St. Maarten Carnival teen and senior contest delivers

POSTED: 04/15/13 1:53 PM
From left to right, the senior contestants for this year’s Carnival Queen strike a pose in their culture wear; Dikenia Lake, Valisca Joseph, Kyara Walker, Davinia Brooks, Shanice Powell and Caroline Paredes. Photo: Today/Milton Peters.

St. Maarten – While there are some clearly outstanding participants for this year’s  Teen and Senior Pageants for Carnival 2013, it is still anyone’s guess and the best may be yet to come. Over the weekend, the beauty ambassadors went neck to neck in a breath-taking and thought provoking preliminary competition for Culture Wear and Speech. The setting was the Great Bay Sonesta Resort, the scene comprised eager adults and children alike crammed into the conference room and the main attraction was a bevy of beauties who strutted with grace and stood tall in representation of their country.

Vying for top points in senior category were Caroline Paredes, Shanice Powell, Davinia Brooks, Kyara Walker, Valisca Joseph and Dikenia Lake. The teen category featured Samantha Philips, Jeanille Gibs, Alvinara Griffin, Cherrianne Dangleben York and Geniquah Thewet.

The points of Saturday night’s competition are to be added to the main event’s, for a final score on Wednesday April 24 at the St. Maarten Festival Village.

Judges for the event were Romain Benjamin, Claudette Forsythe-Labega and Fabian Badejo. In the speech competition, the judges kept a keen eye out for content and command (15 points), construction and creativity (10 points), research and delivery (10 points) and relevance and overall impact (15 points).

Judging categories for cultural wear were carriage and deportment (10 points), creativity (10 points) and visual impact (10 points).

Sensationalism versus Education

The seniors delivered an intense yet insightful speech contest filled with historical quotes, literary devices and passion.  They were asked to speak on the topic: “These Are My Thoughts after Reading Recent News.”

Caroline Paredes

Dancing to the St. Maarten rumba, Paredes’ costume The History of St. Maarten kept it traditional but with a modern twist. She wore various aspects of local craft from potato bag to hand painted cloth with pictures of the cotton and salt picking industries.

“While there is a decrease in violent crimes, there is an increase in moral crimes which signals the need of an overhaul of our thinking. We, as patriotic St. Maarteners, need to be transparent in all sectors of government, legislative, executive and judiciary.  I urge all to come together and prove that this island is ours, one people, one island, one destiny. Always think of ways to be thankful, to improve our position in life, which will ultimately improve our wellbeing and improve our level of thought. This will take it from sight to insight, in a capsule it is better to think wrongly with our heads than to think rightly with the head of another.”

Shanice Powell

When it came time for her presentation, Powell strutted in front of the audience like a proud peacock and proceeded to confidently pose a series of rhetorical questions.

“How does all of this information we observe affect us directly and indirectly? Why is it that I am under the impression that we give a bit more attention to international headlines than we do those that directly concern us? If knowledge is indeed power, how powerful are we? Has anyone ever noticed that while we have numerous public general meetings, but about only five or ten people attend? Or ever noticed that soon the familiar cultural expressions, round the pond or over the pond might soon be irrelevant for future generations since the pond is almost no more? I’m simply trying to bring to your attention the fact that news in general not only affect those that are directly concerned by the information given but also to those that receive the information as fact. Remember the media is a powerful thing, it has the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent because they control the minds of the masses.”

The young woman clad in a traditional multicolored frock representing the French and Dutch aspects of the island had the audience in deep thought before they erupted into cheers at her closing statement a possible new headline would be if she were selected the 2013 Carnival Queen.

Davinia Brooks

A brown pelican is the look that Brooks sought to portray, with a long neck and feathers on her lower torso. Her shoes were adorned with sea salt while her hair was braided with strands of the crocus bag. From the perspective of a news consumer, Brooks chastised the local media for “distorted journalism.”

“Don’t you want to know what is going on? I do. And the bigger the calamity, the more we want to know, nothing can change this and nothing should. Again and again we’ve seen that what we believe initially can be grossly untrustworthy. Keeping up with the news may seem a bit overwhelming at times but understand why it is important to stay informed and you too will read and watch programs on world, regional and local news. In today’s race for breaking news, it would appear that the truth has become a casualty. News today is about sensationalism. Scandal is the base for almost all news reports. While trying to speedily pronounce the verdict any particular incident, the media does not bother to dwell into the inside story. Should the media not be concerned that their distorted journalism could bring about false hopes and fears?”

Kyara Walker

Walker wore a hibiscus adorned gown depicting St. Maarten’s cultural diversity called Hope. She paid homage to her Curacaoleneon, Surinamese and St. Maarten heritage in the costume.

“They say in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And they also say media has become the salt of our people. So I thought to myself, what do they expect of me? What do you expect of me? The same topics that fill our papers for so many years, topics such as dreaded taxes, pension issues, bus fares or for the umpteenth time, the legacy of our Great Salt Pond. Maybe they expect us to talk less about the flaws of our country and more about our success. Probably what they seek to hear is what they allow us to be informed about. This is a small country with monumental potential. I am not blind, nor am I mentally handicapped but what we need is a fresh sound to the ears; positive ideas. Talking about the same old topics will keep our progress in the same old. Innovation is the topic, change is the focus, self-dependency is the goal,   action is the goal and we the people are the building blocks.”

Valisca Joseph

The tallest of the contestants, Joseph placed a modern twist on the traditional madras and floral print from both sides of the island. She blasted the media for printing predominantly negative headlines on its front pages. She made comparisons from various headlines over a two year period.

“The once known Friendly Island is becoming a state for corruption, theft and money laundering. Are we really that badly off or is because the local newspaper only highlight the ills of society, failures and tragedy. We brag and display our troubles on the front page like it’s an accomplishment. Is it only because propaganda sells? Media you are the biggest influence. The majority of us start our day with a  newspaper and coffee…Someone once said if you want to see the achievements and accomplishments, don’t look at the front page turn to the back and read the sports sections.”

Dikenia Lake

At first glance Lake’s culture wear resembled a traditional St. Maarten frock but on closer inspection, contestant number six had taken creativity to another level. The entire skirt was made out of various newspaper clippings.

“As a motivator, I yearn to pinpoint factors of concern because when we tackle the issues that hold us to task, we will all proudly give a salute to our 37 square mile landmass. Have you ever realized that every news media portrays the ugly side of life? Are you not tired of ink filling the paper for negative reasons? While reading the news do you know what strikes me? It is the amount of youth that have succumbed to poverty, abuse, drugs, crime, broken homes and not forgetting, senseless accidents. When I read about the amount of fraudulent activities that are taking place on such a high level, tell me must these practices upset me?”

The Teens Brag about SXM/SMN

The younger contestants were asked to speak on the topic: “Allow Me to Brag about My Country.”

Samantha Philips

In a costume signifying the Lady of Liberty at the Agrement Roundabout, Philips mesmerized the audience with a history lesson on the statue and its place of prominence in St. Martin society. “She is the consciousness of her nation, she embodies the essence of St. Maarten. Her dress representing all that is true, her hue symbolic of me and you, strong and nurturing …she begs us to empower ourselves again.”

Jeanille Gibs

With a sway of her hips, Gibs took the stage as St. Maarten’s Market Lady, selling mangoes of all colors and sizes. After inviting the audience to savour her sweet mangoes, Gibs described the island from Pic Paradis to the Great Bay Harbour.

“My country and by definition, I mean the whole of sweet St. Martin’s land is the smallest piece of mass divided into two countries for over 350 years, peacefully living together. It is the number one destination of the Caribbean. You can search high and low and I assure you, you will never find a place as sweet as St. Maarten. You will never find a place as rich in culture as it is in diversity, you will never find a place where the sun sets on the lagoon and it looks almost unreal. And if you do find such a place, you will notice that you are right back where you started, at my home, Sweet St. Maarten land.”

Alvinara Griffin

Griffin’s costume was called Fusion Paradise and captured the cultural biodiversity of St. Maarten. Her speech read like a marketing infomercial of the island. She skillfully advertised the island’s landscape, real estate, cuisine

“I hail from an island blessed with fame. St. Maarten/St. Martin, a place not prejudiced to one race. If we all lived like this a smile would be forever present on the Lord’s face. Imagine being born in St. Maarten, it’s a real gift from birth…Remember when choosing your home away from home; St. Maarten is the destination you don’t have to think to come alone. I can go on and on as if I won’t come to an end, but can you blame me? I am living in a paradise referred to as heaven,” Griffin said to loud cheers from the audience.

Cherrianne Dangleben York

In a creative and unique ensemble, York sought to embody male and female elements of St. Maarten, dressed partly as a guava berry lady in traditional madras print on the left half of her body and a coal miner on the left side of her body. Her aim was to depict local cultural and traditional industry.

Under a cacophony of steel pan music and African drums, York boasted about the island as though she is giving an in-flight experience to visitors about to touch down at the Princess Juliana International Airport.

“Did you know that this airport is voted number one in the world for most stunning landings?  This island has something so special that on Dutch St. Maarten we boast more than 140 different nationalities, making us known as the melting pot of the Caribbean. SXM Airport is the hub of the Caribbean and serves as a major gateway for both sides of the island and the smaller Leeward Islands. From a tiny US military airstrip in 1942 to an ultramodern international airport in 70 years, St. Maarten’s airport has grown to be one of the busiest in this Region.”

Geniquah Thewet

As contestant number 5, Thewet appeared as the Guava Berry Woman, and sang, “Good morning, good morning, how are you this morning, I bring you some guava berry.” She then proceeded to boast about the aromatic guava berry.

“It is from this little fruit, our national liquor, tarts and jams are made. The guava berry is a local, cultural, heritage tradition. A point of pride, a symbol of St. Maarten/ St. Martin a living link of the past,” Thewet told the audience while numerous guava berries and the rum of a similar name littered her background.

The event was sponsored by Tel’Em Group of Companies and Motorworld. Patrons at the event could be heard saying that this year’s preliminary competition was the best to date. It was apparent that the contestants were well prepared, properly trained and hungry for the title of Ms. Teen Carnival Queen and Ms. Senior Carnival Queen.

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