that time.”
She hadn't considered that this was a competition with 50 years of history behind it. She did not qualify beyond the semi-final round, but she developed a healthy respect for the competition, and committed to develop herself to the required standard. Having come to terms with what was necessary to impress the judges, she determined not only to improve, but also to equip herself with the resources to function as a chaperone and mentor to others who were new to the contest. She is encouraged by the fact that since assuming that responsibility as part of the committee after 2013, she has successfully mentored at least five winners. The confident Miller developed the motivation to be deliberate and voracious about acquiring new skills.
In the years between her first attempt at the Miss La Reine Rive competition and her present victory, she entered several other pageants and emerged as the winner on two separate occasions. In 2018, she won Miss Fabulous Plus TT, and Miss Plus World TT in 2021. She then competed in the international leg of the competition in 2022 in Houston, Texas, where she was the first runner-up.
Miller compares the Best Village competition to the Olympics, where multiple participants vie for glory in various disciplines, Miss La Reine Rive being one. The Miss La Reine Rive ("the queen arrives") is an integral part of the annual Best Village competition. Despite having had this level of experience and exposure to pageantry, Miller continues to rank this competition above the others.
“Pageants generally focus on the physical aesthetics, and deportment, modelling and showcasing of self; but Best Village’s La Reine Rive has always been heavily focused on community representation and talent."
When TT hosted Carifesta in 2019, the format of the pageant was modified to include a question and answer segment. Because of her first experience in this competition and her fixation with perfecting her craft, she was unrelenting and uncompromising in her preparation, intent on ensuring that she made a difference this time around.
Eh Bien Oui Don Don fielded participants in numerous events, including drumology, folk theatre, dance, village chats and of course Miss La Reine Rive. In addition to Miller’s victory, the group also placed first in the Folk Theatre competition, and received awards in 13 additional categories; including best costume.
To say that her victory was a surreal experience doesn’t quite capture what Miller felt on the night. In fact, she said it was not until she viewed the recorded footage of the evening that she was fully aware of what had transpired. Her rendition of a calypso by the late Singing Sandra titled Power in Song for her talent offering, was well received by both judges and audience.
Having secured this victory, her one-year reign provides a platform to identify and work on community enrichment projects. She hopes to partner with the Best Village organisation, offering her academic and experiential skills to attempt to improve community development, while working with young men and women in bringing greater recognition to the value that can be added through the performing arts. Together with her team, they are already working on developing programmes and projects to execute these plans to serve local communities.
Miller is a final year student at UWI, reading for her BA in theatre arts. She said she feels both humbled and privileged to be mentored by so many talented professionals, some of whom also have connections to Best Village. She said she is deeply grateful to God for the platform she has been granted, and describes the opportunity as “one of the most perfect brands that I can represent because it ties directly with my passion, which is to integrate all of the skills I’ve been blessed with, to be able to serve people.”
“I feel fuzzy on the inside, knowing that I now have the audience that I always wanted, and the support of the Best Village organisation, my network and my group, Eh Bien Oui Don Don, I have to trust in God for a successful reign, as the 60th anniversary queen, that I can make a difference, look back at my reign and be proud that I have set a new standard for queens going forward.”