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Harry Potter Enthusiast, Island girl, All American Girl, Proud USF bull. Lover of all things mythical and "unbelievable"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pageant Platform Featured Queen: Janeisha John

What do you call an island girl filled with determination and drive, a former Miss America and Miss universe Contestant, a successful news reporter, model and student? I'm not sure what you would call her, but I'd call her Janeisha John and my fourth platform featured queen! Her list of accomplishments is endless, but one thing that radiates far more than any of her amazing talents or conquests is her humility. She is by far, a stunner, and an achiever of things that some of us can only dream of. But she's never lost sight of where she's come from and she's never forgotten that her duty is to serve those around her and make them proud. It is so exciting to have such an amazing woman take part in my project and platform to promote the benefits of pageantry. So, take a glimpse at Janeisha's Interview. Nothing short of amazing.

Tell us about yourself.

Hi Aniska, it’s truly an honor to be featured as a former queen on your blog! A little bit about myself, I am former Miss US Virgin Islands 2007-2008 and Miss US Virgin Islands Universe 2010-2011. I graduated from the University of the Virgin Islands in 2009 with my BA in Business Admin/Marketing. Currently I am a General News Reporter at CBS-TV2 News 2, as well as a VJ/ Host for TEMPO Networks. I am a lover of the arts, anything involving music, fashion, dance, art, film, photography, modeling, etc… I somehow mysteriously find myself involved lol but I love it though! I love bread and cheese (I grew up in a bakery, shoutout to Centerline Bakery bup bup!lol), I deny it as my favorite but I always steer towards the color pink, I love traveling, love spending time with family, and in recent years have become somewhat of a beach bum, guess that’s the island girl in me!  
What made you compete for not one, but two internationally prestigious titles (Miss Virgin Islands, Miss Virgin Islands Universe)?
Well some might call it the “pageant itch” lol, they say once you run for one you keep running for them. For me though, it was more of a challenge to be able to represent my islands on what many see as the “grandest stage” in pageantry. At Miss America I was very young and not fully aware of the opportunities that came with competing in an international and national competition, so after Miss America I decided to give it another whirl and compete for Miss VI Universe. I actually had to wait almost two years for the committee to gather contestants because they couldn't find enough girls to compete, but once they did it was GO time for me! Being the first and only queen thus far to capture both titles is truly an honor, but I’m hoping that one of these days one of my other Miss VIs will continue that legacy, maybe one day it’ll be you Aniska. ;-). 
What do you feel is the hugest benefit to a young woman competing in pageants?
Well everyone benefits from pageantry in different ways, but for me the hugest benefit would be finding a sense of self. Being able to identify myself, build my character and grasp a firmer understanding of who I am as a woman was amazing to me. I found my voice, my purpose, and that is something that I can carry with me forever; and I think that many other young women discover this after competing in pageants. 
What did you learn about yourself during the pageant? 
I learned that I am not perfect and that not being perfect is a beautiful thing. International pageants can be the most humbling experience for any woman. You will discover your weaknesses but most importantly your strengths, and for me finding my strengths and weaknesses has made me a person who isn’t afraid to take risks and also isn’t afraid of failure. 
Do you think that pageants are a good opportunity for young women? Why or Why not?
I am a strong believer in the pageant system and I think it’s a great opportunity for young women if they choose to let it be. It takes more than just competing and winning a title. Young women have to be willing to be open-minded and see the experience as an opportunity to grow. I have pageant sisters in every state and in over 90 countries in the world and many of these women are business women, philanthropists, artists, models, TV hosts, inspirational speakers; just truly beautiful women inside and out, and I’m positive that they all can say that competing in pageants contributed to that success. 
What has been your most memorable experience?
Well besides being on both the Miss America and Miss Universe stages, I would say that my most memorable experience would be my New York experience. I moved to NYC about three weeks after Miss Universe, and the experience was life changing for me. I got the opportunity to attend many events as Miss USVI, such as the Athletes vs Cancer Charity function for former Lakers player Matt Barnes along with Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA. I also attended the Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week, where I was able to sit front row at the Venexiana Fashion Show along with former NFL player Maurice Leggett. Front row at any NY Fashion week show is a huge deal so the media went crazy asking who I was. I must admit it felt really good to tell them I was Miss US Virgin Islands and to see the many blogs and fashion sites post it. I also had the opportunity to be a red carpet Correspondent for Project Runway Designer Mychael Knight’s Fashion Show, where I got to interview the likes of Trina, Sherri Shepherd, BBWLA’s Gloria and Laura Govan, Love & Hip Hop’s Olivia, and even Nicki Minaj’s Hair stylist. The VIP treatment in NY as Miss Virgin Islands was a great feeling but most importantly it gave me the opportunity to talk to people about my islands. The second people heard I was Miss Virgin Islands, all they wanted to know was what it’s like here and I loved telling them how amazing my home is. 
In your opinion, are pageants  still heavily influenced only by the beauty of the young woman, or is does it require more than that?
I honestly think it depends on which pageant system you are competing for. A pageant like Miss America is more focused on service and scholarship, so intellect plays a major role in how well you do. On the other hand, Miss Universe, which is known for having amazingly stunning titleholders, is a little sexier, in the sense that they are looking more for a model type to carry the Miss Universe brand. Overall based on my personal experiences it is much more than what appears on stage. Beauty does play a major role but so do other things, and at the end of the day these pageant systems are a franchise, so for some it’s simply viewed as a business.
If anything, has pageantry had a negative or positive effect on your self image/self esteem? How so?
In all honestly, at some point it had both negative and positive effects on my self image/self esteem. Being around amazingly tall, beautiful women, with perfect bodies, skin, and hair, who dressed up like dolls every single day is NOT easy for anybody, and can be quite intimidating. I had my days where I would second guess how I looked, how tall I was, how I dressed, etc… and reading pageant blogs that tarnished contestant’s names did not help at all! However, there was a turning point where realized that a lot of those “perfect” girls have many flaws and I realized that everyone has insecurities, everyone has at least one thing they wish was different about them, and that’s perfectly fine. NO one is perfect and the second you accept and understand that, then you've already won. I've grown from my pageant experiences, I am now a strong person, who is fine with  who I am. Some might think I’m beautiful and some others might not, at the end of the day, it’s what I think that counts.

....Hope this answers your questions Aniska. I really think what you’re doing for young women’s self esteem is amazing! It shows that you have already opened your mind to making this pageant experience a growing one! It also shows that your mind and motives are in the right place, I hope that takes you to 1stplace hon! Keep up the good work and I’m looking forward to seeing you take Miss America by storm!....

To Whom Much Is Given: My Visit To St. Peter & Paul Cathedral School

Hey Guys! I know it's been a while. I've been extremely busy though. Talent practice is well under way, I've chosen my song and it's perfect, very fitting of the place I'm in right now, as far as life goes. My vocal coach is amazing! I absolutely love her. She makes it easy, and absolutely enjoyable. I can't wait to head up to Jacksonville to meet with my pageant coach to put the final touches on everything. But, my local team is definitely keeping meon my toes. Need less to say, I have a great team behind me as far a performance preparation. So, now that I've gotten you up to speed with why I've been so incognito, I'd love to share my school visit with you. 

I was invited to share some time with the first grade class at the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral School. As you all know, bullying has become such an epidemic in our school environment, so I decided that would be the initial topic of discussion for the young ones. We first defined what bullying was, and KeithAnne (a student of the class) defined it best. "Bullying is being mean to other people, in a way that you wouldn't want them to be mean to you." I emphasized the importance of being nice to those that may not be nice to you, and we also spoke about what to do if you are ever plagued by a bully. After tackling the issue of bullying, the students and I took part in an activity, I told them what I would try to accomplish as Miss Virgin Islands, and they each wrote me a letter, informing me of one specific thing they would like me to do for them during my year of service. After all, with my title, my job is to give selflessly. I got a few "interesting" requests. Quite a bit made me laugh. I was asked for an xbox, a trip to Trinidad and Tobago, I was even asked to complete a few home work assignments! Another student asked for a crown just like mine, but not exactly like mine, but close enough so that we could be sisters. Another requested that I try my best in Las Vegas and win. That one I'll try and do for sure. The most memorable was a young girl, she asked of me, something that I truly believe broke my heart. She began to cry and read her letter aloud to me. She hugged me afterwards and if all I could do was comfort her, then that I would. Overall, my visit was amazing. I hope to do it again.

P.S. My fellow title holders be weary of letting the little girls "touch" your crown. I made that mistake and it was nothing short of yanked of my head! I laughed it off because can you really blame a six year old girl for craving a shiny princess crown? :)

I then traveled upstairs to visit with the 9th-12th grade girls, to speak about my platform which is so close to my heart, and those girls were not easy on me! I began by telling them a little about myself and why I chose my platform. My struggles with low self esteem are my motivation to prevent any young woman from encountering that. My goal to change the idea of beauty is persistent and never ending because no girl can ever live up to the physical standards placed on her by society, and no girl should ever have to. We spoke about beauty being that which lies within. What you think and what you give back makes you beautiful. A face will fade away with time, but if you are able to  inspire and leave an amazing message with someone, that above all else makes you beautiful. The questions rolled in one after the other. I was asked about boyfriends, they were awed that a beauty queen likes her natural curls. They questioned the motives of beauty queens, "Do they really pepper spray dresses?" "How many of you all starve yourself before the pageant?" Of course I've never experienced either. Every single one of my Miss America sisters have been nothing but positive thus far, welcoming and enjoyable, and I emphasized the fact that Miss America is based on a healthy life style. Hurting yourself for a pageant is never worth it. Then, after grilling me endlessly, they requested that I sing for them! I was terrified. Even now, teenage girls stir a certain fright in me. They are the harshest critics, but I swallowed all those fears and sand the very first verse of "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston. They applauded after it all, thank goodness. So If I'm good to them, then I've got this. We left each other, and I knew that I had left a lasting impression on them. That is always my goal and I think on that day, I achieved it.

 Thank you so much to these girls for being welcoming and although they weren't easy on me, they sure did prepare me for things I'll have too get used to. Love you guys! 

....“For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48)....

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Miss Virgin Islands 2012: A Message To Those I Humbly Serve

The United States Virgin Islands is a complete melting pot of so many different cultures and characters. I myself, am a little bit of everything. I'm a dash of a country girl, born in the great state of Texas, A hint of a Florida fighter, educated at the great University of South Florida, and more than a few cups of an authentic island girl.  At just a young age, I have experienced quite a few different arenas. But, with all that is different about is, there is far more in common. Our values are so very much alike.
We are raised to be respectable, driven and determined. We strive, always, to do our very best. We are a welcoming people, open to the ideas and views of many others. I think growing up in this beautiful paradise, has enabled me to be an amazing ambassador for my country, The United States of America. I have had the opportunity to meet an experience the lives of people from many different places, and we are a country composed of many different people from many different back grounds. As a potential candidate for the title of  Miss America 2013, it is important to know who you are representing. It is also pertinent to know that you are handed the task of representing those different than yourself. I have had the amazing opportunity to be an ambassador for the Virgin Islands once before as the Junior Commissioner of Tourism in the year 2007, I represented this American paradise among several different islands of the Caribbean at the annual Caribbean Tourism Conference.  I now hope with everything that is within me to be honored with the job of representing not just my island home, but my beloved country as Miss America 2013. Although this task is very hard, and the odds may not always be in my favor, I was always taught that if I have a Father than can give and take life, and walk on water...Nothing is impossible. My only goal, through every step of this journey is to make my home, and my country proud. Regardless of the outcome, it is my wish that my fellow country men see how truly dedicated I am, and will always be to the progression of us all. Through my platform, my performance and my perseverance I hope to make you all proud.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Flash Back: MAOT Orlando

I was browsing through pictures and came across a few snap shots from my first trip as Miss Virgin Islands. I'm still so proud of my Outstanding teen Aliyah, she was amazing. I love her like a little sister, and I'm so honored to be spending my reign with such a talented and driven young woman. Ms. Claire Roker ,my chaperon, is still my go to gal for any and everything I need! After long days it sky high heels, Ms. Roker made sure I had extra snacks in my room, and made sure I had everything I needed to be extremely comfortable on my whirlwind trip. What's not to love about that? I'm forever grateful and I can't wait to visit them both on our sister island, St. Croix. 
Could you believe it's been more than a month since I've met some of the most amazing women in the country? These girls and myself, will share a bond like no other for the rest of our lives. There will never again be a Miss America Class of 2013. I'm pretty excited to see them all very soon! I distinctly remember our first encounter. I had just landed in Orlando and was rushed to an orientation. I was terrified and a bit nervous, meeting 52 of the most talented, beautiful and intellectual women in the country. I remember Miss Maine welcoming me instantly, pulling a chair beside her seeing as I was late and had no where to sit. A few of us clicked instantly when we found out we all loved Harry Potter! I remember being a bit jealous of Miss Texas, she visited the Harry Potter attraction just days before! I definitely Miss the two Mariah's (Miss Iowa and Miss Nebraska). Miss Nebraska and I bonded over a complete fear of roller coasters or anything scary on our trip to Disney world! She's my "sit this one out" buddy for life. Miss California saved us both though! I swear nothing scares her, she's pretty much down for anything. I definitely can't wait to see them again . I think it's sometimes forgotten that one of the most important parts of any competition, is the lasting friendship you can gain with so many of the girls. I look forward to that. I'm most excited about getting to know these amazing women even more. We're definitely a class to keep your eye on. We have quite a few things going for ourselves, and I don't think we'll disappoint you guys.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pre-K Reading Visit

Growing up, I was always told that it takes a village to raise a child. Luckily, I'm so connected to two "villages." Although I was raised for most of my life in the Virgin Islands, I was born and spent a significant amount of time in Houston, Texas. That has allowed me to acquire values from around the country. This country has done so much and has played such a vital role in the woman I've become. So although, I continuously promote my platform, I also give back to those that may not be directly affected by my platform.

I was invited to read to a pre-kindergarten class this past week. What an amazing time we all had. I've worked with little ones before, but with each new group is a new experience. We read about the "Things Mommies and Daddies do Best." So attentive they were, but they also asserted any views that they might have had to go along with the story. This is the part of my job as Miss Virgin Islands that I love the most I am able to play a part in their lives. When my title is gone, why impact will still remain. That, above all, is most important.

I've always thought that those younger than us are the most important. They keep us pure at heart and they push us all to make this world a better place for them. They show us that acceptance truly isn't based on anything but that which lies within. I'm sure I taught them a few things that day, but as always they taught me so much more.
"Every child comes with a message that God is not yet discouraged by man"
-Rabindranath Tagore

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When Looking For Her Beauty, Look To Her Heart.

I met a little girl, Princess, recently on a school visit.  Princess, I and a group of little girls were all speaking about our names. Other girls around us were mentioning that they loved their names and why.  Elani loved her name because it was easy to spell. Kayla loved hers because it sounded pretty when she sang it.

Princess said she didn’t like her name. So I asked why not?

She didn't love her name because her name was" pointless."

My questioning of this 8 year old continued: “Why is your name pointless Princess?”

Princess did not hesitate to answer my question she went on to tell me that she doesn’t understand why her mom would name her princess if she’s ugly.

I said to her, “Well that’s not true. Who told you, you were ugly?”

She said, “No one had to tell me Miss Aniska. I just know because I'm different.”

“Why do you feel different?” I asked.

By now I was intrigued. How could someone so young even know what it meant to be different, what it meant to be ugly? What had happened?

Princess seemed bewildered that I didn't know, but she was willing to explain.

She said to me very surely, “Every time I see someone on TV or in the magazines or winning carnival queen, they never look like me.” 

I thought to myself, how crazy this all sounded. But I knew it was far too common of an occurrence. 

“There are very beautiful people who are ugly.” I said
By now I’m sure Princess thought I was insane.

“How can someone be beautiful and still be ugly?” She asked.

I then told her because your beauty lies within. "What you see when you look in the mirror doesn't make you pretty.  What your heart feels, that’s what makes you beautiful."
"When looking for her beauty, Look to heart"

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pageant Platform Interview: Yaira Bermudez

If anyone says that you have to be 5'8 to be successful in pageantry, tell them "You're Wrong." They are most definitely mistaken, and Yaira continues to prove that. Standing at just 4'9, she has never been the "traditional" pageant queen, but that has not stopped her. Her beauty, talent and intelligence make her at least 6'5 in any room. Yaira should not only be an inspiration to those like herself, but any girl that is different, any girl that was told that she was not physically acceptable to be successful in the world of pageantry. As a former St. Croix festival queen and a former contestant of the Miss Virgin Islands Scholarship pageant, she has proven that big things come in small packages. So, I'm very pleased to present my third featured queen, Yaira Bermudez. Enjoy!

Tell us about yourself. 
My name is Yaira Bermudez, 23 years old, from St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. I was Miss SCEC HS 2005-2006, 2nd runner up Queen of Queens 2006, Miss St. Croix 2006-2007, & 2nd runner up for Miss Virgin Islands America 2011.  I have a BS in Travel-Tourism & Hospitality Management with a concentration in Entertainment Management.  Food is me weakness, I LOVE food and I love cooking, my favorite tv series is Law and Order SVU, my favorite tv network is LMN, I am an only child, I love to laugh and goof around, I love traveling, I love to Dance and I love taking pictures. I have an inseparable bond with my iPhone! I love the beach and I love piƱa coladas! :) 

How many pageants have you competed in and why do you enjoy competing in pageants?
So far I have competed in four (4) pageants, I hope to compete in a couple more someday ;)! I love competing in pageants for a few different reasons. Firstly I absolutely love the stage and performing, I have been dancing since the age of three, it's my passion to be on a stage and I found pageants to be a different area where I could perform on a stage, showcasing not only my talent, but my intelligence, beauty, grace, etc. I also love competing in pageants because it gives me an opportunity to not only represent myself, but a title as well as my home and a platform that I feel passionately about. 

What has been your most memorable experience? 
My most memorable experience up to date is winning the title of Miss St. Croix 2006-2007. I went through a whole lot while vying for that title, a lot of negativity came my way. That night when they announced the winner and it was my name that was called, an unexplainable amount of emotions took over me. I definitely had to work 10x harder than everyone else, and that moment made it all worth it.  Along with the win walking away with Miss Intellect, among other awards, was my proudest accomplishment.

Has pageantry assisted you in accomplishing any professional or personal goals? How has it done so/ not done so?
Pageantry has definitely assisted me in accomplishing personal goals. During Miss St. Croix my platform was tourism, and it wasn't until then that I realized how passionately I felt about tourism, or rather the lack of tourism, on my island and how my island could thrive if we focused and worked towards a better Tourism plan.  After realizing how I felt on the matter because of my platform during this pageant, I went on to Johnson & Wales University where in acquired a Bachelor of Science degree in Travel-Tourism & Hospitality Management, so that I can someday be Commissioner of Tourism for the Virgin Islands.

Would you say that pageantry has had a positive or negative affect on your self-esteem? If yes, or no, how has it done so?
Pageantry has definitely had a positive effect on my self-esteem. I'm 4'9", all my life I have been brought down about my height and have been told I cannot do things that I've wanted to do because of my height. I was told I can't be a dancer because I was not tall and thin and I was told by society that I would never be successful in pageantry because of the stigma that has been put in place from the beginning of pageantry.  However, my parents, family, and friends have always supported me and because of my want to compete in pageantry and their support I disregarded all the negativity and went forward into competing. There's nothing better than that confidence I've gained from being on stage competing in pageants and going against all odds. Win or lose pageantry has definitely aided in my building my confidence and self-esteem.

Do you think the determining factors of a beauty queen have changed?  What would you say is required now that was not required two decades ago?
I think the determining factors of a beauty queen are definitely changing with time.  I think 2 decades ago intelligence wasn't really a required factor, nor was a platform. A pageant has come from solely being based on beauty and body type to now including intelligence, community service awareness, health and fitness, and so much more.  There are still pageants that have height requirements and I personally think that should be completely eliminated, height does not determine what one can achieve nor what one is capable of.  I hope with time the factors of pageantry evolve more.

What's next for you?
What's next for me? I'd say what’s next for me is to start my career, pursue my Masters degree and possibly find a pageant that I can compete in.  I also plan on being involved in an organization or committee for a pageant, I think I'd enjoy the chance of being behind the scenes and involved in the production of pageants.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Little Piece of Me: I never thought my wildest dreams could be the realest.

"A tiny little smile, a powerful little heart
A world so ready to be conquered, But She was never sure where to start
She traded her barbie dolls, for make up kits,
Her diapers and hair bows, for panty house and pin curls
Now she tackles a stage, fit for a queen
A princess, who just years ago, though that the thought of being Miss America could only be a dream,
Now I know where to start, I have a plan and a goal,
I just hope I never forget the little girl that's still somewhere deep inside, smiling at our dreams coming true."

Aniska Tonge-Miss Virgin Islands

 I wanted to share a little piece of me with my cherished supporters. I think 
it's amazing to look back into our lives and wonder how we've reached the positions we are currently in. 21 years ago I was nothing but a dream come true for my loving parents and now I have the opportunity to make my very own dreams a reality. So, here is a little piece of me, a girl who never thought that life could be so big and dreams were nothing short of possible.