Gabriella Chapman two Sundays ago bested seven other beauties to be crowned Miss Bartica Regatta 2017 Pageant. The 21-year-old University of Guyana student is no stranger to pageantry and won the judges over with her intelligence, experience, beauty and charisma.
In an interview with The Scene, Gabby, as she is fondly called, shared her journey through the pageant and also about the life that led her to being crowned a queen.
According to the new queen, the lead up to the grand night saw the ladies competing at preliminaries: intelligence and costume extravaganza. The contestants, aware that the two contestants to garner the most points in these two categories would have automatically entered into the top three, faced off in an effort to cop the top spots. Gabby was confident after hearing the answers of her competitors during the intelligence segment that she had won that segment and believed she had won a place in the top spot although she was forced await the results until pageant night.
As the date for the pageant drew closer the ladies met more often for rehearsals which meant meeting five days a week. However, with Gabby stationed in Georgetown so she could attend classes she only made it on weekends, missing the three other rehearsals every week. Yet determined she traversed back and forth.
What was it like being crowned Miss Bartica Regatta 2017? In her own words Gabby says, “I was overwhelmed. I had done three pageants before and was runner-up all three times… so I finally got the opportunity to feel what it is like to be queen. It was a magical moment for me.”
Life before pageantry she shared saw a little girl whose only interest in pageants was watching them on television with no inkling that someday she’d be strutting the catwalk, with a television audience tuned in to her in a pageant or that she’d be wearing a crown.
“Growing up I was always fascinated with watching pageants. Every year I’d sit and watch the Miss Bartica Regatta on the television. We have only one channel in Bartica which is Channel Five (TTS), so whatever they choose to show we watched. However, they always showed the Miss Bartica Regatta Pageant. Sometimes they showed the Miss World or the Miss Universe and whenever they did I watched. I started watching pageants the same year that Mia [Rahaman] had won; I was six then,” she said.
Gradually she fell in love with pageantry.
She has since participated in the Miss UGSS 2015 (University of Guyana Student Society) where she came second, Miss Emancipation 2016 (1st runner-up) and Miss Mash Queen 2017 just a few months ago, coming second again. This is Gabby’s fourth pageant and second for the year. There has been talk of Miss Bartica Regatta participating at this year’s Miss Guyana Universe, but this is still to be unconfirmed.
The most challenging thing as it relates to pageants Gabby fesses up was having to walk in heels. “Growing up I was never a heels person especially because of my ‘knock-knees’ which made walking challenging. It was not until I was preparing for the Miss UGSS Pageant that I had to learn to walk in them,” she said.
And while there may have been challenges there were the also fun parts about participating in pageants like the applause and with Gabby always being one of the crowd favourites she seemed to be bagging applause like no other contestant. “As conceited as it sounds,” said Gabby, “the best part about participating in pageants is the applause; it motivates me.”
Her platform for this pageant, she acknowledges, was chosen as she believes the young people of Bartica need to be boosted in this area of empowerment. ‘I’m trying to target the youths of Bartica and I’m trying to find ways in which I can help to empower them. I’m currently planning a seminar but I’m waiting until August when UG is closed so that nobody will be academically affected.
“We’ve a good number of persons who have limited themselves to working in mining areas or who become porters. When I graduated high school I was the only one in my batch to move on to UG. I want to help others to strive for higher goals. The seminar will be more of a guidance seminar because there are persons who know what they want to do but they don’t know how to achieve it. Also included will be sort of a [mini] expo where persons will share their stories, what they’ve been through and how they achieved their goals. This is to motivate youths how to move past their circumstances,” the queen said.
The former teacher at the Bartica Secondary said she has always been ambitious even as a little girl growing up and always found herself involved in debates and impromptu speeches. In her last debate she represented the teachers of Bartica Secondary and won ‘Best Speaker’.
The new queen has many inspirations and American actress Keke Palmer is one woman who inspires her. She said, “I like Keke because she was so versatile in everything she did and she was so young and bold and I saw myself in her and even though I hadn’t those opportunities I know I had the potential.”
Though this next person doesn’t come as an inspiration to Gabby, she surely admires him and if there was that one person on the planet she could possibly meet, it would have to be actor/screenwriter/producer Tyler Perry. “The first one of his movies I watched was Madea Goes to Jail. Growing up I was always a part of skits at school and church. I feel if I meet Tyler Perry, he’d surely put me in one of his movies,” said an enthused Gabby.
Still on the topic of being inspired the new queen has a few words of inspiration she would like to share with youths. “If you want to do something, you work towards it. Forget about all the negativity people throw at you. Be self-driven and do what you really want to do. I always say I prefer to say ‘Oh well’ instead of ‘what if’. It’s better if you try and fail than fail to try. So be self-driven and self-empowered whether you have the support or not.”
Currently Gabby is a first year communications student at the University of Guyana.
Her hobbies include: singing (karaoke, Hip-hop, Oldies), watching NCIS, CSI and Law and Order, reading Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Baby Sitters (back in school); now she enjoys reading Carl Webber novels, Big Girls Don’t Cry is a favourite.
“In ten years’ time I should have already graduated with a law degree, have my own house, be married and have a baby on the way,” laughed Gabby.
Among the prizes she won as Miss Bartica Regatta are: a cash prize of $300,000, a trip for two to a resort and a beauty hamper.