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Date Posted: Sunday, July 06, 05:19:43pm
Author Host/IP: pool-71-165-222-68.lsanca.dsl-w.verizon.net/18.104.22.168
The following interview is on today's (Sunday 6th July) online Express - BCPires
Miss Trinidad & Tobago, Anya Ayoung-Chee, is in Vietnam for next Saturday/Sunday's Miss Universe competition.
Is it exciting to be in Vietnam?
Regardless of what I was going for, yes, it is extremely exciting. I've always wanted to visit this part of the world.
You've been to the Far East before?
Only to Japan, and I was thoroughly fascinated. I was only 15 and I told my parents, "You can leave me here!" I loved it. I'm a designer and that environment very much stimulated me. As an artist, I think Vietnam [is] similarly fascinating.
They may take you for a Vietnamese?
They might! And my roommate is Miss Vietnam. We don't look that similar but it certainly is unusual that I am from Trinidad and Tobago and she is Vietnamese and there is enough of a similarity.
If Miss Vietnam is eliminated, you might get the home support?
I think so.
Did you expect to get to Vietnam because you look good in a bathing suit?
Never! [Laughs cheerily] Nor did I ever feel, before doing Miss Trinidad and Tobago, comfortable that that would be a reason either. I never felt-I'm getting into touchy territory I suppose-that beauty pageants represented women in their best light. [At] the screening, it was the first time I ever stood in front of a panel of people in a bathing suit -and I really did feel weird.
And then I sat and wrote reasons I would and wouldn't do Miss Trinidad & Tobago and the pros outweighed the cons; because I felt beauty is a gift like anything else-intelligence, aptitude at sport, whatever you were born with and find a way of developing. I think the reality is that people respond to beautiful things and beautiful people; when you have the gift of being attractive, it's one other thing to use to your advantage; and it's particularly beneficial if you use it in good ways. I came to terms with myself that this is a gift I have and, if I can use it for good work, why not?
But you wouldn't be going if you weren't pretty?
No, it's a beauty pageant, there's no two ways about that.
So you have gained an advantage and may gain a substantial advantage just by virtue of how you look?
If you look at it cynically, then, yes: if I didn't look the way I look, I wouldn't be going to this thing; but that could be said for anything. If I could sing, I'd be competing for some sort of Idol competition. If I could run fast, I'd be going for the Olympics. This happens to be something I have been given and I'm going to the forum that celebrates that; and, now that I've thought about it more, I don't think there's anything wrong with that because I know I am using it in ways that are not just about the way I look.
Especially for an intelligent person, there's a process of rationalisation you have to go through?
[Anya interrupting] To be able to do this? In order to go through the screening of Miss Trinidad & Tobago, it took a lot of rationalisation. A lot! A lot of theorising, hypothesising-but the last three-and-a-half months have been a visceral process: it's been what I've lived, breathed, slept; and I can now say that the sort of development I've had has been nothing of a physical one [but] almost entirely a psychological, spiritual and emotional one. Being Miss Trinidad and Tobago, not once have I had to stand in a bathing suit.Â Except [laughing] the surfing [pictures of which appeared on newspaper front pages].
Otherwise Trinidad & Tobago wouldn't know you have a tattoo above the pelvis?
Exactly! [Laughs heartily] The job entails so much more. People expect you to be an intelligent, personable, charming, well-rounded human being.
Well-rounded particularly in particular parts?
[Chuckles] If that's the case, I'm not the right person because I'm not well-rounded in particular parts. I'm five-six, not five-eleven. I'm not your typical beauty queen girl physically. That in itself reinforces for me there are other ways to express what it is to be a beauty queen.
I know what I bring to it is so much more than how I look; maybe you can call it rationalisation but I know I've evolved in the last three months. Being an intelligent person who had an issue with beauty pageants before, there's no question in my mind that I'm doing something I believe in, because of what I've learned and how I've been forced to come to terms with who I am-minus the physical aspect.
So are beauty pageants now a good thing?
I think Miss Universe is a very commercial role; at the end of the day, you are a marketing tool for this company. It's a very unusual position where you are the product, you are the brand. And you define it: whoever is Miss Universe for that year defines it.
There are a few set engagements every Miss Universe does but everything else depends on the popularity of whoever wins. If I am Miss Universe, I can define the role within the boundaries of
[BC interrupting] Of Donald Trump owning your ass; how would you define it?
It would depend on which endorsements come to me, which companies seek to use me for their events and so on-but if I bring to every one of those exercises, a person willing to stand up for the things I believe in, that would be my effort.
Would you rule out cosmetic surgery?
Personally, I would. But it is a given in the modern competition. I don't think anyone should be told they should or shouldn't but I do think it's important that a healthy female image is portrayed always. Plastic surgery can encroach on that.
Given your education level and social background, was it fair to enter a competition many view as an opportunity for sufferer-girls to get a free trip?
I'll be honest; that's something I thought about. I guess I agree with what you just said: the circumstances of my life have given me advantage-due only to the hardworking parents I have-but, regardless, I had a very good education, I've travelled a lot. But that's not to say as human beings I was any better than any of the other girls.
Yes, perhaps I am taking this away from someone who might benefit from a trip they might never ever be able to have and I could potentially go on my own-[but] the role of Miss Trinidad & Tobago was about being an ambassador. I think I could soundly represent what it means to be a Trinidad & Tobago person.
Why should I hold back from being able to do that, potentially well? And that's the extra advantage I think I have: this is not the be-all and end-all of my life and because of that, I bring to it even more altruism: it's about Trinidad & Tobago, not about me getting to go on a plane with lots of pretty clothes and go to Vietnam for a month. I don't mean to sound jaded. It's wonderful [to do that] but it's not what it's about [for me].
You want to win?
Yes [Laughs] Just for the sake of winning. I'm very competitive. But I do think Trinidad and Tobago would benefit from a win like that.
Â Now that might be the first "beauty queen" answer you've given me; come on, doesn't that sound superficial to you?
[Laughs] You know, I think about when Wendy Fitzwilliam won ten years ago and how I felt to see her on that stage with that crown. And I know I'm not the only one! It's so much about the collective celebration of something about Trinidad and Tobago.
Forget she won because she looks good in a bathing suit or it's a beauty pageant. No one cares at that point. There are the feminists and cynics who disagree, fine, but it made us all feel fantastic that Wendy was Miss Universe. I'm not going to apologize for that; yes, it sounds a little "cute" but I think any national celebration on an international stage is something we all want.
Suppose you win; how does that affect your relationship with your boyfriend?
We are very open to each other's explorations. He's a photographer and I'm a designer and we've both had a lot of travel in our backgrounds. He embraces this attempt.
Up to when you win but then it's much harder to be Miss Universe's Insignificant Other than Miss Universe?
We'll cross that bridge when we get there. At this point, there's so much speculation, it's not worth the headache.
If you win, your ass belongs to Donald Trump for a year?
Correct! [Laughs heartily]
You're happy with that?
Um. It's going to be interesting. That is probably going to be one of the biggest challenges: belonging to a company wholeheartedly. But I think what will come of it is worth the challenge.
Can you really bring a liberal attitude to a flesh show?
People like you who see it as a flesh show, I suppose that opinion is set and, regardless of where [pageants] evolve to, you'll continue to think that. Because, on the TV screen, that's what it looks like.
So they have got to higher levels?
I think so, having been through Miss Trinidad & Tobago. The flesh side has never been [a big deal] for me; I don't go around parading myself, you know.
Well, you will be in a week. Be honest: has the "intellectual" side really developed? No matter what they ask you, the answer is always, "Nelson Mandela", "My mother" or "Love"?
[Laughs heartily] To be honest, on the stage, at the competition, the questioning is always pretty soft. What counts in this role is who you are as a person; I don't want to say, "personality" because that cheapens it. I think it depends on who you are and what you stand for.
I'm a little bit more left field than the average beauty pageant contestant. If that's not what they want, I can't change that - but I'm certainly not changing the essence of who I am to win a crown like this. I want to win but I want to win being myself; but my impression is, they're really looking for a woman who can solidly be themselves and not waver on that.
And really sell a product?
[Laughs heartily] And really sell a product because of it!
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