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GHS’ Lateefa is new Miss Heritage

GHS’ Lateefa is new Miss Heritage

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Organizers of pageants like Miss SVG and Miss Carival could learn a little, if not a whole lot, from last Saturday’s staging of the 2013 Scotiabank National Secondary Schools’ Miss Heritage Pageant.{{more}}

With attention paid to every little detail, the show was immensely entertaining and ran much more smoothly than those put on by the Carnival Development Corporation in recent years. From the prompt start, to the beautiful rendition of the national anthem by a choral group, performances of traditional choruses and folk songs, soca and rap, to hip hop dances and of course, the pageantry of the seven contestants, patrons were given a treat that they will long remember.

Before making their introductory speeches, the girls were given the type of welcome that went above and beyond the norm. An all female dance group performed, while two male fire breathers literally fired up the event. As the dance concluded, the dancers assembled on either side of the stage, allowing a path down the middle for the girls to make their entrance and introduce themselves to those in attendance.

The night, however, belonged to Lateefa Noel of the GHS, who made a clean sweep of the show, winning in all four judged categories. The fifteen-year-old walked away with the best interview, best ambassadorial speech, best talent and best cultural wear.

The night just kept getting better for Noel, as with 10,039 votes to her name, she also won the Facebook Digicel Miss Heritage Viewers’ Choice Award.

The first runner-up position was taken by Sharikah Rodney of the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown, with Terreka Nero of the Buccament Bay Secondary placing second runner-up. The third runner-up position went to Mililone Edwards of the West St George Secondary School, who also won the award for being the most community involved.

Speaking to reporters following her win, Noel said “I feel overjoyed. So much work and energy was put into this. Oh my gosh! I am so happy right now,” she said.

Noel said she was not 100 per cent sure that she would have won the show, as many things were done at the last minute. The future choreographer thanked her dance instructor Jemelia Pope, and Rodion Hunte, who helped with her ambassadorial speech. She also thanked her chaperone Charmaine Tappin-John for all of her support.

Asked if being from the school which hosted the event gave her an advantage, Noel replied “not necessarily”.

“We all know people tend to not like the [Girls’] High School girl. We all know that they are going to think this is biased, but actually it was more difficult for me because all the pressure was on me.”

Placing a new twist on the way pageants are usually organized, the interview segment was the first judged segment of last Saturday’s competition. Before getting into questioning, interview host Jacinta Elliot helped put the girls at ease with a bit of “small talk” before engaging them with questions.

Another innovation, which drew oohs, aahs and applause from the crowd, was the appearance of a transparent bowl, tied to a rope, which descended from the canopy to the middle of the stage, from which each delegate picked her second question. This feature allowed the girls to pick their envelopes and get back into position, in a short space of time.

Appearing last, the petite Noel was asked, “What has dancing contributed to your growth as an individual?” She answered: “Dance is my getaway. Whenever I’m very nervous or I’m angry or I’m just too stressed, I just play my music and I lose myself. I find it just calms my nerves and that’s why I will never ever stop dancing.”

In the second question, Noel was asked: “Some Carnival revellers seem to prefer the Ragga Soca art form to the traditional Calypso art form. What would you say to them in support of Calypso?”

“Calypso is more social commentary. Calypso is not only about the beat, but the lyrics of Calypso is powerful. I’m not saying that Reggae doesn’t have powerful lyrics, but I just believe Calypso suits us best,” Noel replied as ear- shattering screams could be heard from her many supporters.

In her winning Ambassadorial Speech, entitled “Maiden of the Valley,” Noel, in a captivating performance with much emphasis and passion, highlighted the struggles of women during slavery and their rise to prominence in society. She mentioned some of those successful women, including: the late Norma Keizer, a former Headmistress of the Girls’ High School, businesswoman Erica McIntosh and Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister Girlyn Miguel.

In the talent segment, Lateefa put into display what she had said earlier in her interview about dance. The youngster, who spoke fluently earlier during the pageant, let her feet and hands do all the talking in this segment, as she danced to the popular song “Kukere” by Nigerian artiste, Iyanya. All doubts were later put to bed, when Noel blew away the competition in the Cultural Wear segment, wearing a dress designed and built by local designer Lisa Cordice.

The dress, called “The Evolution of a Maiden,” was a representation of “where women have come from by walking proudly into the future.” The basket, which rested snugly on her head, was made from wire and symbolized the hardships frequently endured by women, but which were often carried with grace and poise.

The dress, which hugged her slender frame, was suggestive of how women hold society together.

The show was adjudicated by 17 persons, with four different judges for each of the judged categories. The chief judge Earl Paynter was the only person to judge all the categories.

Kia May of the Sandy Bay Secondary got the nod for the best promotional video. The videos were produced to encourage attendance at the show and tell the public something about the heritage of the communities each participant is from. May also won the Miss Congeniality award. The other contestants were Nia Grecia of the Intermediate High School and Crystel-Lyn Browne of the Bequia Community High.

As persons anxiously awaited the results, two dance groups went head-to-head with the audience determining the winners by voting by way of text messages. The show also saw a tribute to women done by a male quartet of Akido, Andre, Bomani and Skarpyon. Reigning Soca Monarch Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle also performed.

Giving brief remarks, Leslie Howard-Bowman of Scotiabank said the bank was pleased to be sponsor of the event, and pledged their continued commitment to the show. Howard-Bowman also congratulated and applauded the organizers for a job well done.

The Challenge Trophy which Noel received will remain at the GHS for the next two years. Other competitors were awarded with trophies of participation and flowers.

In 2011, the Scotiabank National Secondary Schools’ Miss Heritage Pageant was won by 16-year-old Jonique Chance of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School, who unfortunately, did not complete her reign. The inaugural National Secondary Schools’ Miss Heritage Pageant was won in 2009 by Ackeila Cornwall of the St Joseph’s Convent Marriaqua. (Go to www.Facebook.com/Searchlight1 for hundreds of photos from the show)

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