SHE Carribean Magazine - - COVER STORY -

Over the years, I've been priv­i­leged to have had the op­por­tu­nity to ob­serve her meta­mor­pho­sis from sim­ply gor­geous to uni­ver­sallyad­mired woman of many tal­ents. Peter Elias, a mu­tual friend, had in­tro­duced us while I was in Trinidad on an as­sign­ment for SHE Caribbean. Al­ready she had been cho­sen to rep­re­sent her coun­try in the Miss Uni­verse pageant. The venue was Viet­nam; the year 2008.

Anya Ayoung-Chee was not your typ­i­cal Miss Uni­verse con­tender. The av­er­age as­pi­rant is around five-ten, five-eleven tall; this beauty from the Land of the Hum­ming­bird stands at just about 5'6”. But the ex­pe­ri­enced Elias was con­fi­dent she would more than make up for the height dif­fer­ence with her “ob­vi­ous class and pedi­gree.”

In Peter's un­der­stand­ably be­daz­zled eyes, Anya was a star wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered. By her own ac­count, she agreed to be Trinidad's Miss Uni­verse can­di­date mainly be­cause she has al­ways been ex­tremely pa­tri­otic.

“I love Trinidad,” she told me re­cently, her eyes re­flect­ing the un­de­ni­able pa­tri­o­tism in her soul. “I felt so hon­oured to have been asked. How could I say no?”

She pauses, as if re­vis­it­ing the mo­ment, then chuck­les: “I have to ad­mit that I didn't en­joy the prepa­ra­tions. I couldn't help think­ing it was all—well—a lit­tle silly!”

Know­ing Peter Elias as I do, I had no trou­ble imag­in­ing him in his role as Anya's coach—and her pre­dictable re­ac­tions: “What do you mean I can't walk? How do you think I move around?”

The pageant it­self was not with­out its dis­ap­point­ments, she re­called, but noth­ing she ex­pe­ri­enced in Viet­nam could eclipse the over­whelm­ing pride she felt wear­ing her Trinidad & Tobago sash. She failed to make the top ten fi­nal­ists but what both­ered her more was “be­ing ob­jec­ti­fied in that way.”

She re­turned home, fully aware what oc­cu­pied the minds of her fel­low Trinida­di­ans was not her on­stage per­for­mance. An al­most forgotten sex tape fea­tur­ing Anya had some­how sur­faced, and now more fame than she'd ever dreamed of awaited her at home— for the worst rea­sons imag­in­able.

“The re­lease of that tape caused a lot of pain and shame,” she re­called, bowed head in her hands. “Es­pe­cially to my par­ents.” Nev­er­the­less Anya was, quite char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, up front about the scan­dal du jour. Look­ing back, she says she was dev­as­tated when the tape first sur­faced and for a long time af­ter­ward, not so much be­cause of her con­tri­bu­tion to it as for the pos­si­ble im­pact on those who might have seen it.

“There are so many dif­fer­ent lay­ers to us as hu­man be­ings,” she mused, “so many as­pects. That any­one should be cru­elly la­beled for one mis­take is so wrong, so un­fair. No per­son is one-di­men­sional but peo­ple tend to for­get that.”

The won­der­ful news, by her own ac­count,

Anya rep­re­sent­ing Trinidad and Tobago at the 2008 Miss Uni­verse Com­pe­ti­tion held in Nha Trang, Viet­nam.

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