SEMI-FINALISTS in the upcoming Miss Tobago pageant say the experience thus far has been phenomenal.
The pageant is being held on February 4 at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, but the semi-finals take place on January 21 at the Terrace, Comfort Inn & Suites, Scarborough, from 5 pm.
The winner will represent the island at the next Miss World TT pageant in Port of Spain. The Miss World competition takes place on December 16, 2024, at Yashobhoomi, New Delhi, India.
Coco Velvet International Fashion and Model Management is producing the pageant, with support from the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) Division of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Sport and Culture Fund.
Monique Joseph, who is representing the fishing village of Speyside, said entering the pageant has enabled her to grow as an individual.
“Tobago is a small space and pageants are few and far apart. So when I saw it, it was something I immediately wanted to be a part of. And so far, it has exceeded my expectations,” she said in an interview on December 1.
Joseph said she considers it an honour to represent her village.
“I always try to be a role model for young persons, even in my community and among my peers. We really need to see ourselves as queens throughout life. I don’t need a crown to portray grace, confidence and poise. These are the types of things that you have to normalise in young girls.”
She said the pageant team, comprising Miss World 1986 Giselle Laronde-West, communications practitioner Ricia Ali-Lindow and others, “have really poured into us by boosting our self-confidence, teaching us about deportment, diet. It has really been an unforgettable experience so far.”
Joseph said she was very concerned about violence in the society.
“Sometimes it stems from different issues such as poverty and education. So that is a topic that is truly important.”
She is working on a literacy enhancement project for the pageant.
“I want to help young people in Speyside and environs to learn the basics of reading and writing. Some students are truly left behind and they give up and end up not passing their exams and not being able to enter the workforce.
"So I think this initiative is really going to help, in a wider picture, to deter persons from violence because they are going to be doing something positive with themselves."
Joseph said contestants must also be willing to accept criticism.
“It is ok to note criticism, because some are positive.
"But you really have to have that thick skin among the Tobago space. You have to go past that. Despite criticism you have to see yourself as your best every time.”
Reneesa Ortiz, representing Golden Lane, said she has no regrets about entering the pageant.
“It has empowered me and given me the opportunity to grow a bit more because as you grow you should also be seeking personal development,” said Ortiz, a former student of Signal Hill Secondary School.
Like Joseph, she praised the work of all of the facilitators.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with these persons.”
But she said the journey, thus far, has tested her time-management skills.
Ortiz, who works in the Division of Finance and the Economy and is also an entrepreneur, is doing a degree in business management.
“So I now have to balance the pageant homework that I have from time to time.”
Given the requirements of the pageant, she said, contestants must keep up with appearances at all times.
“You cannot afford to slip, because persons are looking on. You have to be on your A-game at all times. You have to be well-polished before you go into the public space, because you are now someone that persons are looking up to, and you have to be very mindful and careful of your behaviour in the public.”
Ortiz, a member of the Rotaract Club of Tobago, is passionate about the island’s creative industry and believes much more can be done to build its orange economy.
“As a fellow creative myself, I have seen where the creatives need a space to flourish. They need mentors. They need spaces where they can grow, where their talents can be used for the betterment of Tobago on a whole.”
Using France’s most iconic tourist attraction, the Eiffel Tower, as an example, she said, “Why don’t we have persons coming here for our local talent and art? We need to start capitalising on that.”
Ortiz said she is focusing on art tourism for the pageant.
“Our creatives have the opportunity to showcase their gifts and their talents to the world. I remember being in a seminar recently for the division and the speaker attested to all of the Caribbean islands having sun, sea and sand as their brand.
"What does Tobago have to offer? Our creatives can now be the ambassadors for us and generate an income doing so.”
Coco Velvet International CEO Christopher Nathan told Newsday preparations for the are in full swing.
He said of the 15 semi-finalists, nine will be selected to compete for the title.
The delegates recently held a fashion shoot at the Terrace featuring clothing and accessories by Tobago-based designers Donna La Roche of Charlotteville and Ted Arthur Leather Collection.
The young women have been receiving extensive training over the past few weeks in areas such as communications skills, deportment, posture, self-care, corporate etiquette, wardrobe and image management.
Owing to overwhelming interest from Miss World enthusiasts and fashionistas in Trinidad, Nathan said a Tobago fashion and beauty weekend package has been created, with three hotel partners offering special accommodation rates from February 2-5.
Patrons can use a special code to book their rooms at Viola’s, Comfort Inn & Suites and Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort.
Each patron booking the fashion and beauty weekend package will receive a complimentary platinum VIP all-access ticket to attend Makin Style Tobago – the brand name for the pageant.
Nathan said tickets for the semi-finals on January 21 are already on sale at Comfort Inn’s front desk and at the Shaw Park Complex box office.
The event is begins at 5pm, but there will be a pre-show and cocktails segment from 3 pm to give patrons an opportunity to meet the delegates.
Miss Speyside Monique Joseph; Miss Mason Hall Brianna Joseph; Miss Golden Lane Reneesa Ortiz; Miss Calder Hall Tia Santana Small; Miss New Grange Jelani Lovelace; Miss Glamorgan Tresha Scott; Miss Plymouth Annaya Beard; Miss Black Rock Renee Mc Ewen; Miss Mt Grace Jada Miller; Miss Patience Hill Dejah Vincent; Miss Moriah Jhovell Sealey; Miss Crown Point Shania Elliott; Miss Bon Accord Makayla Mc Kenzie; Miss Charlotteville Lily Mc Kenzie; Miss Scarborough Dionne Mc Kenzie.
Miss World 1986 Giselle Laronde-West; Miss Universe 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam; national franchise director for the Miss World TT Pageant Crystal Noreiga; international fashion designer Charu Lochan Dass; director, ELSA Exclusive Look, John Bilbo; THA Secretary of Education, Research and Technology Zorisha Hackett.