Thea Duncan - Queen of CARICOM!
--Grenadian beauty pips Guyanese Kayeanne Hall for the crown by Shauna Jemmott
Guyana Chronicle
July 12, 2004

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MISS Grenada Thea Duncan recorded a well-deserved victory against eight other queens representing various countries within the region to be crowned the first Miss CARICOM International Queen Saturday evening at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown.

Reigning Miss Guyana Odessa Phillips crowns Thea Duncan,Grenada delegate to the inaugural Miss Caricom International Pageant, which was staged at the National Cultural Centre on Saturday night

Thea walked away with a car, US$5000 in cash, jewellery and a crown worth thousands of US dollars, among other prizes.

Sporting a short, simple Afro hairstyle, the lovely 21-year-old artist was a front-runner from the inception of the competition, and was the only one of the seven other visiting beauties to beat home-girl Kayeanne Hall, who has done Guyana proud in winning the first runner-up position.

Participating in Miss CARICOM was a first experience for the 19-year-old, fresh-faced beauty. And the fact that she almost registered a win is more than good enough for Guyana. Some patrons felt that Hall had answered the first question better than all of the other delegates, including Miss Grenada although the two brought out similar points in their answers.

The question posted by Chief Judge, Hollywood star Danny Glover read, "As the CARICOM queen, how will you help to convince young people to become more actively involved in AIDS eradication?"

Miss St. Vincent, Zenobria Brito, was the first of the delegates who advanced to the final five to answer. She said that in order to convince youths to become more actively involved in eradicating the virus she would "...let people know that..." and was obviously distracted when she stumbled and went silent. Then, with some encouragement from Mr Glover to take her time, she continued that they should "practice safe sex, keep one partner and get tested".

Miss Belize, Tanika Muslar, answered that she would visit schools "not only in America but in the Caribbean as well" and educate people. Poverty (her platform), is, according to her, the root of the HIV/AIDS problem. She would also encourage American and Caribbean youths to abstain and "think about what you do before you do it".

With her usual sassy attitude, Miss St. Lucia Portia Chery, said she believes the span of youth attention is very short, and as such just talking to youths about the problem would seem to some like a boring lecture. So, to get the point across, she would use various forms of entertainment that would definitely attract youths.

Queen Thea Duncan answered that she would first of all "speak to young people and let them know that HIV/AIDS is completely preventable". She explained that youths should abstain, and said she would let them know the causes of the spread of the virus. "They themselves would realise wrong from right and they will make the right choices," she said. Duncan, who elaborated even more in her answer, disclosed that she is currently a Caribbean youth AIDS educator.

Miss Guyana, Kayeann Hall, responded that she would try to "set up an AIDS charity, and let people know about the disease ... let them know that it is preventable..." Hall said she would also tell youths about abstinence and since people obviously cannot abstain for the rest of their lives, she would "encourage partners to have strong, loving relationships with each other so that we can fight the dreadful disease".

After the judges arrived upon a balanced decision for the first place between Hall and Duncan, the two delegates were required to answer yet another question.

The final question, which Glover asked them was, "Since this is the first, the inaugural Miss CARICOM Pageant, how can this event in the future become something that unites people in the region?"

While Hall, the first to answer, said the current Miss CARICOM Pageant delegates coming together to pull off such an event is a way of uniting the Caribbean Community and said such (events) should continue, Duncan said the Pageant brings nine beautiful women of the Caribbean Community together and the delegates would be required as part of their duty, to speak to Caribbean people. She said in this Pageant experience alone, it was amazing (for participants) to learn so much about the different Caribbean cultures through meeting personalities from each participating country.

By then, it was clear to almost everyone that the crown belonged to the fluent Spice Island beauty, who herself was a crowd favourite from the time the competition began.

The final leg of the competition started around 8:35 p.m. Saturday with Margaret Vieira giving a rendition of the National Anthem. The contestants introduced themselves with pauses for well-choreographed ethnic dances by various groups.

By the end of this segment, Hall, Duncan and Chery were obviously crowd favourites. The audience was kept in suspense for quite a while as the programme flowed without an introduction or host until almost 40 minutes after.

This time, the voice of media personality Mondale Smith added more life to the event guiding the audience through with his usual entertaining suggestions every now and then.

He introduced the panel of distinguished persons whose task it was to judge the evening's competition. The audience was further enlivened by a glimpse of the swimsuit competition staged Thursday at the lawns of Castellani House. Onlookers went wild as the 27-year-old St. Lucian did her thing making a fashion statement that said, "absolutely sexy" during this segment. It was obvious that she is a really good runway model. The 5 foot 11 inches tall college student was adjudged Miss Fitness after winning this segment.

After a lengthy intermission, which saw entertainment by the Mingles band, the evening gown competition began. This time the air was filled with elegance as the dignified ladies gracefully showcased the talents of local and international designers.

Duncan first appeared in a burgundy and pink gown simply cut at the top with string-like revealing slits right around the bottom giving it a sexy flair. She confidently strutted her stuff before the packed Cultural Centre.

Miss Barbados donned one of the best fitting and most beautiful outfits in this segment. Her gown featured a one-strap, tube-like top in a slightly darker shade of the silky blue skirt. The top seemed crinkled and shiny while the bottom of the dress was neatly ironed out in a Cinderella flair. The single strap was accentuated with flowers and leaves made of the same material.

Miss Belize's selection was a mauvish blue shimmering, close-fitting gown with a plunging V-neck and a low cut down her back. Her gown also has a tantalizing back slit.

Miss Suriname's choice of gown was a simple, elegant strapless gold dress lined with glossy beads, with a skirt that featured a slight flair.

Miss St. Lucia's gown spelled a few colours of the Caribbean, with hints of pinks and oranges creating the figured strapless dress with a tantalizing slit up the front amidst rows of mini flounces.

An interesting choice was a simple and soft straight dress with a detachable train worn by Miss Trinidad. The sari-like gown with shimmering artwork was quite unusual and complimented her fair complexion and figure.

Miss Guyana's gown, designed by Ms Pat Coates, was a beautiful cowl-front Cornish butter-coloured, body-hugging strapless affair sprinkled with crystal glitters at the top. It featured a sudden chiffon kick just below the knee line. Her gown was also an excellent choice.

Miss St. Vincent chose an almost ordinary cream-coloured, strap full-length straight dress with barely-there hints of crystal glitters above the waist and a revealing back slit.

Miss Haiti's string-strap gown suggested a ballroom dancing mood, hugging her waist and spreading stylishly with a petal fold to almost cover her matching sandals. This design, too, had scattered glitters in selected places, and was pleasing to the eyes.

The programme started far later than the scheduled 8:00 p.m., and no explanation was offered as usual. It flowed almost lazily through the night with just a few minor technical hiccups.

In a message published in the Pageant's handbook, Tourism Minister Manzoor Nadir said that although many feel pageants in Guyana are too numerous, "such events have become an integral part of our society". He said that while offering positive experiences for participants in the light of them overcoming shyness, developing better oral presentation skills, gaining and mastering job interviews, and making new friends, "pageants have offered a unique and powerful platform to promote our country locally and internationally."

He commended the organisers of Miss Caricom International "for the idea of uniting the CARICOM countries in paying homage to our beautiful and intelligent young women... This red carpet affair, with prominent international guests in attendance, will indeed leave an indelible mark on the minds of all who attend this auspicious event".

Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo, in his message, extended a warm welcome to the delegates, judges and guests to Guyana.

"Guyana is indeed honoured to be playing host to another important cultural initiative, which I am sure will become a permanent fixture throughout the Caribbean in the years ahead...'Bridging the Caribbean Through Beauty and Culture' is a fitting theme for the inaugural event since the pageant more than simply allows our young women to compete against each other. The coming together of so many delegates drawn from throughout the region is just another way in which we can deepen the ties between the countries and people of the region."

President Jagdeo added that the contest displays the rich cultural blends of the Caribbean.

"The Caribbean is blessed with a spectacular natural beauty and a warm and radiant people. No less appealing is the rich mix of cultures and the legendary friendliness of our people. This pageant will help to further display that rich cultural legacy that is special to the Caribbean while allowing our stunning young women to show off their talents and abilities."

Duncan who was also elected Miss Congeniality said she was "ecstatic, surprised and happy," when she was declared winner and promised to use her new 'profession' to continue educating Caribbean youths about the plight of HIV/AIDS with the hope of helping to eradicate the deadly disease.