Pageantry is often referred to as a cutthroat industry, brimming with overly pretentious participants, hiding under layers of make-up, glitter, and ostensibly yearning for world peace. Flip the script and you have Amy Stephens, who came for our interview fresh faced, save for some light eyeshadow and a trace of lip balm, with her hair pulled back. Her candor was equally as refreshing as she shared her initial reaction to being crowned Carnival Queen back in June 2013.
“I was actually mostly tired because going through the process of the show it really takes a toll on you. Your energy needs to be pumped. The moment when they sealed the deal it was just relief. By that time I was having spasms in my cheek from smiling so much and knowing which camera to look at,” she laughed before recalling another poignant memory.
“I remember the moment which stood out to me the most was seeing my mom and that made me especially happy. As well as another lady, Lucy Girard, and my younger brother, Arthur and best friends. That made it really good.”
The now 20-year-old hails from the community of Anse-La-Raye, a fishing village which Stephens admits is not exactly regarded as a hotbed of prosperity. But she is proud to have represented the area she describes as ‘close knit, where everybody knows everybody.’ Their support did not go unnoticed.
“I think they recognized and believed in what I was able to do and that’s why they came out.”
Since capturing the crown, Stephens has noticed subtle changes in her life, particularly as it relates to her appearance.
“I’m sure the past carnival queens can say the same. They look at your hair, what it is you’re wearing: Oh she’s the carnival queen. Why is she wearing this, why is she wearing that? I think the most difficult part of it for me is not necessarily sticking to that status quo because I am very easy going. I’m not always made up, I’m very chill and that’s been the hardest part in terms of paying attention to how I look all the time.”
And just in case you’re thinking, “it’s not that serious,” tell that to the concerned citizen who called to chastise Stephens after she was spotted in what she thought was a trendy head wrap during a quick trip to the mall.
But overzealous voyeurs aside, Stephens is well aware of the platform she has been afforded and the opportunities it can present.
“My one regret is that I am not being utilized as much as I should be, especially by my sponsors. That would be ideal because finding resources on my own proves to be a challenge.”
In the meantime she concentrates on moulding young musicians as part of her community’s choral singing group and the Charles Cadet Youth Orchestra. She even co-hosts the Saint Lucia Rising TV show on HTS. But she longs for a wider scope.
“In terms of causes I would like to pursue, such as art education and platforms for young people on the whole, I have not been able to do this as one person. And I’m sure this is something that other people have recognized, not just with me but with past carnival queens. They win the show and it’s almost like there’s a lag. Like probably after three or four months you don’t really hear anything, then probably just about the time of the show they resurface,” Stephens says.
The Theatre Arts teacher at St Joseph’s Convent, has no plans to rest on her laurels. She is focused on obtaining a degree in Arts Education, and well as branching out into marketing and international relations.
Asked if there was any advice she had for future contestants, Stephens wanted to refute the perception that competing in pageants is just based on coming in inexperienced and banking on being articulate and looking pretty. Stephens credited past events at her alma-mater, Leon Hess Secondary School, along with stage performances with drama and singing productions for boosting her comfort level.
“It’s not going to happen within the span of three months. In terms of talent and everything else, just performing on stage, it came naturally to me because I was already seasoned and used to being on the stage.”
The notoriously tough crowd at the national pageant is not where you want to make your debut.
“There is that misconception and I just hope that it’s something a lot of girls don’t do. That they don’t go out there because they need to feel good about themselves or they need to feel like ‘I’m worth something’. You need to go out there and have some degree of confidence before. Get some exposure. Not necessarily on stage. Take a leadership role in a youth group. Start developing your talent, get some training beforehand.”
Stephens is sugar with just the right dash of spice. The young, self-described radical hid her participation from her devoutly religious mother and her employers at the Convent at first, who both eventually supported her wholeheartedly.
The time is flying by and she has started reflecting on what she’s learnt throughout this process. It’s something we can all take a page from.
“Anything that we do it should be because we have our own realistic standards for ourselves, and not that we are trying to get the whole world to accept us. That’s something we need to be mindful of. What are my own standards for myself? What do I expect I will accomplish in the next month or the next day? What do I want to feel like this morning when I wake up? Recognizing that we are in control of our destiny and that if we’re going to become so preoccupied with exterior influences then it’s going to be a challenge.”