For Soyini Fraser, the fact that she won the Miss Guyana Universe title and will be representing Guyana at the Miss Universe Pageant in the Philippines in January 2017 is finally taking root in her consciousness.
“Now it’s sinking in that I won. Every morning I step out now, it’s totally different,” she said in an interview with The Scene. “My friends don’t say ‘good morning Soyini’ anymore; instead it’s ‘good morning Miss Universe,’” she joked.
There has been a lot of public chatter—most of it on social media—since the September 17 pageant about who did what and who was better than whom. As with all pageants, this one had its favourites. Asked if on pageant night she felt she was a front runner, Soyini’s response was candid. “From a competition point of view I [was], because every single pageant I’ve done I was either first runner-up or the queen. But from [the] public’s point of view,” she paused before continuing, “A lot of persons felt that I had done enough pageants… I don’t agree with that. If that’s your dream then you should follow it. They felt that I should step down and give others a chance, but [whoever] wants a chance needs to get up and take it. Life never gives you anything. You need to get up and take the bull by the horns.”
Right after she was crowned, Soyini was seen in tears talking with franchise holder Jyoti Hardat. When asked about this she said, “One of the major reasons I signed up for the pageant was because Jyoti said she was going to run a fair pageant… nobody was getting special attention. A pageant that allowed every girl to shine and that the girl with the most points would win. So I was thanking her for keeping that promise.”
Soyini noted that in the past she has participated in pageants where fairness was lacking or where she was judged her by her colour.
She stated, “I’m a frank person. I don’t speak a lot. So every time I open my mouth I speak directly… [and] it’s like ‘aahhh.’” She imitated a silent scream.
Soyini’s pageant experience has been well documented. But perhaps all that has gone before was just the prelude to her winning the Miss Guyana Universe 2016 crown. Six years ago, one of her good friends, designer, model and entrepreneur Meleesa Payne encouraged the 6 ft 1 inch Soyini to enter the Miss Earth Guyana pageant. Meleesa, former Miss Guyana Universe 2007, was a member of the Miss Earth Guyana board.
“It was more of a challenge from her. She knows me and knows that if I’m challenged to do anything that would better me, I would do it. Looking back now, I think she tricked me into doing it. My response to her was, ‘I could do it,’” she said.
Soyini won Miss Earth Guyana and represented Guyana at the international leg in Vietnam. A year later she was in another pageant, this time Miss World Guyana, where she emerged as the first runner-up. She then represented Guyana at Miss Princess of the World in the Czech Republic in 2011.
The next year, she won the Miss United Nations title after a stiff competition from 50 other beauties. Part of the Miss United Nations package was representing the franchise at three fashion shows in US, which she did in the following year. In 2014 when she participated in the Miss Jamzone Guyana she won. Later that year at the international leg she kept the title.
“Winning the two international pageants [Miss United Nations 2012 and Miss Jamzone 2014] were big things for me and bringing home the crowns for Guyanam” she said.
However, Soyini wasn’t done and in 2014 she placed second as Niketa Barker took the Miss Guyana Universe title. After taking a break in 2015, Soyini returned with full force this year to prove that never giving up pays off.
The pageant had attracted a large number of entrants. It was said that over 300 girls of Guyanese heritage from across the globe applied; one from as far as Australia. The number was narrowed to 15 contestants, one of whom dropped out at the last minute.
At the end of July, they started training with Derek Moore. “We also attended a suicide prevention workshop with the Enterprise Development Group. They allowed us to present our platforms to children 4 -13 years old. My platform is ‘Enhancing the Golden Years of Elderly Guyanese Citizens,’ so during my presentation I had the children colour outlines to let them know they can care for the elderly through art, taking them roses or helping them with their bags – basic kindness that they would understand,” she said.
The contestants also did basic catwalk training and impromptu speeches. In the weeks running up to the pageant, training got rigid. “The core training ran from September 4 to 17. [It] covered… a crash course in first aid which was sponsored by the Give Foundation Group in Guyana, a crash course on survival from the Scouts Association in Guyana and the preliminary rounds of the pageant.”
Soyini said her experience did not mean that any of it was easy. Although she may have perfected certain areas, she always tells herself that she’s competing against the last Soyini who participated at the last pageant and so she always tries to better herself.
When she first entered pageants she was always fidgeting with her hands and after a few pageants she found a way to deal with it by fidgeting her toes. Soyini said whole shoes have now become her thing; they do an excellent job of hiding the fidgets.
Soyini hopes to someday have her own pageantry consulting business. “I also see myself in being instrumental in changing the concept of pageantry in Guyana and the standard of beauty because sadly people don’t see beauty in Guyana across the six ethnicities.”
She added, “One of the biggest challenges girls in pageantry face is lack of financial support. Pageantry has made me more self-reliant.”
While she prepares for her January competition, Soyini said, “Currently I’m partnering with Food for the Poor Guyana. They recently launched an Elderly Care Programme and I’m trying to partner with several homes around Georgetown for a once a month entertainment programme and also implement fitness programmes in homes that don’t have.”
As Public Relations Officer for Hits and Jams Soyini is the outreach coordinator for the Keen Foundation, associated with the Hits and Jams Company. The main focus is children and every year they donate fully packed school bags to approximately 25 – 50 children. “At Christmas time we choose a different area partnering with Food for the Poor Guyana taking food, toys, clothes and footwear for the less fortunate children. We’ve been doing this for three years.”
Soyini is a 2007 graduate of Queen’s College with ten passes at CSEC. She also has a Diploma in Theology from the Life Christian University and is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree. To this she says, “I grew up in church (Truth, Power and Glory Sanctuary which her mother pastors) and I never really understood who God is. I wanted to find out who God is instead of having people tell me so studying theology is more of a personal thing for me.”
To stay fit she works out five days a week at Top End Gym with trainer Neetzkiel Ben Yeesrael. And though the queen has a full agenda, in her free time she loves watching action and horror movies. “One of my favourite actresses is Taraji ‘Cookie’ Henson. I love travelling, love shopping. Sale is my second name. When I walk into a store I head straight for the sales racks without any shame. I also like cooking my favourite Italian dishes because I love pasta and cheese and my favourite colour is purple.”
Her favourite quote is by Albert Einstein – “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Soyini’s encouragement to youngsters is exactly what she lives: “If you have a dream, you should never stop pursuing it. Never let anyone define your life for you.”