April 15, 2007 — Shortly before midnight Saturday, Charlotte Amalie High School student Esonica M.Veira was crowned Queen for Carnival 2007 at the Lionel Roberts Stadium.
The near-capacity crowd was generously seeded with supporters of each of the five contestants, and at one time or another every young lady held the house in the palm of her hand.
The 2006 Carnival queen, Mystique Burke, joined the 2007 contenders onstage for the opening production number. Each wore costumes complete with plumed bustles that radiated upwards in the color combinations of fuchsia and papaya, or forest green and deep purple. Their outfits featured epaulets and front panels fringed with shimmering gold. Feathers sprang from their headdresses; Mystiques stood out with its periwinkle blue feathers tipped with royal blue.
Competing for the title of 2007 Carnival Queen were:
Contestant No. 1: Latisha Blyden, who attends Charlotte Amalie High School (CAHS) and was sponsored by the V.I. Carnival Committee. She is the daughter of Marvin and Jacqueline Blyden.
Contestant No. 2: Zsavon R.A. Smith, who attends CAHS and was also sponsored by the committee. She is the daughter of Louis Smith and Galene Francis-Thomas.
Contestant No. 3: Esonica Veira, who attends CAHS and was sponsored by PRT Enterprises and Pronto Cleaners. She is the daughter of Essington Veira and Carlene Woods.
Contestant No. 4: Beige R. Auradou, who attends CAHS and was also sponsored by the committee. She is the daughter of Ronald Auradou and Monica Breaux-Auradou.
Contestant No. 5: Alanna C. John, who attends the Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School and was sponsored by Marianne. She is the daughter of Trudy Jacobs.
The competition was stiff and there was no clear crowd favorite. Throughout the program, each contestant managed to win over the throng with a turn of phrase, a display of skill or embracing warmth. Media specialist and carnival maven June Archibald was pleased with the array of competitors, but she had a keen interest in Veiras prospects. So far so good, she said early in the program. Im familiar with one — Esonica Veira … because she has been in so many pageants. Itll be interesting to see what happens … you never know!
Veiras pageant history goes back to her childhood, when she was a first runner-up in the V.I. Carnival Princess competition; years later, she would become a Hal Jacksons Talented Teen (she parlayed her local win into the international title as well as Best Talent in St. Maarten in 2005), and the 2006 Miss Americas Outstanding Teen competition, where she walked away with Best Talent honors.
As the evening progressed, it became clear that the judges would have a difficult time determining who would gain the top spot. The audience reveled in the artistry of the cultural costumes: Both Blyden and Veira were decked out as the West Indian Company Dock. Blydens portrayal was three-dimensional, complete with moveable tramway cars, while Esonicas was painted over a large hoop skirt. Smith was Jane the Melee Queen," spreading news alongside the local newspapers. Auradou also chose a newsy topic, sharing the history of the V.I. Daily News. John was coal-strike queen Coziah.
The ladies pulled out all the stops in the talent segment. Blyden was a tap-dancing, upside-down, steel-pan-playing saxophonist as Dorothy trying to escape the Land of Oz by wowing the Wizard. Smihs tribute to three V.I. queens featured one from each island: Queen Mary (St. Croix), Queen Coziah (St. Thomas) and Queen Breffu (St. John). Veira saw her name in lights as a Dreamgirl, with the song Listen folding into an energetic dance performance. Auradou made great strides as a mocko jumbie in dazzling green lame, later releasing her stilts to perform a complicated gymnastics routine on an uneven bar. Johns dance moves mesmerized the audience, as she transitioned easily among interpretive dance, fire twirling and the bamboula.
In the evening-wear segment, Blyden appeared in a cerise-colored sheath dress generously sprinkled with crystals. Smiths strapless lemon gown flared to the floor beneath a wide, lime-colored band at her hips. Veiras crimson creation featured delicate satiny wraps over a sparkling bodice. For Auradou, bright azure with a diagonal splash of crystals topped a layer of cerulean blue over sunflower. John wore alternating sea foam and pale yellow with complementary translucent strips cresting at her waist.
Next came the question-and-answer segment, which centered on the protection of women and children in the territory. Following Burke's final walk, it was time to make the long-awaited announcements of the winners:
— Most Photogenic: Auradou (No. 4);
— Miss Congeniality: John (No. 5);
— Best Cultural/Historical Costume: John (No. 5);
— Miss Intellect: John (No. 5);
— Best Talent: Veira (No. 3);
— Best Eveningwear: Veira (No. 3);
— 2nd Runner-up: Auradou (No. 4);
— 1st Runner-up: John (No. 5); and
— 2007 Carnival Queen: Veira (No. 3).
Following her first walk, Esonica was floating on air as she recounted the beginnings of her dream: I participated in many pageants before. My first pageant was Prince and Princess, where I was awarded first runner-up. Then I did Hal Jacksons Talented Teen — the Virgin Islands one, then the international pageant, and I was successful in both of those. Then I also went on to Orlando, which was a pageant with 52 girls … and I got Best Talent, so now this is my – she paused, suddenly becoming almost tearful in recognition of the journey that had brought her thus far.
Composing herself long enough to entertain enthusiastic hugs from family and friends, Esonica felt certain about the future: I would like to attend a university in New York to pursue my performing-arts career and mass communications. She could no longer be kept from her family and friends, and was enveloped in the celebration of yet another victory.
The Spectrum Band, featuring the vocals of Malvern and Terrence Gumbs and Lorna The Fox Freeman, provided rousing musical interludes between segments, and emcee Irvin Brownie Brown kept things moving at a comfortable pace throughout the evening.
Upcoming productions of the V.I. Carnival Committee include the Hospital Carnival in the first floor lobby at Schneider Regional Medical Center at 6 p.m. Monday and the Junior Calypso competition Tuesday at the Lionel Roberts Stadium.
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