Last year I was asked by Discover Magazine to write an article for a fashion story for the 2013 issue. Though not much of a fashionista myself, working with Turks and Caicos Productions for the last seven years has certainly given me a great deal of insight into the fashion world. I see potential talent here in the Turks & Caicos Islands on a weekly basis so I jumped at the opportunity to help showcase it. After attending the two assigned events, infiniti-catwalk-event-at-somerset and the TCI Top Model Contest, and interviewing organizer Courtney Robinson, winner Washanda Registre and runner-up Vielka Salvadore, I knew this story deserved a stunning series of photographs to illustrate it. After weeks of pushing the magazine and brainstorming concepts with Tropical Imaging, we finally had approval to move forward. Last June I posted my inspiration boards, see them here.
Washanda and Vielka did an incredible job, modeling is not easy! There is the bright sun/blinding lights you must ublinkingly bear, difficult poses to hold, lightning fast wardrobe changes in sometimes less than ideal locations, and very long work days! These two handled it like pros, despite their young ages and experience levels.
The beautiful hair and make-up styling is credited to Shenique Higgs and the wardrobe was provided by designers Kazz Forbes of Saint George Fashion House, and Jeritt Jermell of The-House-of-Jeritt, all local talents!
Is this gorgeous face beginning to look familiar? Washanda has been working often and is featured in several local campaigns. She has the sweetest disposition, lovely looks, and is an all around wonderful young woman! She will go far with her unforgettable smile, her great ambition, and her Wilhemina contract!
I am so very proud of Kazz and his saintgeorgefashionhouse label. This is another young rising star to keep an eye on. Not only does his charm, talent, professionalism, and work ethic come across the moment you meet him, his attitude is top notch, a real leader who is always willing to lend a helping hand in the community.
Vielka slays the catwalk every time she steps on it, her strut is really something to see. When she steps out of the bright lights and sits down for conversation one may be surprised at her down to earth, nearly shy persona, her sense of humor. She has an incredibly versatile look and photographs beautifully, as you can see above. All three of these individuals have talent that I hope the wider world gets grasp of.
Please check out the article online or pick up your own copy at local retailers. Or you may read the full article below:
The Turks and Caicos Islands have been a prized location for fashion shoots for decades; cobalt blue skies, vivid turquoise seas, gently rolling waves lapping onto white sand beaches stretching for miles. It’s the type of destination art directors dream of, a stunning backdrop for which a fashion collection can instantly be brought to radiant life. Courtney Robinson has viewed TCI as a backdrop to fashion since his youth, literally. The sole copies of Vogue and GQ which made their way to his native Grand Turk once monthly were the teenager’s prized possessions, inspiring the young man’s passion for fashion and love of drawing and textiles. Armed with the knowledge granted by being a photographer’s son as well as an unforgettable face that embodied the “exotic” talent trend of the time, this kid from the Caribbean had an upper edge once his feet hit the streets of NY. By 2009, after stints studying in the fine arts, modeling, and designing, Courtney thought it time to give back to his community and give local aspiring models and designers an opportunity to showcase their talents, and fashion fans an annual show they wouldn’t forget.
The premier TCI Top Model contest spawned from a simple desire to bring back the elegance and showmanship of pageantry past and has now grown to the third installment Carnivalé: Culture. Music. Fashion! , a modern, multi-media production created to engage, guaranteed to entertain, and ultimately expected to transport the audience to a glamorous place far beyond the walls surrounding the crowd. The show itself is an ambitious enough project, but just as a model needs more than a pretty face or a knockout figure to make a name, the show backs it’s single night grandeur by weeks of devoted preparation spent on the contestants, encouraging them to shine their brightest when they step into the lights of the big night and beyond. This years contestants attended workshops on etiquette, interview skills, spokes model proficiency, networking, fitness and health, as well as fashion industry readiness, all instructed by diverse local experts. The preparatory training was certainly evident at the highly anticipated pre-event, “Infiniti Catwalk,” held on a blazing sunlit afternoon at the Somerset Resort. Each contestant walked the strikingly long loop around the sleek pool with poise, flair, and fierce confidence. Each of the ten young women distinguished from her peers thanks to uniquely shaped and tinted summer dresses, chosen to accentuate her particular frame and personality. After the ten contestants made stylish exits, a second line up of long limbed beauties showcased the spring/summer 2012 collection of Mongolian born, Canadian based designer Oyuna Tuyssuzian. Her collection featured earthy, airy pieces inspired by the diverse landscape of Turks and Caicos, many hand dyed “to achieve the right color and pattern to resemble those found in rocks, stones, tree trunks, sea foam, sunset, ripples on the water.” The audience was not alone in their applause; Mother Nature herself expressed admiration with robust breezes which incited captivating performances by the garments. The event clearly left the crowd wanting more, many lingered on in hopes of getting closer looks at the contestants, analyzing which girl would win top model.
The evening of May 12th, the downtown auditorium venue had been transformed into an uptown, urbane coliseum; media and behind the scenes bustling hurriedly about, music pulsing, laser lights sprinting across the elevated front and center 60’ runway. As impressive as the scene was the poshly dressed crowd; the usual Provo shorts and sandals superseded by lipstick laughs, sparkling jewelry, and row after row of dapper dress shoes and striking stilettos. The seat to seat mingling halted the moment masquerade dancers leapt onto stage, throwing confetti into the air, energizing the audience. After an eyeful of sculpted, shiny bodies in festive carnival costumes, the contestants appeared on the catwalk one by one, first in pretty party dresses and loose, wild hair then transitioning, in true runway fast and furious form, to dark denim skinny jeans and white-t’s paired with pumps and jet black pageboy wigs, the perfect accessory to demonstrate the versatility of each girls look. Local designer Jermell Williams presented his latest House of Jerritt collection. The all white ensembles were inspired by Greece; slick satins with retro edge, sheer peek-a-boo torsos, and opulent embellishments such as appliqués and ruffled gathers. An energetic music performance later and the contestants returned to the catwalk in Caribbean colorful swimwear followed by the latest collection by St George Fashion House’s local designer Kazz Forbes. From daringly slit swimsuits and flirty tailored skirts with cropped jackets, to soft breezy floral chiffons to raven hued decadent evening gowns, the collection offered variety without losing sophistication. On the final catwalk round, the contestants glowed in shimmering metallic asymmetrical accordion gowns and chunky gold jewelry. Though they all looked like goddesses standing side by side, 5’10” almond eyed beauty Washanda Registre conquered the competition, winning the top prize valued at over $12,000. She and runner up, leggy and classicly alluring Vielka Salvadore, succeeded in catching the trained eye of judges; top scouts from Wilhemina Models and Q Management from New York. As the show was closing, the door was opening for these young women.
The well spoken Washanda, born in Grand Turk but raised in North Caicos, says it has been her family and friends who have inspired and encouraged her interest in modeling. Her clear determination, positive attitude, and graceful demeanor complete her charm. She aspires that modeling will someday see her working in Italy and gracing the pages of Vogue magazine but for now “my goals are just to put my best foot forward and keep my head held high, not forgetting where I came from.” Color loving Vielka, known amongst her peers as “Blondie” spoke candidly about running and ducking from the camera as a young girl. Born in the Dominican Republic but raised in Providenciales since the age of three, her family and friends have strived to push the once shy girl into the spotlight. When asked about her killer catwalk she muses that it comes naturally; “it’s easy. Just stretch your legs!” She hopes to one day find herself in Paris, walking the runway for Alexander McQueen. Despite their differences, both young women agree that this experience has been incredibly helpful in gaining confidence and insight, both into themselves, and into the challenging and exciting wide world of fashion. Washanda described one heartfelt moment before winning the title, “I could remember backstage at the show, Courtney saying ‘you are goddesses now, and the cameras are all on you so go out there and do your best and don’t forget that you can never . . . . (emotional pause, deep breath) “sorry”, ‘don’t forget that you can never fail.’ ”