Lydie Joseph is a Dominican student at the Midwestern State University, pursuing studies in Radiological Sciences. She was dubbed “Ms. Caribfest” at the recent Caribfest event in Wichita Falls. This article was originally published in The Wichitan.
Gold, and glitz and glamour coated the night in Akin Auditorium that would make Jay Gatsby envious as the annual Mr. and Ms. Caribfest pageant leaned into “The Great Gatsby” theme.
The festivity, part of the Caribfest, allowed students in the Caribbean Student Organization to showcase the vibrant culture and unite the students from the various islands in the Caribbean in just a few days on campus and get dressed up for the elegant evening.
“It gives the campus a different feel, we share the event to give MSU a taste of our culture, we want to bring Wichita Falls the same,” Jiselle, accounting, said. “We just want everyone to come out, eat our food and enjoy our culture.”
The excitement of Caribfest extends further than just the students on campus, and Wade Courtney, MSU Texas and CSO alumni, said the event is one of the most exciting times for him, and “it is phenomenal.”
“I’ve been here since 2009, and every year it is different in some way and every year it gets better,” Courtney said.
Much like the laid-back culture is represented on campus, so is the “island time” as the event was pushed to 7:55 p.m. instead of the 7 p.m. sharp start time initially indicated for the event. Sponsors of the event are from the MSU Texas alumni association and CSO alumni to the various community leaders who help fund it as well, this gives CSO the opportunity to showcase their culture through multiple events that typically span the early evening to late hours of the night. 200 people were estimated to be there.
The night began with a Gatsby themed introduction dance, followed by the contestants walking out in their evening wear. Then, the contestants introduced themselves with their platforms. There were four Ms. Caribfest contestants and three Mr. Caribfest contestants, all eager to win the crown for themselves as much as for their country. The emcees, Karla Henry and Darien Roach, then introduced the 11 judges and special guest Keith Lamb, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.
By 8:25 p.m., the pageant had officially started.
The first Ms. Caribfest contestant Breanna Leary, exercise physiology from the Bahamas, did a contemporary dance routine to Beyonce’s’ “Pretty Hurts” to speak about the struggles of feeling beautiful and accepting yourself in today’s social media crazed society. In the music video for “Pretty Hurts,” Beyonce’s character competes in a beauty pageant.
Eyes wide and a sense of chills were in the air, the audience listened to first Mr. Caribfest contestant Taris Major, architecture and mechanical engineering senior also from the Bahamas, performed a dramatic speech, infused with music about the alleged links between mental health and school shootings. Major acted as if he was walking to class and was killed in a school shooting and then rose up in dark lighting to give his speech.
Grantley Samuels, another Mr. Caribfest contestant number three mechanical engineering senior, originating from Antigua and Barbuda, played steelpan and the audience pumped him up by cheering.
The swimsuit portion followed the talent portion and Roach joked that “This is my favorite section of the pageant!”
Before each contestant walked and strutted out to their music, the MCs read off a pre-written description of each contestants suit, written by the contestants themselves. Each description excluding two, described how the colors and styles related to their native islands. Along with each description the contestants described their favorite alcoholic drinks and where they’re most likely to be when they are home on the beaches.
All of the Ms. Caribfest contestants walked out to a remix of Coldplay’s “Paradise” and a caribbean type song. The Mr. contestants walked out to songs they selected whichever song they liked.
As Major strutted out in a Bermuda themed towel, then quickly removing it to reveal his very fitted yellow shorts, the audience went absolutely wild. People were cheering and yelling as Major strutted around, posed and even flexed his butt.
After the judges rated each contestant on criteria like “muscle tone and fitness”, “colors” and other things there was a long intermission were some musical performances filled the space.
Evening Wear/Interview Portion
Finally, after some time, the evening wear portion began. The two portions were combined I’m assuming in order to cut down the length of the pageant.
Each contestant slowly walked out to music and did their routine before stopping in the middle and talking with the MCs. The MCs had two hats in their hands, each hat with questions in them. Each contestant had to draw, or “dig” as the MCs kept referring to it, for their questions – assumed to add variety and fairness.
Each contestant answered a question referring back to their platform and one question about their biography.
Leary said “I want people to know that when you overcome such issues [low self-confidence and body image] it open a lot of doors and opportunities that makes life easier…I just want everyone to know they’re truly beautiful.” when asked about her platform and how it helped her achieve her goal of people building better confidence.
Unfortunately, one candidate caught stage fright mid-sentence.
However, the majority of the audience was extremely supportive, yelling things like ”It’s okay! That’s okay! It’s okay honey! You got this!” to help and encourage the contestant to go on and keep trying.
After all the contestants answered their questions classic pageant style, the show moved onto the results of the pageant, the most anticipated part of the show, the winners.
But, the results were not announced before the SOCA show winners from the previous night performed, Mr. and Ms. Caribfest 2017 individually walked out in evening wear while a three to four minute audio played wishing the contestants the best of luck, then once it was time for the results to be announced, the MCs had to stall while “technical difficulties” occurred. Henry sang “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran. After much wait, at least 45 minutes to an hour, the results were announced.
But not before each contestant got awarded a multitude of awards, such as, “Best Personality”, “Best Swimsuit” and of course, participation awards.
At 11:52 p.m., Mr. and Ms. Caribfest 2018 were announced –
Ms. Caribfest – Lydie Joseph, radiological sciences senior
Mr. Caribfest – Grantley Samuels, mechanical engineering senior
Runner ups – Ms. Angel Williams, math senior
Mr. Taris Major, mechanical engineering senior
Despite lighting issues where the lights were dimmed, off or on at the wrong times, a late start and many “technical difficulties”, the Mr. and Ms. Caribfest 2018 was a celebration of the islands culture and once again CSO was able to showcase their roots in an elegant pageant, complete with a king and queen.