No St Lucian contestant for Miss World 2011

Aiasha Gustave, St Lucia’s Miss World representative in 2010 wants the pageant to be more consistent.

The 61st edition of the Miss World pageant will take place at the Earls Court Two on November 6, 2011 in London. United States representative Alexandra Mills will crown a new winner at the event, but unlike last year when Saint Lucia’s Aiasha Gustave won the Miss Caribbean World title at the prestigious pageant, St Lucia will not be represented this year.
Around the same time last year, Aiasha would have likely already been in China where Miss World 2010 was held, taking part in fast track competitions leading up to the main event. Aiasha turned 18 just days before the pageant and was one of the youngest and most vibrant contestants for 2010. Her pre pageant preparation included intensive workout sessions; make up tutorials, training to learn how to pose and even how to walk. Trips to Trinidad and Tobago were in order for her training and fittings with designer Claudia Pegus, but nearly one year after the pageant, Aiasha says she’s disappointed to learn that St Lucia will not have a face at Miss World this year.
“The pageant was held on October 30 last year and this year we have not one girl,” Aiasha told the STAR. “This year was Miss Universe, but it should be both. I know Joy Ann [Biscette] had a hard time. She had a tough time with Miss World 2008 as well. Before I went up for Miss World she gave me advice on what to expect.”
Representatives from various Caribbean territories taking part in Miss World 2011 include Lee-Ann Forbes from Trinidad and Tobago, Axelle Perrier from Martinique, Danielle Crosskill from Jamaica, Arti Cameron from Guyana and Taisha Carrington from Barbados.
Aiasha feels that the Miss World pageant isn’t publicized enough locally to generate public interest and sponsorship. The 19-year-old was recently one of the judges on the panel for Miss Barbados World and noted the differences in the girls’ preparation in that country and St Lucia.
“Leah Marville is the one who has that franchise now for Barbados, she’s been through it (Miss Barbados World 2009) so she took over. These girls had three months training prior to their pageant. They had preliminaries before that which made it fun; it showed them what Miss World would be about. They trained, whether they needed to train or not. I had literally a month to get ready for last year’s pageant, if that.”
Needless to say, obtaining sponsorship to facilitate Aiasha’s participation in Miss World 2010 was no easy task.
“We definitely had problems with sponsorship,” she said. “Some companies helped because I knew the people or because my mom reached out to them via email. My mom had to write to Virgin Atlantic and they sponsored my ticket to the pageant. Claudia Pegus lent me dresses upon dresses and that’s the only way I could have gone. Some St Lucian designers wanted excessive amounts of money, even  to go up for Miss World. One minister, Lenard “Spider” Montoute gave money, which I believe he did out of pocket because he said the budget was cut. I was seriously disappointed in the ministry of tourism. I understand there’s a budget and it’s already been set, but whoever is sent up is going up to represent the entire country.
“They need to realize that it’s a world stage,” Aiasha continued. “It’s a pageant—petty in their eyes—but when you get there you realize how much girls are represented and backed up by their countries and you could really feel it when they come out. People come out with flags to represent and the more representation you have the better it is for you.”
Aiasha’s post pageant experience differs from that of most of the other girls who returned home where they were embraced and given the chance to be the face of their countries, even taking part in various campaigns.
“I came back and there was nothing,” she said. “I understand there was the hurricane obviously, but I could have helped out in so many ways, even raising funds for what happened after Tomas and all these things, but I stayed up in England because nothing was organized. I didn’t want to come back home and sit down and be like, “Oh guys, what am I going to do now?”
With the 2011 Miss World pageant around the corner, the fact that there was no Miss St Lucia World pageant this year tells that there really isn’t any hope, or any time for that matter, to get a representative onstage and prepared to take part in the international pageant that is 15 days away.
“There are a lot of girls with potential here but people don’t put it out there in St Lucia that pageantry is actually a really good experience to go through,” Aiasha said. “I used to judge it and say, these stupid girls walking up there like ‘world peace,’ but when you get up there you meet amazing people. Girls like me who just wanted to have an experience like that. In St Lucia it’s not looked at like that and I think that has a lot to do with pride. A lot of St Lucians don’t really have pride in their country. When people are going to represent on a world stage, even Levern Spencer and Dani Beaubrun, they are doing so amazingly and people don’t pay attention enough. We have a lot of people doing great things.”
“I think that every year a girl should be sent up no matter what,” Aiasha said. “When they start seeing St Lucia there all the time, trust me, presence counts for a lot.”
Franchise holder for Miss World St Lucia Yasmin Walcott shared some of Aiasha’s sentiments. She felt that having a contestant on the Miss World stage could work wonders in terms of marketing for the island, in places the Tourist Board wouldn’t dream of going.
“It’s a pity no one went up this year,” she said. “Last year our representative did very well, she made the finals. Sponsorship is always a challenge but if the companies decide that’s not where they want to put their sponsorship money we can’t tell them otherwise. I wish it was different, it would make things better for us, but at the end of the day you can’t really criticize them for it.”
“Its unfortunate,” Walcott,  a former contestant herself, went on. “It’s a great event. If our girls shine it gives a lot of exposure. It’s all part of youth development and the empowerment of young women. We need to look at it as not just a beauty pageant, its much more than that. I usually recruit the girls myself and I’m doing this more or less single handedly.
It takes a lot of energy, effort, time and money and it takes time to unite all these elements. Hopefully next year…”

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