The Internet can be a great tool. It’s now easy for people all over the world to watch live streams of events that are taking place even in St Lucia. So on Saturday evening it was no surprise that people with West Indian roots from the world over were tuned in to the live stream of the National Carnival Queen Pageant that was being held at the National Cultural Centre. It was also not surprising to see people in attendance at the show on their BlackBerrys communicating with friends overseas who were also watching the show. Ah, the joys of technology.
But technology apparently did not work in the interests of at least one contestant at the Carnival Queen Show. Following the talent segment of the show news began to make the rounds via BBM and Facebook that contestant number six’s dramatic piece was not the first time this piece had been done. Links were quickly uploaded to a performance via YouTube of a young lady from St Kitts doing the same dramatic piece. The piece focused on the issue of promiscuity, with the contestant pretending to be a mentally disturbed woman who is in a psychiatric ward after killing her lover and the woman he was having an affair with. The piece sent out a message about sexually transmitted diseases and called on the public not to engage in this behaviour. St Lucia’s Consuelo Dupal delivered the dramatic piece expertly, as did St Kitts’ Judy Dupont when she performed it at the St Kitts Carnival Queen Contest in December 2010 in her country. In the end Consuelo Dupal was named first runner up in the St Lucia contest but in the coming days following the pageant Consuelo would be exposed to heavy criticism on the social networking sites for using, almost word for word, the talent of the St Kitts contestant.
But what was the big deal? Is it wrong for a contestant to use a talent that was used by someone else? How often does a Carnival Queen contestant or any pageant contestant perform a truly original piece?
For former St Kitts Carnival Queen contestant Judy DuPont the issue is different. She has little concern for the rules of the St Lucia pageant. What she is concerned about, however, is the fact that she was never contacted for use of the material.
When the STAR spoke with 25-year-old Judy on Monday she explained that she had not been watching the St Lucia Carnival Queen Show herself but she had received over a dozen text messages, messages on her facebook page and calls from people who knew her who were watching the show.
“They informed me that this St Lucia girl was doing my talent word for word. I was a bit taken aback because I didn’t know people really do those things,” she said.
Judy explains that when she had performed the piece in St Kitts in December 2010 she had won Best Talent and came second runner up in the overall competition. She added that the dramatic piece was written specifically her by a writer out of Antigua, Mr Vaughn Walters.
“The writer has informed me that he never gave permission, my team did not give permission and I did not give permission for the talent to be used. I think that this is very unprofessional behaviour,” Judy told us.
Judy explained that since the St Lucia show the local contestant in question has contacted her.
“She has apologized to me and my team but I think this is a backward step because months before the show she must have known that she was doing the talent. In hindsight she should have put more thought into it.”
Judy explains that she has no hard feelings but just wanted to send a message: “You don’t do things like that. You have to work hard and be disciplined. Pageants are not just about imitating someone and going on the stage for five minutes. You have to transform your life and become a better person, learn to respect others.”
She added: “I do not have anything against Miss Dupal. I just think this should be a lesson to others that if you truly want to stand out and if you want to feel comfortable in what you do you should try to be different in a positive way and work towards what you want. The crown is what she wanted and I think had she won the crown this time around I don’t think she may have felt as accomplished as if she had worked on something original. I think she wanted me to feel flattered but it’s really not a good feeling to have someone just take your work. It’s like a hijacking. It’s in poor taste.”
This reporter also spoke to the writer of the original work, Mr Vaughn Walters from Antigua, who also happens to be the Chairman of the Antigua Carnival Development Committee and the Director of Culture of Antigua and Barbuda.
“As a performing artiste and having been involved in arts for many years I am one of those people who believe that the more we come together as one the stronger we shall be,” he said. “But when someone can just take up your work and then reproduce your work without your knowledge or your permission that is really taking it to a different level. When I wrote that piece I did it for another lady in St Kitts for the Queen Show there in December.”
He went further: “All I am seeking is an apology, not just for me but for the contestant I had originally wrote it for. I have also lived in St Lucia for many years so I want to see the cultural artform develop even further in St Lucia. I love St Lucia, it is like my second home. I will do what I can to assist and help but you cannot take advantage of a situation. I don’t want a court case or anything, I just want them to apologise and then no hard feelings.
When we spoke to Mr Walters yesterday morning he said he had not been contacted by anyone from St Lucia regarding the issue besides our newspaper.
“Your work is being done and distributed and no credit is being given to you,” he said. “I understand that messages were sent to St Kitts of apology but I am the writer of that piece and up to now no one has contacted me to say they are sorry.”
Walters explained that he does not hold Consuelo Dupal, the contestant, accountable on her own, but her entire team.
“I will say to the team that they cannot just arbitrarily take people’s work and reproduce it without permission. I am not going to point my finger at the young lady alone but this is a life lesson. I would like to believe that she had a management team who guided her.”
According to our sources there is little the local Carnival Queen Committee can do in terms of disciplining the contestant as there are no well-defined rules governing the originality of the talent segment.
Head of the Carnival Committee John Joseph told the STAR yesterday that the Carnival Committee is working to resolve the issue with all parties involved and review the rules of the pageant to avoid future occurrences of this nature.
“We expect an apology to be forthcoming,” said Joseph.
The STAR contacted Miss Dupal on Monday for a comment on the issue but she was not ready to make a public statement.