I will not lie. I was less than enthused when asked to cover this year’s edition of the National Carnival Queen Show. My preconceived notions revolved around the perpetual inability to start on time, the never-ending parade of contestants and performers, not to mention overly chatty hosts drawing out an already lengthy production.
Still, I was willing to give it a shot. Against all good judgment I arrived well before the slated start time of 8 pm at the National Cultural Center, or as I like to call it the hot tin roof, sans furry feline of course. After the cursory security search I headed purposefully to my seat as if willing the show to break tradition and start promptly. I was quickly disabused of that notion when I entered the venue to find it sparsely populated. Lucian time in full effect.
In the meantime, I took in the décor of crisp black draping accented with silver and black animal print. I loved it (and not just because I am partial to any animal print). Little by little the crowd trickled in and for a second it seemed like we would make it after all. Until the clock struck 8 and the musicians were still lollygagging testing their equipment.
Eventually the stage lights came on to reveal the seven lovely ladies entering combat, because let’s face it; pageantry isn’t necessarily pretty. Horror stories abound about the questionable tactics employed by contestants worldwide. But I digress.
As they sashayed and swayed to the upbeat soca tempo I found myself genuinely excited about what was to come. That feeling was fleeting as the colour-coordinated hosts sauntered out and proceeded to introduce the judges with a dossier rivaling that of those actually competing.
Sharing my sentiment one patron yelled out within earshot, “That’s too much! How is here uh?” This was followed by an intense “choops” for emphasis. Ah yes. This show was definitely going to be good. Proving to be length-challenged, a ‘short’ video featuring the magnificent seven was shown before finally getting to the first official segment: The swimsuit competition. A flawless rendition by Anicia Antoine of Jessie J’s “Price Tag” provided the soundtrack as the girls strutted out in floral swimwear; some enthusiastically, others not so much. One even threw in a questionable come hither motion. Bikini bombshell maybe?
The crowd immediately made it clear who they were rooting for as an overwhelming wave of support was shown for one particular contestant. On a side note: I know Digicel is all about being extraordinary nowadays, but those glowing Robocop stilt walkers were just extraordinarily creepy. A dance performance transitioned seamlessly into the costume portion with the girls admirably trying to maneuver bulky costumes while gyrating.
A new feature was added this year as the public was invited to vote for the People’s choice award winner. “Text to win” the host reminded us as she walked away without providing the number as the crowd ‘gently’ pointed out.
Another inspired performance segued into the most dreaded part of any queen show for me: Talent. I’m sorry but belting a market woman skit in an unnaturally loud voice is not indicative of aptitude. This is a pet peeve of mine and I braced myself for the onslaught.
When Jamara Smith emerged on set, I cringed as I anticipated the usual fare. However, she flipped the script as she transitioned into a contemporary dance fraught with emotion. The others continued to impress as they tried their hands at Calypso, an ambitious Adele ballad, and more dancing. When an actual skit finally did appear it was relevant, fresh, and hilarious depicting the ‘gossipy Christian.’ Fabulous!
The performances were truly impressive as the Silver Shadow Dance Troupe featuring less creepy stilt walkers took to the floor.
The lights dimmed as the evening gown portion got underway. May I suggest they consider keeping the police escort who accompanied Ms. Smith? It was a classy touch. A note to future contestants: Think carefully before bringing your visions to life. Otherwise you might wind up with a dress that looks like a vanilla ice-cream serving with sprinkles. Gotta love the flowery descriptions though. A golden haze of flames? Really?
The crowd was eating it up. Was that a vuvuzela I heard?
Finally, the moment everyone was truly waiting for. Lesser men have crumbled and been brought to their knees under the pressure of the interview. It is where contestants have notoriously unraveled. What would this year bring? More of the same as the girls struggled, rallied, and fought to articulate the best possible responses they could muster. You could literally feel a collective sigh of relief as frontrunner Anse La Raye native Amy Stephen delivered what was, in my humble opinion, one of the best responses in my recollection of queen show history. Clear, concise, and confident, she pretty much sealed up the victory right there.
The rest of the show proved anti-climatic as the awards were handed out and results read. When the dust settled the St Lucia Tourist Board sponsored Stephen was crowned 2013 Carnival Queen with a total of 566 points. Miss Piton’s Jamara Smith,who also won Best Evening Wear, came in second, followed by Zena George, Miss Sadoo and Sons, and Miss Digicel Michelle St Clair. Stephen cleaned up in several categories including Miss Photogenic, Best in Swim Wear, Best Interview, and Best in Costume Wear. Prizes were also handed out to Miss Super J Macy Brisfere for Best Talent, Zena George for Miss Congeniality, and Miss Blue Waters Seriah John as the People’s Choice recipient.
As the crowd bum rushed the stage and continued to celebrate jubilantly I couldn’t help but be thankful that it was held on a Saturday night. With seemingly all of Anse La Raye in attendance, what would have happened to the Fish Festival if it was on a Friday?