“Welcome to Trinidad & Tobago, and to the biggest party in the universe!” It was 1999 when Wendy Fitzwilliam unveiled her country to the world, and there’s no greater stage than Carnival Tuesday. It’s when Carnival crescendos, when the passion soars to its highest point on Trinidad (and levels off with survivors taking refuge on Tobago the following day) and when Harts truly unleashed the #UltravioletJungle.
We started prep for Tuesday’s main event, “pretty mas,” at 2:30 am sharp in order to be ready for the 7:00 call time. That’s the time it takes to make three stops to get the hair, makeup (Murrien Mitchell) and the costuming done, which was fairly reasonable for a Miss Universe (seriously). Among the highlights here was getting ready with the elegant Gabrielle Walcott and her hilarious sister Heidi, both famous models in T&T. Gabby is the most successful Miss T&T since Wendy, placing third in Miss World 2008; she also competed with the first Miss China I worked with, Luo Zilin, in Miss Universe 2011. It was a great moment to finally get to hang out with her and Heidi on the big day.
Wendy was the section leader for Panthera, and the costume I got to match hers was jawdropping: hundreds of feathers on two interlocking headpieces, with six accessory pieces, all of which created an insane amount of movement. Given that I didn’t want to sweat gold for a second consecutive day, we went light and fast with “Apocalypto” look (and a couple Swarovski jet crystals studded onto the eyes and delts). For once, I traded places when Wendy had to help secure my headgear as I kept the section leaders waiting (this was like living through the national costume contest at Miss Universe without double-sided tape or Crisco).
Crossing the Stage
I don’t think words can capture the emotion of arriving at the Savannah with Wendy. Some of the streetside vendors simply gawked at her
After a quick stop at Meiling’s office to grab lunch from the ever-hospitable Anthony, we popped over to Tribe (where I got a little bit of good-natured jabbing for my Harts pants) to wind down the night. Among the notables in our area were Kenisha Thom (Miss Universe T&T 2006) and Usain Bolt, whom I didn’t recognize at first because he is a tree of a man.