When Joella Crichton makes a Toronto Carnival Queen of the Band appearance, she expects to win.
Questioning her boldness and confidence might not be wise after the Carnival Nationz mas’ performer clinched her third straight title and fifth in the last six years at Lamport Stadium.
“The last time I had the opportunity to three-peat, I finished third,” she said. “I vowed that I was not going to allow that to happen again. I just went out there and did what I do best which is compete extremely hard.”
Crichton’s tenacity and competitive drive does not surprise her Vincentian-born mother, Lou-Ann Crichton.
“Joella started out in the kiddies’ parade when she was just three years old and she grew up in mas’ camps,” said the Toronto District School Board employee. “When Kenny Coombs was looking for a Queen for Toronto Caribbean Connection, she put her hands up. That was how confident she was that she could carry a costume and display it in front of thousands of spectators. She has been doing that since she was 18.”
Parading a costume for hours requires agility, stamina and strength.
Despite her slender build, Crichton is always up to the challenge.
“Again, I am not surprised,” said her mom. “As someone who did competitive figure skating, Joella was out there all by herself performing in front of large crowds and she was required to do a lot of off-ice training to build her stamina. In addition, she was a cheerleader who did some lifting. So even though she looks slim, that girl is quite strong.”
Coombs, who has produced every Queen of the Band costume that Crichton has worn, said she has the attributes of a winner.
“She’s strong, extremely athletic, photogenic and charismatic,” said Coombs, who also built the costume for Carol Tanis, who was the runner-up in the Female Individual category. “She exudes an aura that makes people like her without them even knowing her. There is always a smile on her face even when she’s under pressure.”
While Crichton credits the mas’ camp team with her success, bandleader Marcus Eustace knows he has a gem in his fold.
“Joella is confident and she has stage presence, flair and passion,” he said.
Crichton plans to defend her crown next year and add another title to her collection.
“I like the competition,” she said. “I believe that you should not try to fix something that’s not broken. Why not continue if you are on top and winning?”
Crichton has appeared in the last eight Queen of the Band competitions, including 2007, when her costume’s metal frame bent and toppled while she was performing for the judges. Unfazed, she won her first title the next year with Toronto Caribbean Connection before making a successful switch to Carnival Nationz in 2009.
This has been a hectic last five weeks for Crichton, who graduated from York University last year with a fine arts degree. Last month, she played Witch One in the 55-minute comedy play, Surviving Speares, at the Toronto Fringe Festival.
With the exception of July 8, the Shakespeare play ran nightly at the Magpie Taproom on Dundas St. W. from July 3-14.
“It was a pretty demanding period for me, but I am someone who believes it’s better to be busy than bored,” said Crichton. “With my mom at home during the summer, she helped out with my costume and ensuring I was ready to defend my title.”