What Hap­pens Af­ter Queen Show?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Clau­dia Elei­box

Only a woman who has en­dured blis­ter-cov­ered feet, 25-hour days, rig­or­ous train­ing ses­sions and un­for­giv­ing pub­lic scru­tiny can re­mem­ber, for a life­time, the lessons that pageantry teaches.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, a glit­tery night end­ing in fancy gowns and the crown fi­nally set­tling on a head isn’t all it takes to be queen. For weeks and months ahead of the event, con­tes­tants are moulded and shaped into pris­tine am­bas­sadors, at the heart of which is ded­i­ca­tion, hard work and com­mit­ment. The process is not only to com­pete for a crown but also to rep­re­sent the coun­try proudly, and to give back in prac­ti­cal ways.

That is ex­actly what the Na­tional Car­ni­val Queen (NCQ) 2016 con­tes­tants dis­played when they met with the STAR for an in­ter­view. It was the first time that the me­dia in­vited them to talk about their ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter the fact, and for most of them it was sur­pris­ing and ex­cit­ing. In­ter­est­ingly, there was so much more they had ac­com­plished af­ter the pageant, which shows that they are all queens in their own right.

Shar­toya Jn Bap­tiste, Kaysia Verneuil, Ber­nella Veli­nor, Anna-Kim Wil­liams, Ker­line Sylvester and Rac­quel John are all beau­ti­ful, vi­brant and filled with in­spir­ing sto­ries which they were happy to share with us. Six out of the eight con­tes­tants (Tyler Theo­phane, Miss Saint Lu­cia 2016, and Sheris Paul were un­avail­able) had one thing in com­mon: they had in­spired some­one by their brave act to com­pete on a na­tional stage. Young, as­pir­ing pageant par­tic­i­pants fre­quently send them mes­sages seek­ing ad­vice and tips. Some even look to them as mentors. Anna-Kim Wil­liams rem­i­nisced at­tend­ing a pageant be­cause she just couldn’t let a lit­tle girl down af­ter all the con­ver­sa­tions they had lead­ing up to it.

But, the most im­pres­sive at­tribute of the NCQ 2016 con­tes­tants is their con­stant and con­tin­u­ous ef­fort to drive change in their com­mu­ni­ties. Although their spon­sors ini­ti­ated some of their work, many of them took up in­cen­tives on their own. To­gether, the eight young women hosted an em­pow­er­ment ac­tiv­ity on Women’s Day at the Cas­tries Com­pre­hen­sive Sec­ondary School.

Shar­toya and Rac­quel have made it their duty to go out to schools with the aim of in­spir­ing young minds.

Shar­toya was more focuesd on the as­pects of dance and per­sonal devel­op­ment. Her big­gest chal­lenge was mas­ter­ing the art of pub­lic speak­ing dur­ing the 2016 pageant and now she uses the ex­pe­ri­ence to mo­ti­vate stu­dents, es­pe­cially those who wish to be­come pageant queens. She has fa­cil­i­tated short but well planned work­shops and ac­tiv­i­ties at var­i­ous sec­ondary schools, and even man­aged to leave a painted mu­ral at the Ave Maria Pri­mary School.

Rac­quel has been work­ing with chil­dren, fo­cus­ing on the power of ed­u­ca­tion. She has built a re­la­tion­ship with the Gros Islet Pre-school and Pri­mary School where she hosts dance classes and read­ing ses­sions. She was also the guest speaker dur­ing read­ing month at Dame Pear­lette Louisy Pri­mary School and hosted ses­sions with Grade 6 stu­dents to pro­vide them with tips for the big Com­mon En­trance Exam.

Rac­quel and Shar­toya teamed up at Christ­mas time to col­lect and pro­vide a few fam­i­lies with needed food and school sup­plies, and Kaysia has since reached out in sim­i­lar fash­ion. Us­ing her pro­fes­sion of teach­ing, she aims to mo­ti­vate stu­dents in a whole­some way; she helps her stu­dents with pub­lic speak­ing and learn­ing how to re­spect them­selves. “I could al­ready see ‘mini me’s!” she ex­claimed. “They’re so vi­brant and mimic ev­ery­thing I do.”

Both Kaysia and Ber­nella have projects in the works for their com­mu­nity. Kaysia is pre­par­ing to hope­fully or­ga­nize a Cre­ole Pageant in La­borie next year in ad­di­tion to her work with the South Ro­taract Chap­ter. Ber­nella is ex­plor­ing the idea of a Ju­nior Am­bas­sadors Project which will train youth in lead­er­ship qual­i­ties.

Since July 2, 2016 they have all trav­elled a long and en­rich­ing road and it doesn’t seem that they plan to come off track. Ker­line made a com­ment with which they would all agree: “Cur­rently I serve as a men­tor to a num­ber of teenagers. My aim is mainly to help and en­cour­age the youth of Saint Lu­cia to over­come chal­lenges, be­come suc­cess­ful and achieve their goals by de­vel­op­ing a pos­i­tive mind.”

Con­tes­tants of the 2016 Car­ni­val Queen pageant have, since 2016, been in­volved in a num­ber of men­tor­ship ini­tia­tives.

Miss Saint Lu­cia Zouks Raquel John with stu­dents from the Gros Islet Pre-school.

Miss Massy Stores 2016 Shar­toya Jn Bap­tiste ex­e­cuted a dance work­shop at the Saint Joseph con­vent.

Ber­nella Veli­nor vol­un­teer­ing at the NCF telethon.

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