KIERAN ANDREW KHAN
Ysabel Bisnath was on an accomplished track well before she decided to enter the Miss World TT competition. The past student of Maria Regina Grade School and St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain went on to read for her Law degree at Oxford University through an Open Scholarship, and then a Master’s in international business law at King’s College after being called to bar at Inner Temple, London. Later this year, she will take the face of today’s empowered Caribbean woman to Sanya, China.
“I have always looked for opportunities that enable me to work in other languages and interact with other cultures, so after completing Law, I completed internships in Brussels and Italy.” That experience has resulted in Bisnath currently being tri-lingual – but she’s looking to add a couple aspects of a fourth – Chinese Mandarin, ahead of this year’s competition. She had previously also taught English in China for three months. “I do look for experiences that not only bolster my CV but also are a challenge in a new environment too,” Bisnath added.
The decision to enter the competition was initially based on her work with a local charity. “When I returned to Trinidad after studies, I started working with a local charity, For the Love of Reading, so I viewed the competition as a platform to share the work of the organisation which helps to focus on developing community reading spaces and accepts book donations too.”
The experience resulted in a wealth of experiences with mentors and leaders in the pageant space, including Richard Young, who shared his talents of stagecraft and Adrian Raymond, who helped illustrate the challenges facing women today locally and regionally as well – helping them to form opinions and articulate them.
“Overall, I was able to develop more self-confidence but also was able to learn so much more about our country, as we did social visits to the Angostura Museum and to Y Art Gallery, where we met and interacted with local artists too,” the pageant queen added.
Ultimately, she wasn’t sure of the final outcome and was as surprised as everyone else on stage when she was announced the winner. “The quality and calibre of the other women was so high that I really couldn’t say it would be me. Everyone was so talented, educated, informed and beautiful that when it came down to the final answer segment of the show I just gave the best I possibly could. Bear in mind that we could not hear the other delegates’ answers and I know they would have delivered well too,” Bisnath pointed out. And as difficult as it would have been balancing a schedule between fitness training in the mornings from 5 am, to her office in the Legal Department of the Ministry of Education and back to pageant training in the afternoon, Bisnath is aware that the real journey has just begun.
“We have a lot of training to do; from working on my interview skills where my Q&A is assessed by different panels each week, to learning Chinese so that I could navigate Sanya, and even to my learning some pieces on the steelpan for the talent portion of the international show – it’s going to be a busy few months ahead,” she highlighted. “Then there are numerous social engagements and appearances and much work to be done with Silver Linings Home School – the charity that we will present to Miss World under the Beauty with a Purpose project too.”
“I never envisaged myself representing my country as a beauty queen,” Bisnath admitted. “I thought surely I am representing my country in different ways as one of the few Caribbean students at Oxford at the time or in my various roles around the world and in travels. I always share about my country and our culture, but I never really thought it would be like this on an international stage; but I am excited about the challenge it presents and the opportunities that it brings too.”
In the interim, between the hectic schedules and training sessions, Bisnath will be spending her downtime as she always does – playing the piano at home, with friends or just her two dogs Moonshine and Leo. There’s an authenticity to Trinidad and Tobago’s latest Miss World; but there is also a real warmth that goes beyond the sun, sea, sand image of our women to something more. The image of a strong, educated, humble, smart woman who just so happens to also be beautiful represents a new light that we will share with the world.
And one that we should be proud of.