The saintly-meet-sexy veneer of beauty pageants is gone. Post Wendy we know that queens (gasp) have pre-marital sex. In the aftermath of Anya we make peace with the fact that some of them (shudder) record it. And after La Toya's 2010 showing we grapple with the fact that (collapse) being photographed with body paint on their breasts isn't against some people's moral codes.
T&T's naiveté about the women who represent us at international pageants has been steadily eroded these past five years. Some think it's time we come to terms with the truth that these alleged super-women are humans. For others the magic is gone. But what of the throngs of women still scrambling for the gig?
Miss Trinidad and Tobago/World 2011, Lee Ann Forbes, is fresh-faced, soft-spoken and all of 20-years-old. She was seven when we earned our third and last major title and grew up hearing that her mother was often mistaken for our 1977 Miss Universe winner, Janelle Penny Commissiong. In much the same way that talkative children are told they should be lawyers, the pretty, tall and slender Forbes was advised that she should be a model, a beauty queen or both.
"Honestly it's always been something I wanted to do. I've been modeling for the last three to four years and wanted to take it to another level. I thought maybe I should try pageantry because people always tell me I have the pageant look," she said two days after her win. I ask whether she'd given thought to the fact that her life has now changed: everybody knows your name… and face… and their take on your flaws.
"I was a bit worried about that but I decided that this is what I want to do and if I represent Trinidad and Tobago in pageants it's something I'll have to face because once you're out there you can't go back," she said.
Raised in St James, Forbes attended Mucurapo Girls' RC and St Francois Girls' College before completing her Advanced Levels at the Polytechnic Sixth Form. She is currently pursuing a degree in geography and environment at the Academy of Tertiary Studies. While she hasn't decided on a career goal other than modelling she says it was important to both her and her parents that she has the safety net of an education.
"My parents told me you shouldn't just put all your eggs in one basket. I started the modelling thing and I'm good at it but nothing is guaranteed. You don't know if you will be a Tyra Banks modelling until whatever age," she reasoned. Her big night was sandwiched by exams and the intense six weeks she spent with seven other delegates working out, walking, exercising and practising interviews were inevitably sprinkled with study.
Asked why she thinks she was chosen, Forbes said that her stage-presence and physique were always strengths. Her primary area of concern was the personality segment. So much so that having been selected as a finalist for the same pageant last year she opted to pull out and train with a life coach on interview technique and opening up.
"I thought about it and decided that I wasn't ready (in 2010). I took that year to develop myself and build more self esteem," she revealed.
The final question that earned her the title and an opportunity to represent T&T in London in six months was pat pageant: which charity would she represent if crowned Ms Trinidad and Tobago? She opted for an organisation providing asistance to orphaned chidren. Who can argue with that?
I was curious about how she'd do on a couple tougher lines of inquiry. So here goes…
What did you make of the sex tape scandal as a member of the T&T public?
"Well, it was unfortunate that it had to happen. I think it's her private life and nobody should have taken the tapes or made them public. Unfortunately sometimes life plays out like that."
And were she in Ms Woods' high-heeled shoes, would she have done the topless photo-shoot?
"Honestly If I were in her shoes I would not have done the shoot. To my knowledge that isn't acceptable for pageants. I've done a lot of shoots and chose not to go topless. I've even turned down an offer to do a promotion that involved going topless with body paint. That's not really my thing. My standards are a bit different."
Succinct, simple and pretty as a picture, Lee Ann Forbes is your new Miss T&T.
COPYRIGHT T&T EXPRESS MAY 12TH 2011