Trinidad and Tobago always places their national heroes on a pedestal giving them stadiums, promenades and celebrity status.
When Anya Ayoung-Chee failed to secure victory in the 2008 Miss Universe pageant, it seemed like her chance at lifetime local admiration and uniting the nation for one night were foiled.
Who knew that three years later she would secure her name among Trinidad and Tobago’s greats and arguably bring her country more publicity than Janelle Commissiong and Wendy Fitzwilliams (combined?).
Anya seemed like the token foreign girl in Project Runway: Season 9; not going to reach very far but there to bring international appeal. The early portion of the first episode revealed that she recently learnt how to sew.
There was no way that a newbie to sewing was making it into the second half of the season but like every other Trinidadian I was just glad that she was there.
Anya remained the fan favorite for the duration of the show, proving that her confidence, adaptability and genuinity was winning over judges, competitors and the audience.
Unlike any football team, pageant queen or Nobel prize winner; Anya managed to keep the world’s eyes on Trinidad and Tobago for over 14 weeks and showed them the best of us- our ability to pull through and make it work as well as our friendly charm.
Her personality throughout the show as well as her nod to Tobago in her final presentation (Tobago Love) will definitely help our tourism, especially if the relevant authorities take advantage of the oppurtunity that now exists to market Trinidad and Tobago.
Her Anya De Rouge line would probably also create a Halo effect around all Trinidadian goods.
Most importantly; Anya’s victory will herald more funding and recognition for the pursuit of careers off the beaten track. As college degrees fail to pack the career-building clout that they did years ago, entrepreneurship should be encouraged among today’s youth.
As different as Steve Jobs career path may be from Anya’s their achievements both stress the importance of innovation and creativity over credentialing.
“I did Miss Trinidad and Tobago and Miss Universe as my sort of grasping for that and that didn’t really work out so well. I didn’t enjoy being objectified in that way. But then Project Runway has given me, in a strange way, a role. I’ve become somewhat of a role model in my own community and it’s been amazing” – Anya Ayoung-Chee