On Saturday night it was indeed a tough battle for the mature and professional women in the Ms Guyana Renaissance Pageant and at the end of it all 35-year Simone Beckles emerged the winner from a pool of ten.
The four-hour-long show was packed with laughter and much applause as the “older girls” showcased their accomplishments, inner beauty, maturity, leadership skills, cultural awareness and talent to the audience who packed the National Cultural Centre and the judges in a bid to be crowned queen.
This year’s pageant held under the theme “Visions of our Culture” is the third of its kind with the first being held in 2003 and it has been promoted as one with a difference, providing a stage for women 28 years and above.
The show started on time and proceedings flowed smoothly. It all began with the ten delegates marching on to the well-decorated stage dressed from head to toe in army style gear. Later, in craftily introducing themselves to the audience, each contestant spoke about themselves and family and made brief remarks on various waterfalls in the country.
The ten women had to compete in three categories – cultural presentation, corporate attire and After Five elegance – all for a total of 200 points and then the final four were chosen and the queen decided on the final question.
In the cultural segment, Guyana Power and Light employee Leslie Quallis who did a dramatic piece on the unpleasant situations in public restrooms; Assistant Commissioner, Guyana Revenue Authority, Beckles whose item was a dance entitled Guyana the beautiful; Coordinator at the Linden Care Foundation/Journalist, Cathy Wilson, who did a dramatic piece on the stigma attached to persons with HIV/AIDS and Administrative Assistant, Vision Sounds Promotions International, Dawn Edwards, who performed a song entitled ‘Stop the destruction and let us be free’, were the clear crowd favourites.
Their performances sent the crowd into a frenzy. Several of the contestants in this segment made good use of the colours of the flag of Guyana and in some cases even used the flag itself on their outfits.
In the end Dawn was awarded the best cultural presentation for her song.
The corporate attire segment added a bit of flare to the competition and the women had members of the audience on their feet as they paraded on stage in their choice of office wear.
The colour and style of each piece was breathtaking and the outfits made the woman look younger and fashionable.
The women did not leave out the very high and unique pieces of footwear and the appropriate accessories to complement their outfits. The hairstyles too were in order.
Gem Sanford-Johnson, Quallis, Beckles, Barbara Marshall, Audrey Thompson and Necola Meyers were the top contenders based on the crowd’s reaction as they modelled on stage.
Then it was time for the After Five elegance segment. In this category the ten women showed how they would dress for a cocktail. While some of the outfits were inappropriate, there were several that really caught the audience’s eyes and came in for high praises.
Meyers who made excellent use of colour; Wilson, who was the lady in red; Beckles sporting a beautiful purple two-piece outfit; Marshall in a bit of colour and Gillion Dyer, in a metallic-coloured, knee-length dress, were the outstanding ones in this category.
At the end of these three categories, the six-person panel of judges chose Meyers, Beckles, Sanford-Johnson and Quallis as the final four.
This was now the toughest part of the competition as the scores from the previous segments were erased and the four women were placed based on their answer to the final question which was “If you were the President of the co-operative Republic of Guyana, what is the one thing you would do to improve the quality of life for Guyanese”.
First up was Beckles who said that she would have a strategic plan that results in sustainable development for everyone everywhere. She said that this could be done by exploring for our natural resources something that Guyana is rich in and from this investors both here and abroad can be attracted.
Meyers in response to the question said that her plan would be three-fold. First, she would improve the pay that the workforce receives, then provide them with training in customer relations as well as train them in money management.
Quallis, with a few pauses in between and with a bit of uncertainty in her voice, said that she would educate women so that they would be able to get out of abusive situations and she would later incorporate that into the curriculum of the younger ones so that they will not fall into the same lifestyles that women were previously in.
She then added that she would “tidy up the place” so as to improve tourism.
And Sanford-Johnson said that she would alleviate poverty by opening doors for investors to come into the country and create job opportunities so that people will have jobs. With this she said confidently, poverty will eventually be eliminated.
Some of the responses sent the crowd into an uproar and many could be heard arguing about what a particular contestant should have said.
Sanford-Johnson had the support of the crowd after she gave her answer but some felt that she didn’t explain enough. She was interrupted midway through her response by the loud applause. Others however opined that Beckles’ response was better – although a bit vague. Many in the crowd after hearing the two responses said that it was a tight race between the two women. They were the clear frontrunners, members of the audience said loudly.
Then it was the moment of truth. These two were left clutching each other tightly after Meyers was adjudged the third runner up and Quallis second runner up.
When Sanford-Johnson’s name was called for the first runner up position the entire audience erupted into a fit of excitement some jumping up and down while others bolted on to the stage.
Beckles just kept smiling, the excitement and happiness visible on her face.
ACME Digital chose Diann Williams as Miss Photogenic, Cathy Wilson was given the executive award for her punctuality, and Beckles won the Miss Congeniality prize while Dyer was the Most Improved Contestant.
Local Singer Michelle “Big Red” King was also in attendance and belted out Alicia Keys’ “A woman’s worth” as a tribute to the women in the audience.
Margaret Lawrence was the host and Franklin (Bobby) Vieira the co host.