May 30, 2004 – "I give you the first Miss Virgin Islands — Kinila Callendar." declared mistress of ceremonies Miss America 1990 Debbye Turner. The audience, numbering over 700, burst into wild applause Saturday night at the Reichhold Center for the Arts.
The Miss Virgin Islands Scholarship Pageant marked the first time an official "state"-level preliminary for the Miss America competition has been held in the territory. It featured five young women vying for the crown, scholarship money and the chance to travel to Atlantic City in September to compete for the title of Miss America 2005.
Judges evaluated contestants for the Miss Virgin Islands crown in three areas. They appeared first in bikinis and one-piece swimming suits to "demonstrate their commitment to healthy living and physical fitness." Then contestants presented their talents. Callendar, a 23-year-old University of the Virgin Islands graduate, TV2 reporter and St. Thomas resident, performed a Latin dance as her talent.
Jessica Schuler, a Villanova junior, 20, sang a selection from the musical "Jekyll and Hyde," while St. Thomian Chanel Ruan, a 22-year-old UVI junior, sang "One Moment in Time."
Davina Martinez, a 20-year-old Crucian sophomore at the University of Puerto Rico, performed "Reflection" from the Disney film "Mulan." St. Croix's Halima Roebuck, 17, presented a dramatic monologue followed by an interpretive dance.
When they appeared in evening gowns to demonstrate their "poise and confidence," the contestants also presented comments about their public service. These appearances accounted for 60 percent of the total points awarded in the pageant. The other 40 percent was covered by a pre-pageant interview.
The program at the Reichhold Center included musical performances from both local artists and guests. Seven pageant title holders opened the night with music and dancing, while Evangeline Parker, a former Miss Arkansas, sang between appearances by the contestants, with such offerings as "Happy in Christ" and "Brand New Day." Adding to the evangelistic tenor of the evening was the local group Act Of God, whose lead singer declared, "Let's bring some Jesus Christ up in here."
Ericka Dunlap, Miss America 2004, appeared briefly to offer a song and words to the contestants. "People may tell you there's no way for you to win nationally, but its possible," she said. "You can do anything in this life by preparing for your goals and keeping God first — you can achieve whatever dream you have in your heart."
Pageant judge and jazz singer Allan Harris offered a few impromptu numbers. As part of the finale, the St. John youth singers Youths N' Harmony performed behind Parker, just before the announcement of the winner.
In addition to $1,500 in scholarship money awarded to all pageant participants, $1,000 scholarships were awarded to contestants for top scores in a number of different categories. Schuler collected the award for community service, Martinez won on the basis of scholarly achievement and Ruan picked up honors for both physical fitness and outstanding talent. Due to a tie in score, both Callendar and Martinez were awarded the title for best interview. In the final judging, Ruan took honors as the second runner-up, getting an additional $4,000 in scholarships, and first runner-up Martinez received $5,000. Local businesses, organizations and private citizens provided funding for the pageant's awards.
There was a moment of silent anticipation in the audience before the announcement of the winner and then the audience rose to its feet to greet the new Miss Virgin Islands as Callendar jumped up and down with fists balled and coifed hair flying. In addition to flowers, title and tiara, she walked away with opportunities for travel and study, a 2005 Ford Escape from Metro Motors to use during her year's reign and a trip to the Miss America Pageant in September in Atlantic City, N.J.
"I'm happy, nervous, excited — so many things." Callendar said just after the show. Shannon Skokos, the pageant director, denied further requests for an interview with Callendar, pageant contestants or personnel.
"I kind of expected this, without wanting to appear too confident," Kirby Callendar, Kinila's father, said. "This is just what she does — she does things extremely well."
Lavern Prince-Francis, Kinila's mother, was unavailable for comment.
The national Miss America organization is the top source of scholarship money for women in the world, according to publicity, awarding over $45 million to participants on the state and national levels. Before Callendar gets her shot at the big money and the national crown, she will "be taken apart and completely rebuilt — bigger, stronger, faster!" according to Debbye Turner, Saturday's emcee and Miss America 1990.
Should she advance to the final rounds, Kinila will compete on ABC network television in the Sept. 18 national live broadcast of the finale of the 84th Miss America Pageant.
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