Reflections on the 2019 Carnival Queen show

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By Frank Southwell

The 2019 Antigua and Barbuda Queen of Carnival show was significantly different for me because my daughter, Francesca, was a contestant. For four months, I took her to the Lifestyle Fitness Centre & Gym for an hour, and then to the Multi-Purpose Center at 6:00 p.m. for group practice. During our driving, we discussed the possible questions and answers for that segment of the show.  

Some of the questions were inappropriate and loaded for the show. For example:  there was a question on the eBooks that asked: “…How can the eBook system be improved?” To answer that is to agree that the eBook system is flawed and then suggest solutions which would require information not privy to contestants. For such a politically charged subject, it is a position that no contestant should be in. There were four such questions. Another one was her positon on abortions versus Pro-Life. Again, I told her that that was also inappropriate; as inappropriate as asking someone who he or she voted for, or how many lovers she has had, or how many children she has, or if she ever had an abortion. I asked her to tell Mr. Vhann-Kellte to consider other questions. As luck would have it, she got one of those four questions which were deemed unworthy. She did, for the first time in the history of the contest, challenge the question and still managed to state her support for ADOPTION Agencies, which the judges missed. 

The show began very well with an international-styled group-dance routine which was very well received. The show was interspersed with performers who, by local standards, were okay, but lacked the polish and professionalism that was expected for such an event. Most of the renditions were slow romantic songs which did not create much excitement for the patrons.  

The public speaking segment was quite interesting as each girl had to recite a two-minute speech on “I AM WOMAN.” Because it was difficult to clearly decide which was the best, that segment was clearly judged on CONFIDENCE, DELIVERY, CLARITY and ARTICULATION, and nothing about CONTENT. In fact, that is what obtained throughout the competition. 

There were seven segments. Four of them required the personal best of each contestant, and the other three, the artistic and creative skills of others. I believe that, going forward, the points cannot be equal for all segments. For example, the Costume, Evening Gown and Cultural Dress were designed and built by others and displayed by the contestants. It is absolutely unfair that a girl would do her homework and put in the time to practice her speech, questions and swimsuit walk, only to lose because of a costume which she had no control over. Therefore, it would certainly be more fair that the Costume, Evening Gown and Cultural Dress not have the same value as the other segments because the contestant has no control over those. In other words, those are judged from a subjective, artistic point of view and not performance-based as the Talent, Swimsuit, Question & Answer and the Public Speaking.

Crowd support is always a plus. Whether we want to admit it or not, a loud, cheering crowd can and does influence the spirit of the judges. It tells them that they are on the right track to making a popular decision. On the night of the Queen Show, the winner had a group of supporters who behaved outrageously. Not only were they loud, armed with party horns and given to much screaming during and after her appearances, but they went in front of all the seated patrons and completely blocked our view of the stage. Surprisingly, none of the police present asked them to tone down their noise and inconsiderate conduct until the show was over. This hooliganism that they brought to the show was uncalled for, but never cautioned.

While we all appreciated the financial contribution from the Festivals Commission and the government, the time in which cheques were received played a crucial role in the preparedness of the ladies. For example, Zeno Richardson completely built Francesca’s costume from his pocket. He finished the day before the competition. Francesca never got to rehearse with the costume … which caused her “less than great”movement in the heavy costume. Her shoulder straps needed to be adjusted, but there was just not enough time. She was left with bruised shoulders because of this. Team Kelly Richardson too was only able to complete the evening gown because Francesca’s mother bought the materials. As for the sponsors, they were brought on board a few days before the show, and were not able to make any financial contributions. That too has to be changed. The planning of the rehearsals too went into harmful times. On the night before the show, a rehearsal was scheduled for 12:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.  I was there until the end and took my daughter home at 10 minutes to 5:00 a.m. She barely got four hours sleep and then had to do a sound check at 9:30 a.m. Without sleep, humans cannot concentrate. This kind of scheduling was certainly detrimental to their mental and physical states.  

My last point is a matter of information-sharing to the patrons in the Carnival City. I wanted to know what the talent of each contestant was and what she intended to do. I wanted to know what her costume represented and who designed and built it. I wanted to know what her cultural dress meant and who created it. That information was not forthcoming to the patrons. We felt disconnected, so there was no emotional connection, appreciation or understanding of the contestants’ costumes and dresses.

The small crowd was quite surprising. In the future, the show needs a headliner half-time entertainment if larger crowds are to be expected.  

Mr. Vhann-Kellte, as the pageant organizer, did an amazing job. However, he needs to include others as he cannot continue to operate in this manner. By making changes, the show can only get better.         We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.comand give us your feedback on our opinions.

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