Photographs by Mark Lyndersay. Photo credit requested.
My name is Kesha Quash
and I was Miss Trinidad and Tobago Carival 2006.
Can’t you tell I come from Santa Cruz? I have that nice Santa Cruz skin texture. From age 11 to 18, we nestled there, which was a dream, because it was a little village. Around Christmas, all the neighbours would come together. And you’re paranging! Santa Cruz was ideal, just hidden away in a little nook in a mountain. The gorgeous greenery. I guess that’s why I love nature so much. It takes me back to my childhood I enjoyed so much.
I’m from Santa Cruz and I did play cricket but, no, I never bowled out Brian Lara or batted at the other end of the wicket when he made some big score. Not everyone in Santa Cruz knows Brian Lara! However my parents probably saw him do something like that.
I’m the first grandchild of 13 children. My dad was the first of 13 children from my grandparents. And I’m the third/second of five daughters, all girls, from my mom, Laura and my dad James.
Listen, I had no attention as a child, I’m not joking. My eldest sister is Sandy but the first two are a twin, so there’s Cindy, then came myself. Then the third/fourth, Kimlin, is a Tom boy, the son Mummy never had, And the last, Karissa, is the Golden Child and I was there sitting in the middle with real Middle Chid Syndrome. Hello! Don’t forget I’m over here guys! But, because I clung to my mother, now as we are older, everyone secretly knows Kesha is the favourite but we don’t admit it. It paid off perfectly.
Growing up, I never had an identity of my own. I was always Sandy’s or Kim’s or somebody’s sister. Now, if you tell me your name, I make sure I get it right. So I made it my mission to make everyone pronounce my name correctly. I have no i in Kesha. It’s a dainty name, like a flower, but all my life I’ve got wrong spelling, wrong pronunciation, even in tertiary level education.
I had this one lecturer who always called me Kasha Quashie. Every time! I waited for the whole roll to call and when she asked if anyone didn’t hear their name, I said, “You didn’t call Kesha Quash.” She said, “I did.” I said, “No, you called Casha Squashie!” She never got my name wrong after that. And, thanks but no, BC Pires, I don’t want to get even with her by calling her name wrong in a national newspaper!
We grew up Catholic but my parents were never strict to hold us to one religion. As I got older, I converted into the Presbyterian faith. And then I went off on full gospel/Pentecost! The singing and dancing and worshipping is right up my alley because I’m an expressive person. When I’m ready.
God has given you the choice of if you want to follow him and receive his rewards and blessings. Or if you want to follow the path of the enemy, the Devil.
I won’t try to convert anyone cause it’s not my place. I can only share my experiences of being in places where you hit rock bottom and I’d ask God for his guidance and protection. And, I’m not going to lie, I believe there’s a God. Things couldn’t just happen like they did in my past. Somebody or something had to help bring me out of a situation.
I don’t have a family, I’m not married, I’ve never been engaged – never been asked the question! I am very, very single – this year will be seven years. I met somebody a few months ago I thought was going to make the cut but the person turned out to be not so honest.
Primary school was La Horquetta North Government, then Santa Cruz RC right in in Cantaro Village, then Barataria Senior Comprehensive and then St Augustine Community College. School of Business for my first degree then psychology. I’m focussing on doing my master’s in clinical psychology and would like to go all the way to my doctorate.
Right now I do eyelashes, micro-blading, I’m a nutritional coach working with diabetics and I do other things. But my plan is to have a practice where I work with children, helping them through trying times in the world we live in today.
There are so many things children, boys and girls, endure that are not being talked about. And we have a stigma where a man is not supposed to feel weak or even emotional. A lot of men suffer from the same depression and oppression as women. I want to have a door open for children to feel comfortable enough to understand where they are to deal with whatever comes their way as an adult.
I love fantasy books. Lord of the Rings. Stephen King. The whole Harry Potter collection. And I love James Patterson – the psychology behind crime is what gets me – but I’ll read any book. I love inspirational books. The Seven Habits of Effective People and Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I like inspirational books like that. I’m not going to lie to you, I did the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, yes! I’m a very integrated nerd when it comes to books.
Yes, I’m an introverted nerd who went up for a beauty pageant!
When I was a teenager, I was walking to the gym when my sister’s photographer took me for her and grabbed my hand. I spun around to give him a slap and he said, “Oh, I thought you were Cindy!” He got me into modelling when I was 16.
Dominic La Roched sort of moulded me under Richard Young. And I got into modelling for Peter Elias. From there I went into Miss Trinidad. Allyson Browne coached me all the way up. To me, it was so strange being in front of the camera. I always got, “Oh, you so pretty and you have the perfect body for modelling!” And it just never took! That’s why I left the modelling world when I was about 24, maybe 25.
I always had a body issue: I never liked my thighs. It was a phobia for me.
In 2006, coaxed by a friend, I went up for Miss TT. I made it all the way up the selection process to the top 12 girls. That was the year Kenisha Thom won Miss Universe and Tineka De Freitas won Miss World and Valene Maharaj and I were first runners-up. That was the first year they ever gave a Miss Physique and I don’t know if they ever had it again and it was amazing to get it. I had a 19-inch waist with a 30” hip and a 28 bust! Yeah! That’s what I looked like. So it was small, big. And then there were thighs!
They wanted to shape me to eventually go to Miss Universe. They sent me to Miss Carival. I wasn’t too keen on it. I was 22 and very concerned about body image and whether I was good enough to do that.
The competition was held in St Vincent and all the delegates stayed on Young Island which was stunning! I was the first runner-up and Miss Congeniality. And I was the first East Indian girl to break the top five ever in the competition. So that was in itself a big thing for our country.
The best experience of the pageant was the response from the St Vincent people. It was overwhelming. They were so excited to see a Miss TT in the competition, a guy twisted his ankle running to see me! And we got to interact with their Parliamentary delegates! That was a win-win for me, seeing St Vincent from the down-to-Earth side of it as well as the, let’s say “celebrity,” side of it.
The worst thing about the pageant was the decision. I poured my heart and soul into it and when I give my all, I expect to get a good result. The result wasn’t terrible but it still wasn’t what I expected because I went there to win, nothing else.
Pageants just had such a stigma about what beauty was supposed to be. For me it was a little heartbreaking, because one of the judges told my mother I didn’t win because I didn’t look like a Caribbean model, big hips, big bust, big butt. I had more of an international look and that wasn’t what they wanted to promote for a Caribbean-based pageant. That broke my heart a little bit. That was my second and last pageant. I kind of left pageant world after that.
After the Miss Trinidad and Tobago, I started doing Carnival costumes. I liked that because you could express yourself with the huge backpacks and the gorgeous costumes. But then I just got tired of it. For me, it was a young girl’s game and, at 26, I was too old to be modelling costumes and showing my body. Leave that for young people!
If I had a daughter who wanted to enter a pageant, I would NEVER sway her decision if that is what she wanted to do. I would support her hands down. But I would enlighten her as to what it’s like, based on my experience – but I would never make her decision for her.
No BC Pires, in the whole pageant experience, I never once mentioned Nelson Mandela. Maybe that’s why I didn’t win!
I feel very safe in Trinidad. But I don’t go anywhere.
A Trinbagonian is right there with you, coming together every step of the way. Right now, we’re preparing for Divali and then Christmas. Persons not of the Hindu faith are going to dress up in a sari and light deyas. No matter race, skin colour, ethnic background, we celebrate together. That is a Trini.
To me, Trinidad and Tobago is heart, soul, mind and body. I love my country to bits! No way I would ever go anywhere else in the world to live. And, once we are able to properly do things together, we’ll formulate a great country. Trinidad and Tobago could be greater than anything else!