Winning, sometimes, elicit contrasting responses.
Tears rolled down the eyes of Grade 10 student, Nia DeFreitas-Lynch, the moment she realized she had won the Miss Teen International Dance Talent pageant last Sunday night.
“I became close to a lot of the contestants and I knew this was the last time we were going to be together as a close-knit group doing something like this,” said DeFreitas-Lynch who represented St. Vincent & the Grenadines, which is her parents’ birthplace. “Also, there were a lot of sacrifices made by my mom who brought me from Brampton to Scarborough for rehearsals and that made winning very rewarding for her time and effort. The tears were for all of those things and the hard work I put in to achieve my goal of coming out on top.”
On the other hand, almost 40 seconds elapsed before 10-year-old Reeyana Singh realized she was the junior winner and her initial disbelief was transformed into a big smile that lit up her face.
“It was only after the sash was being placed on the first-runner did she become aware that she was in fact the winner in her category and she was like ‘wow’,” said her proud mother, Reeya Singh.
A total of 14 contestants – six in the junior division and eight in the teen category – took part in the second annual pageant at the Betty Oliphant Theatre.
DeFreitas-Lynch, who attends Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School, has been dancing and playing mas’ since age four.
“It’s something I like and I was just happy to be part of this unique show,” said the 15-year-old who participates in track and field, badminton and volleyball and aspires to be either a choreographer or interior designer. “Gaining new friends and increased confidence are some of the benefits I derived from the pageant and made taking part worth the while.”
The finalists performed a dance style assigned by the judges. DeFreitas-Lynch was allocated jazz.
“That was easy because I did both jazz and ballet,” said DeFreitas-Lynch, who won the dance-off. She also captured the Best Talent and Best Costume awards.
Kamila Thompson-Baines, representing India, was the first runner-up. The 16-year-old Sinclair Secondary School Grade 11 student enjoys dancing to hip-hop and calypso music and playing basketball. She won the Friendship, Most Photogenic and Best Evening Wear awards.
Second runner-up Kiante Williams is a Grade Nine student at All Saints Catholic Secondary School and her career goal is to be a scientist or interior designer. The Trinidad & Tobago representative, who speaks French and Polish, clinched the Miss Ambassador and Popularity titles.
R.H. King Academy Grade 11 student, Sharyse Bell, who represented Montserrat and Miss USA, Jade Singh, were the third and fourth runners-up respectively.
Bell is an aspiring pediatrician with a passion for netball and hip-hop dancing while Singh is a Grade Six honour roll student at Rowntree Montessori Academy in Brampton. Her goal is to become a medical doctor.
The other Teen contestants were Marissa Hodgins (Miss Puerto Rico), who won the Director’s Award and attends Father Donald MacLellan Catholic Secondary School in Whitby; Steanna Robins (Miss Canada), who is a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at R.S. McLaughlin Collegiate & Vocational Institute in Oshawa and Nurica Sookwah, (Miss Portugal) who is a Grade Seven student at Guardian Angel Catholic School.
In the junior category, Reeyana Singh (Miss Venezuela) also won most of the individual honours. She secured the Popularity, Best Costume, Best Talent, Best Evening Wear and the Dance-off titles.
“I am so happy for her,” said her mother. “She has definitely grown in the last month while being part of this event.”
Singh, who is a Grade Five student at James S. Bell Junior Middle School, finished third in this year’s junior carnival individual competition. She has played mas’ for the past two years with Toronto Revellers.
Kayanna Aldred (Miss South Africa) and Alison Latchana (Miss Guyana) were second and third, respectively.
A Grade Six student at Morning Star Middle School and an aspiring model, Aldred captured the Dance-Off award with her hip-hop presentation in the presence of her dance teacher, Andrea Douglas. Nine-year-old Latchana, who is fluent in French, is a Grade Four student at Pierre Elliott Trudeau School.
The rest of the junior field comprised Kiente Litchmore (Miss Jamaica), who attends Walter E. Harris Public School and intends to become a lawyer; aspiring teacher Grace Daal (Miss Holland), who speaks Dutch and is enrolled at Dorset Public School and Faith-Ann Giles-Clarke, (Miss Barbados) who is a Grade Five Student at Brooklin Village Public School in Whitby. She captured the Friendship and Director’s Award.
Pageant founder and executive director, Martin Scott-Pascall, was impressed with Giles-Clarke’s determination and willingness to learn.
“When she came to us, she made it clear that she had never danced before, but she would like to give it a try,” he said. “She was also a bit shy, but she has a warm personality and is obviously willing to learn. She has been a revelation.”
Scott-Pascall started the pageant to provide young girls with an opportunity to showcase their dance skills and advance their professional and educational goals through cultural empowerment.
“When you look around, there are not many opportunities when it comes to dance for people from our community,” said Scott-Pascall, who launched Dance Caribe Performing Company 23 years ago. “This is a platform for them and dancers of others races to shine in an open competition.”
The judges were York University Master’s student, Shireen Ali; actor and talent management executive, Xavier de Guzman; hairstylist and make-up artist, Rhea McDavid; dancer Ian Huggins, Diva Diverse founder and chief executive officer, Falesha Raquel and pageant winner/dancer/choreographer/business owner, April Mullings.