The pageant was badly organised and poorly displayed
Stabroek News
April 29, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Over the past fortnight, the nation has been caught up in a maelstrom of dissent - not unrelated, unfortunately, to the political front which seems to be forever with us - but as regards who should represent us as a result of yet another new entrant in the beauty stakes, another new Guyanese franchise-holder for the Miss Guyana Universe Beauty Pageant. Yours truly got caught up in the melee and as our Trini and Jamaican neighbours would say, "the seh-seh".

This was occasioned by my paying very big bucks and being exceedingly disappointed and upset, along with a houseful at the National Cultural Centre, all lured by the expressed and constant hype that this was to be "the mother of all pageants", that the new organizer would outdo anything that had gone before, that this new beauty Czar on the scene would outdo even the owner of the pageant, the celebrated Donald Trump of the USA.

I expressed my annoyance that very night, when interviewed on Capital TV at what I (and all the others who had voiced their objection, most vocally and with their upset feet, by storming out before the end), had felt was, in common parlance, a "rip-off" of a show on several fronts; and not merely re the choice of the final five contestants and the top winners. Those letters, became, as it were, the final "straws", on a night of pageant "no-no's".

Later on my programme "Guyana - the way forward" sub-titled that night - "the pageant that wasn't" on Channel 9, the next Monday, and (consequent on numerous requests after the pandemonical close of the Pageant and since) I opened the lines to views of callers. Legion were the damming comments from callers, with some trying to put a racial spin on the condemnations, by intimating that callers' objections were fuelled by race, that an East Indian entrant had won. No one ever stated that.

I eventually deviated, after initially trying to be broadly objective and to deal with the many lapses of the organisation proper such as the fact that, after the questions put to the Final Five, patrons had to be content to merely balefully look at an empty, bare, undecorated, wide stage without any "fillers", any entertainment of any sort, for over half an hour, before learning what many considered unusual decisions, delivered by an MC who had been a pain all evening, often indicating that he was quite unaware of what his role should be and what was next afoot.

Asked for my views on the winner I repeated what I had earlier said - that the winner was on the night of judging too big of body to be a proper choice as a contestant for a pageant such as the Miss Universe. That, though it was stated that she could reduce and remove this obvious fat; to my mind, - as a veteran of several Pageant stagings here and abroad, Jamaica in particular, it was not fair to all the other girls who had endeavoured to be fit and ready for the final night. That she might be able in time to lose the weight but the principle of fair play had been abrogated.

Legion were the nasty attacks on me for speaking out by several letter writers, Stabroek News even "bigged me up" with a cartoon depicting me with what they depicted as a "sh-t" anti aircraft gun, shooting down Clem David (dubbed "soup drinker" by callers) and Lumumba ("but oww! Harris, you couldn't make me more handsome?").

One media writer even stated that despite all this, Mr Alexander has been silent. Yes, my friends, Mr Alexander has been silent because he awaited the exit from Guyana of the winsome Mia before my coming out, as I now do, in print, in reply. What occurred was not primarily the young lady Mia Rahaman's fault. Others are to be blamed for the beauty pageant debacle that the many inveighed against.

What, however, "set the cat among the pigeons" was a remark by a caller, who seemed to intimately know the newly crowned queen and who remarked about a tattoo she was hiding, about a less-than-role-model past and queried, in a final shout, about a substance abuse "habit" that was known about.

The tape of the show showed that I, as host, immediately stated, "let's not go down that road!" Even though other persons had made me and other journalists privy to that bit of knowledge before. But it was not our deal. As a father, I agonized for her family.

Further, acting on the urgings of a member of her immediate family, on my next programme, two nights after that, I replayed sections of that first night's show and spoke against callers making such statements on my watch, trying to help out in a delicate matter, since it was clear that knowledge was abroad of this aspect of the peccadilloes of the young lady.

And she has since in several newspapers and other interviews admitted to indiscretions, which she opined would make her a better person for having given up that way of life, and I have no problem with her spin on this. The die had already been cast, anyhow. And one hopes that all this will help others to be better persons.

We note, however, that the very "bossy", ever-so-soft-spoken, ever-so-gentle-giant Mr Odinga Lumumba, the newest franchise holder, has once again attacked me for my views. I had warned, on earlier programmes that the organisers were pedalling down the wrong river with much of what they had planned - no space to detail those areas of advice now - and Lumumba had publicly dissed me for this, even though we since spoke amicably about other matters and he could disclose, if he would, that I gave him some advice, about not fighting the media (after Splashmins) which he had thanked me for.

This time, one notes, he has "threatened to sue Mr Lorri Alexander", claiming upset about what was said on my show about the top winners and his handling of the show, generally. He should know, by now, that Lorri Alexander is no "shrinking violet," to be terrorized by his or anybody's "bullyisms".

One notes, also, that the every-ubiquitous Kit Nascimento has jumped feet-first into the fray (Kit, it seems, is ever seeking to be so seen and heard) and even though he was a judge, has also threatened to see to it that me, my programme and the channel 9 station itself, be taken off the air by the new baby he had a hand in, the Broadcasting Authority, on his self-opined powerful say-so, that I "encouraged" callers to malign the winner and that I was "partisan" (in what way, Kit?, pray tell).

One is aware that Nascimento knows the meaning of the word, so it is obvious he is being malicious in his customary caustic overblown fashion.

Kit was perhaps upset that I inferred that he, being a motor racing once-czar should have excused himself as a judge, knowing full well that the eventual winner was also a known motor-racing promoter, but that is where principle comes in, isn't it? My wife and I had four queens and runners-up in the show, but never opted to be part of the organisation, even though the franchise had been offered us years before. We had decided to stick to assisting 'darkie' girls with the African Heritage Pageant, for some 7 years now, with immeasurable satisfaction.

Also, as one of the judging panel, collective responsibility kicks in and he, Kit, cannot try to divert blame when people cry out that mistakes were made and that their money was ill-spent, having been led to expect what they did not get. Since, as they opined, it was not a well-run, properly organised show. The TV showing the anger of the patrons, with the majority walking out, is no dismissive lie. The callers to my show also aired their annoyance.

Nascimento also claims that my views on the judging panel not being properly briefed and having no "prior judging seminar" and therefore not properly knowing what to look for in judging, were inaccurate. It has probably irked him and his now new client and political compatriot, Lumumba, that, as I said, I was privy to the fact that at least one judge was picked just the night before the event and that they all were "as green as grass" in this department of beauty-judging. That is not how it is done and we know.

What is most instructive, however, is that Kit was to have the wind blown out of his pit-bullish sails when it was learnt via the media (SN) that his pick for winner had stated that she regretted being a wild youngster.

But let's put all that behind us. She is on her way and regardless of how she got there, she has been crowned queen, and that decision, as usual, has finality written all over it.

We, my wife and I, knowing her and her family well, wish her the very best. She is not the one at fault for all this brouhaha, a mere young pawn in a game of sheer greed, to my mind, unmindful or uncaring of the effect all this would have on all the young aspirants. All of them and their families and friends.

For the future, let us have no more of this travesty where our young women are concerned, regardless of race, colour or creed.

Yours faithfully,

Lorri Alexander