A new Carnival Queen was crowned Sunday night in an evening filled with glamour, beauty, intellect and talent.
Khalifa Antoine, 20, a senior psychology major at Barry University, was named the 2015-2016 Crucian Christmas Carnival Queen on Sunday night during the 63rd annual Miss St. Croix Pageant held at the Island Center for the Performing Arts.
It was evident from the beginning that Antoine was a crowd favorite. Groups of her supporters wore T-shirts and waved star-shaped placards bearing her photo, cheering loudly and blowing air horns each time she took the stage. In her introductory speech, Antoine said she had accepted the charge of the matriarchs that came before her to be a voice and pledged to end the stigma of mental illness in the Virgin Islands community.
"This is my destiny, this is my dream," Antoine said.
As Miss St. Croix, Antoine will reign over Crucian Christmas Carnival activities and participate in activities throughout the year.
Antoine also won the pageant's Miss Popularity and Best Evening Wear categories. Her winning gown, an emerald green dress adorned in shimmering green sequins with see-through sleeves and bodice, dazzled as she pulled away the skirt to reveal a flowing, delicate dress showing a hint of leg.
The members of her court are: first-runner up Isabella Sylvester, a 24-year-old entrepreneur, and second-runner up Keosha Quinn, an 18-year-old freshman at Midlands Technical College in West Columbia, S.C.
Sylvester wowed the audience with her rendition of Beyonce's "Pretty Hurts" as she handily won Best Talent. The other contestants gave dramatic performances for their talent.
To claim the title of Best Cultural Dress, Sylvester wore a black and white madras dress that featured a well-known painting of the 1878 Fireburn Rebellion and the Queens on the skirt. But as Sylvester modeled the dress on stage, she revealed two more outfits - opening the second layer of the dress which was a traditional skirt with ruffles of white, red, orange and green madras. A stunned audience cheered as Sylvester pulled back the skirt a third time to reveal yellow madras lining and a one-legged white pant for a more modern, youthful take on cultural wear.
Sylvester also won Miss Congeniality and Miss Intellect.
The title of Miss Photogenic went to Quinn.
The pageant was a fusion of glitz, glamour and culture, as the three contestants danced, glided and charmed the judges and the audience.
In between pageant action, local dancers and singers entertained the audience, including the We Deh Ya cultural dancers, Music in Motion, the St. Croix Educational Complex Dance Squad and Crucian dancer Elle Nielsen.
Pageant co-hosts Rashidi Clenance and Jenisha John kept the mood positive and festive between judging segments, encouraging the crowd to make sure the upcoming Carnival events are safe and enjoyable for everyone.
The contestants were evaluated Sunday night in the following categories: introduction speech, swim wear, cultural dress, talent, evening wear and on-stage interview.
The young women awed during the evening wear competition, then had to think on their feet as they were each interviewed on-stage by the co-hosts about their experience leading up to the pageant.
Instead of a pre-pageant interview, this year the contestants were interviewed on stage and answered two questions from the judges about how they intend to implement their platforms.
Antoine's platform was titled, "A face that lasts a lifetime: Eliminating the stigma of mental illness." When asked by a judge how she would accomplish this if selected as Miss St. Croix, Antoine said she would begin by educating the community on mental illness and work for improved services and another facility to provide in-patient treatment in the territory.
"The facility in St. Thomas can only house 29 individuals," Antoine said, leaving so many more persons needing treatment roaming the streets. She also said families of persons with a mental illness also need support and services.
When asked during the interview about how she felt she was doing so far in the competition, Antoine said there was always room for improvement, but that she felt confident in her performance so far.
Sylvester's platform was called "#perfectasyouare," which focuses on ending stereotypes that are hindering ethnic people from achieving their full potential.
Quinn's platform was called, "S.H.A.D.E.S.: Building the Jewel from Within," which centers on improving self-esteem among teenagers. SHADES stands for Sisters helping towards the Advancement, Development and Enrichment of Society.
Outgoing Crucian Christmas Carnival Queen Anumaat Davis Kahina took her final walk and in a slide-show presentation, Kahina displayed photos of accomplishments during her reign, which included a pilgrimage to Egypt and participation in numerous community events and activities in the territory.
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