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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Alana Ernest


By Neil Marks

Miss Guyana Universe one day after being crowned. (Pictures by Delano Williams)

HER PARENTS came to Guyana in search of gold, but though Alana Ernest never managed to swivel any from the pork knocker’s sieve, she has struck gold. Even if it’s of another sort, the value and the euphoria of the find are synonymous.

Her childhood days are of rugged men’s sports. Her entry into adolescent stage are of burning the daylight hours as a teacher, and on the night shift, flipping bottles at her mother’s bar to help bring in the income.

She is studying to become a nurse and to return to her home turf where she sees her people affected by HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis. But now, the studying has been put on hold. Alana is a beauty queen! She has struck gold.

Exactly how much carats would be worth $500, 000 cash? And how would you value the golden opportunity to spend three weeks meeting almost a hundred other beauties, wine and dine in fine style, dress up in pretty clothes you don’t have to pay for, and have the world watch as you shout out your country’s name on television?

Such is the prized gold Alana Ernest has found.

Alana is the new Miss Guyana Universe and will compete in the Miss Universe pageant to be held at the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA, on July 23.

She now lives in New Amsterdam, but Mahdia is where her story lies.

Alana was born to St. Lucian couple Justina and Lambert in the rustic community which has lured many from afar to search for hidden gold.

While Justina came with her mother, Lambert came on his personal quest. They met and got engaged 31 years ago, but marriage has somehow not factored into the relationship, at least not yet. Its something Alana says she nags them about from time to time.

A sister’s dream

Alana in the swimsuit segment

Alana is 19-years-old and entering a pageant was never on her mind. In fact, her eldest sister, Rufeena, 30, is the one who has always dreamt of Alana becoming a beauty queen.

She liked to climbed a lot of trees, swim in the creeks, play basketball, and get dirty in the mud on many of her outings with her girlfriends to the backdams, but Rufeena always warned her to be careful not to get a scar as that would not look good on a beauty queen.

Alana’s quest for education has seen her move many times out of Mahdia, and she is still doing that today.

She started school at the Mahdia Primary School, but when she was about eight, she moved to Georgetown to attend St. Margaret’s. However, she had to go back to Mahdia after just four years in town. And so went down her chance to sit the Secondary School’s Entrance Examination.

She spent about four years at the secondary department of the Mahdia Primary School and then moved back to Georgetown for a chance to write the CXC exams. She managed to do that at Central High School.

She went back to Mahdia and worked the classrooms at her old school, teaching Mathematics and Science.

When the Ministry of Health sent out a call for students for its diploma in nursing, she accepted the challenge. However, since the Georgetown school was overcrowded, she was posted to Mahdia.

Alana is acutely aware of the impact of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) on her community. TB though, she says, is under-rated and people are not exposed to awareness messages about the disease, like they are of HIV/AIDS.

New queen Alana Ernest

Alana feels blessed with the opportunity to pursue a career. She says she sees how many in Mahdia don’t have the opportunity to complete high school. As a result, she says the young boys end up working in the goldmines while young girls who drop out end up in the bars.

She too has had her share in the bars to help bring in the income.

When her mother decided to set up a bar, Alana saw no problem in helping out at nights. She was sure that she would help bring in some cash, as she is not afraid to acknowledge that she offered some attraction to the men, as they spend on bars with young girls.

So if you’re in the “bright spot” of Mahdia, check out `Punki’s Hangout’. Alana works the 7-11 shift. Punki, by the way is her paternal grandmother, also a St. Lucian.
ENTERING a beauty pageant was never on Alana’s mind. Her sister, Rufeena, is the one who always saw the prospect for her.

So about two months ago, when representatives from the local organisation visited and inquired of her interest in competing for the pageant, her answer was no.

Later, others returned, and after giving it some thought, she decided she was going to fulfill her sister’s dream.

She had done some light modeling before, but definitely not enough to compete in a national pageant, so the training was needed. She didn’t need to hit the gym though; she was and still is in shape.

When June 4, pageant day, came, Alana says she was not nervous. Her preoccupation was not winning, just doing her best. In fact, she says she spoke with all the girls, and told them that she wished them all the best and she hoped all would answer their questions excellently.

“God would choose the winner,” she said she told them.

The nervousness kicked in when her name was called as one of the finalists. It was time to answer the final question that would determine the winner.

She was asked what she would do to promote Guyana if she were to win the pageant. She said she would work to promote the country’s natural beauty. The answer gave her the crown.

Alana says she places much confidence in God and would be relying on him as she seeks to make a name for Guyana at the 2006 Miss Universe pageant.

Guyana Chronicle

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