Sharon Layne wins Ms. Mature PageantPOSTED: 04/25/12 3:36 PM
St. Maarten – “I just opened my eyes, I was like really? I knew I did well and I kept saying I know I can win this but when they actually announced my name, I just said God thank you.” That was the initial reaction of English school teacher, Sharon Layne, after being crowned Ms. Mature Queen 2012 in front of a crowd of approximately three thousand at the St.Maarten Festival Village.
The pageant took place on Monday night and despite waiting almost seven and half hours for the curtains to come down, Layne said that it was worth the wait. Originally from Linden, Guyana, the new queen plans to continue her advocacy for women empowerment. “St.Maarten I am your queen who will serve for one year. I will try my best to ensure that women in St.Maarten are taken seriously. For women who are down and feel that you cannot do it, I am an example to you. I hope next year you will come out. It was an honor to participate.”
For her efforts she amassed 1145 points and also made a sweep of the individual categories of Best Interview, Popularity, Best Talent and Best Introduction. The winner of the photogenic competition which was determined by onsite photo-journalists is still to be announced. Layne is rumored to have won this segment as well but she may have been upstaged by first runner-up Tatiana Arrindell.
The show started with a dramatic opening as the contestants emerged from ‘Air Festival’, a makeshift plane, as flight attendants complete with their carry-on luggage.
In all of the categories, Layne kept emphasizing the virtues of mature women and her theme of love. “From the inception I took the SCDF theme of love, unity and feeling special and made it my own. Mature women are unique and special, no one has to feel ashamed; no one has to feel like a failure,” the first time pageant contestant remarked.
Having taught for the past 22 years at the secondary and tertiary levels, Layne took a leap of faith when she enlisted the support of fourth form student Bianca Romney and former student Marjorie Curtico-Ramirez as her official chaperones. Throughout the contest, the buxom beauty was cheered on my students, who said that she has always demonstrated “humility and remarkable commitment to young people.” She was the only contestant who did not benefit from expertise of seasoned professionals.
Raw talent placed Layne in a category all by herself when she delivered a flawless and thought provoking introductory piece as “an enigma, a phenomenally mature woman with a theme of love. I exist physically but incomparable to every other woman; beautiful, talented and wise, often imitated, never duplicated.” For talent, she did dramatic poetry and mime followed by sensational singing of Etta James’ ‘At Last.’ In the sport wear category, Layne worked the stage as an Olympic boxer to the theme song of ‘Rocky’, the movie. Her Carnival costume was called ‘Festival of Feathers’ with turquoise, lime green, light blue, pink and purple feathers. The tulle and lace skirt partially covering her jumpsuit was embellished with silver and purple butterflies. Her evening wear was specifically chosen “to reflect mature women” with blue, purple and silver rhinestones. For the final question, Layne was asked to select one of the envelopes from basket. Her question read: “In the past parents corrected children by beating them. This is no longer acceptable as a corrective measure. Do you think that this change has led to a difference in the manner in which our children behave today and why?” A confident Layne responded that the removal of corporal punishment has not led to any significant improvements in behavior for young people. Rather it has led to an increase in disrespect towards parents, teachers and the elderly. Layne added that she would continue to use her classroom to speak to students and change lives.
The pageant line up was reduced to eight persons when contestant # 8 Mireya Ostiana-Wijman failed to show for the event. Her daughter appeared on stage issuing a brief explanation for her absence. “My mother is not here because of love. Years ago she pledged to my father, for better or worse and that is what she is doing right now because she had to accompany him to Colombia for a medical emergency,” the young woman said.
1st runner up Tatiana Arrindell was awarded 1065 points and also walked away with the best evening wear; a crochet creation of local designer Kaisha Peters. Arrindell appeared to thoroughly enjoy herself as she played the zouk hit ‘Fire, Fire’ on steel pan for the talent segment. Her sportswear was also a hit owing to the infusion of a pound for pound bout between local boxer Claudienne Peterson and herself in a makeshift ring. Arrindell delivered a knockout punch sealing her fate as winner of the sportswear segment.
The judges awarded 1060 points to mother of two, Diana Gumbs. Singing a calypso which included a dramatic presentation of domestic violence, Gumbs shouted, “Women, stop beating your man!” She scored a hole in two, instead of one when she postulated herself as a professional golfer for the sport wear segment. Her Carnival costume called ‘Hibiscus Flowers in St.Maarten’ could have easily copped the top prize if not for Davia Bailey-Wilson’s ‘Angel within the Skies.’ Her costume was made of blue and white feathers with large turquoise peacock plumes towering above. She carried the costume in a white, silver and aqua body suit. Adorned with lights at the back, the costume was adjudged as segment winner. Bailey-Wilson performed Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’ as her talent piece. She was awarded 989 points and given the title of third runner up.
Apart from capturing the coveted crown, Layne received a trophy and commemorative plaque. Her winnings may also include a cash prize. She succeeds Ms. Mature 2006, Isabell Artsen.
An impressive panel of eight judges presided over the event. They included Dr. Jay B. Haviser, Mercedes ‘Elektra’ Wyatt, Josianne Alberto, Helen Hart, Jean-Marc Laveist, Thierry Gumbs, Berta Laveist-Chittick and Norman ‘Stormin Norman’ Dubidad.
The judges submitted their scores and left the venue a few minutes after 2:00 a.m. However up to 3:00 a.m. no results were announced to the eager audience and the nervous delegates. The police then spoke with the organizers and threatened to close off the show based on the country’s regulations. “Give us the results, we need to go home,” the crowd chanted.
One of the show’s hosts, Suzette Moses-Burton in a bid to soothe the restless crowd said “It is now twelve past three already please give us some time. The delay is due to discrepancies with the scoring.”
As the crowd heckled, Moses-Burton repeated, “We ask your patience at this time. We cannot at this point give individual segment results. We will only air the final results, at the end of the day that is what is most important.”
A few of the contestants lamented the fact that the organizers chose not to announce the winners of the individual segments at the event. “The least they could have done was to respect us. We should not have to wait to read it in the media. Even if they do not tell the audience, we need to know how we performed.”
President of the St.Maarten Carnival Development Foundation Stuart Johnson assured the peeved contestants that he would look into their concerns, adding that his organization tried its best to tally the scores in the shortest possible time. “The timeline of the pageant was sorely abused,” he stated, which further resulted in a haste to calculate the final scores and announce the overall winner. At 3:37 am the SCDF, released the scores to all media houses via email.
A few sections of the crowd were incensed at contestant # 2 Lisette Carty not capturing the crown. “Lisette collect your crown they shouted,” even after Layne was announced winner. In the lead up to pageant night, Carty was being touted as the inevitable queen owing to her experience, talent and her catwalk techniques. However, the former pageant queen failed to impress the judges, with her excessive flirtation, poor response to the final question and unusual talent of pole dancing which earned her the lowest score. Although opening the pageant with a high energy performance, some pageant enthusiasts remarked that Carty’s presentation resembled “an extremely aggressive cheerleader rather than a mature woman.”
Other delegates in this year’s Ms. Mature pageant were Lavinia Marsham, Shanna Cornett-de-Riggs and Chamane Radjouki.
Additional entertainment was provided by Anais Dance Fusion, Dance Theatre St.Maarten, Where the Flex, Patty’s Zumba Class and Shanda Webster.
A cultural manifestation was also part of the night’s event. It featured the Ebony Steel Orchestra, moko jumbies, African dancers and drummers and masqueraders from the French side of the island.