President’s Rising Star Award Recipient 2019: Trinidad & Tobago

In 2019, during the annual National Director’s Meeting, the inaugural director’s awards were presented for the first time by our organization. In what will become an annual tradition, two categories were announced. The Rising Star Award is given to franchise holders who are new to the #Suprafamily and have gone above and beyond to promote the Supranational brand in their respective countries.

Team Trinidad & Tobago took home the first Rising Star Award. Headed by Stephen Jones and Ramon Alexis, the first ever Miss Supranational Trinidad & Tobago Competition was the experience of a lifetime for the contestants. The directors’ dedication to empowering women, promoting the Supranational brand and producing an innovative contest truly set them apart. The Miss Supranational Organization is proud to have them as the first recipient of the Rising Star Award.

We caught up with Stephen Jones to learn more about their work:

Trinidad & Tobago received the Miss Supranational Rising Star Award at the annual National Directors’ Meeting. Were you shocked/surprised and what does this award mean to you?

Shocked is an understatement! Coming into the competition as a “newbie” and sitting amongst some of the world’s most revered pageant gurus and powerhouses, we really had no idea that there was even an award to be won, to be honest. For us, the Supra Crown itself wasn’t even a thing to be had. My local Executive prides itself on our personal motto: “Trust the process!” Sometimes, the result of the process does not end with a tangible ‘award’ or ‘crown’. But we believe strongly in the power of the virtue of the struggle and not the win. And then this happened. We sat at the back of the meeting room listening to the narrative and rubric read out as Andre introduced the award and for a brief moment I thought: this is definitely gonna be one of the front runners! Hearing your country’s name called publicly in a good way is a deeply emotional and humbling experience. We came to Poland to share our warmth and love, our willingness to learn and hopefully spark new relationships with and among other countries. So for Gerhard to look at us as a worthy Award Winner means everything to us; an affirmation and recognition that we hold very sacred and dear to us as a twin island Republic. Thank you again for trusting us to be the recipient of the Rising Star Award 2019.

Tell us about the highs and lows as first-time directors?

The Miss Supranational brand is not very well known in Trinidad & Tobago. All we’ve known pertaining to the major pageants are really Miss Universe & Miss World – two titles that we’ve both won in the past as well as have had top placements and outstanding representation throughout the years. So even though T&T have had representation three times in the early years – (2014, 2015, 2016), even those in the beauty pageant industry were not very familiar with the name.
We were very adamant that if we were to enter the competition, that we needed to engage the country in the process. So the team took the decision to develop social media platforms and invite young women to audition to be a part of the showcase. So challenge #1 was to constantly explain to people WHO and WHAT Miss Supranational is and what the brand represents for the sake of public and corporate buy-in.
The second major challenge is that we came into this with no start up capital and no funding from government or corporate bodies. It’s just the way things are at the moment. So we knew that if we were going to put out a good product – we needed to be creative and innovative in our approach – especially considering so many limitations.
We managed to stage a National Screening, Talent, Top Model & Business Pitch Competition and a Gala Coronation event ALL on the strength of volunteers, sponsors who trusted us enough to lend us resources, waive the fees for rental of facilities and staff, infrastructure, prizes, wardrobe and the list goes on.
But is no easy task especially as a group of young entrepreneurs who are seen as “now comes” in the industry. We’ve heard comments that “they will not succeed” and “give them time, it won’t work, they don’t know what they are doing”. We’ve heard people say “NO” in various languages. But that just acted as fuel to prove that we do have something good and modern to offer.
Our desire is for delegates to seriously begin to consider a life that is purposeful and transformative. We’ve developed a training Programme that is focused on the formation of the whole person: physical, social, psychological, intellectual, spiritual. We wanted not just a winner but a group of women who in their own way can contribute to the common good of our society and by extension the world. And this takes time, patience, compassion, trust. This is not an overnight waving of a magic wand and voile – you get a beauty queen. And still – there is no guarantee of a win!

What would you say is the biggest reward of doing what you do?

And so the biggest reward is being able to observe the process from inside out and see the potentialities become an actuality. The first term (2019) was very rewarding for us as a young franchise. The country has received us warmly and I have a good feeling that things are going to get better.
Trinidad & Tobago through our 2019 Queen Yia-Loren Gomez really brought back a level of class and talent that is undeniably a spectacle to behold.
For Yia’s yes and the nations’ trust in our decision, we are eternally grateful.

What motivates you to keep going despite all the challenges that we face in the industry?

My source of inspiration and joy comes from the Divine. That’s actually my motivation – that my vocation is lived out in all of my creative work. And if I have an opportunity to help young men and women through the beauty pageant industry discover more about themselves and learn to appreciate all of the natural God given gifts – then I am committed to steering the journey.
We are collectively motivated to make a more substantial offering to Trinidad & Tobago by creating business opportunities to help with an active global space where every person learns to appreciate their role in the grand theatre of life.

Generally speaking, do you feel you are getting enough support from businesses and communities in your country?

Straight answer – NO! But T&T has been going through a serious national budgeting process to help re-stabilize our economy. It’s very understandable that corporations and businesses must prioritize. It’s one of the major reasons why the way in which we package our creative projects must be multi-fold; one which will serve all stakeholders and not just the recipient, hoping that we can land a few major investors who are willing to support the development of a national training academy that will serve as a main hub and pool for models, beauty Queen’s and Kings and offer a next level approach to pageantry. We are very rich in culture and tradition in our country and we have to start thinking sustainable – even in the beauty pageant industry.

What is your message to people who dismiss “beauty competitions” as irrelevant?

My College Motto reminds me: ‘HUMANI NIHIL ALIENUM’ – Nothing concerning humanity is alien to me.
We work with human beings all of whom sometimes come to us with their own share of brokenness, insecurities and reservations. We don’t train dolls to walk nor do we dress up mannequins! We are involved in the work of facilitating a process that helps the young man or woman to look much deeper than skin level and to focus more intently on all that is intrinsically good and beautiful about himself / herself.
These are the same young people whom you fall in love with or will one day hire to be the face and voice of your organization or charitable cause. In any of those circumstances, I’m sure we’d want confident, grounded, mature minded, tolerant, productive and beautiful young people to do the job! Beauty pageantry is actually very timely coming to think of it.

Do you have a special message to all the 868’ers who supported your return to Miss Supranational last year?

Thank you for giving yourself permission to trust a strange group of people whom you probably don’t know.
Thank you for not judging us too harshly when we didn’t always live up to your expectations.
Thank you for publicly cheering us on with kind words.
Thank you for putting your hands into your pockets to support our productions.
Thank you for holding us accountable for carrying the banner of Trinidad & Tobago on your behalf.
I invite you all to renew your commitment to Miss Supranational T&T for the next term. As we get ready to bring you another Crowns & Sashes Production, please help us in whatever way you can to take Supra to the World!

Congratulations again, Trinidad & Tobago! We are SUPRA proud of you!