The Indo-Caribbean Federation of NY crowned Ms. Heema Singh as its new Queens at a pageant last Sunday afternoon in Richmond Hill. Heema is very serious about her Indian Culture. She said she is proud of wearing her traditional clothing on and off the stage and modeling Indian wear. “I’m proud of my Indian roots and who I am, and I encourage others to feel same.”
Heema Singh (Chandani) is a teenager who makes most people turn their heads when she passes by, but last Sunday at Smokey Park, she got her biggest applause ever. She was crowned the “Miss Indo-Caribbean Federation Queen 2019” and will reign for the next two years.
The community’s beauty and talent pageant started over 34 years ago in Richmond Hill, NY, quite appropriately called “Little Guyana” because it hosts the largest concentration of Guyanese outside of Guyana and was so dubbed by a small group of activists who were involved in the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Guyana during the 1980s; ironically, it was a Trini, Vassan Ramracha, who coined the term and others like myself used it in our communications, conversations, and writings on Indo-Guyanese in New York. Many areas in New York, including Little China, Little India and Little Italy got their names this way and not through any formal declarations.
Richmond Hill is also where the Indian Arrival celebrations, initiated by the Indo-Caribbean Federation, were held over the last 34 years because it is the center of the community.
The Indo-Caribbean Federation is led by Ralph Tamesh and a team of committed, dedicated executive members and Board of Directors, and other members.
Tamesh applauded the seven contestants who vied for the position of Miss Indo-Caribbean. He noted that the contest represents a springboard for future talent opportunities. He praised their courage for showcasing heir talent. He described all as winners for coming on stage and performing in front of a crowd. As Tamesh explained, the pageant is not about beauty but to impart confidence in youngsters and to teach communication skills, and for them to learn how to be a part of the community by participating in varied events. The contestants braved the inclement weather in the late afternoon to impress the judges to rate them. The contestants aged from 16 to 23. The girls walked across the stage in formal Indian attire. As each girl got their moment, the emcee of the pageant talked about each girl’s accolades and CVs. These accolades also included volunteer work, participation in activities, and sponsors for each contestant. They adorned the stage and all looked lovely in their traditional Indian garments.
Because of the impending downpour, many felt that the show would have had to take a break, but the contestants carried on. The rain came down at the very moment it was Chandani’s turn to mesmerize the audience.
When Chandani walked out on the catwalk that was when it appeared as if the heavens opened up and the rains came gushing down in buckets. But that did not deter this young Brooklynite of Guyanese parentage. She walked out in the rain and showed courage that would make her peers, parents and country folks proud. Adorned in her red lehenga, sponsored by Rehana’s Exclusive Designs, she stole the show, causing one young man in the crowd to scream out: “This is real Guyanese style maan! Show dem what you gat gyal!”
The contestants were judged not only on modeling, but also on the answers to randomly chosen questions as well as on talent or a performance (dance or singing).
In an exclusive interview with this writer, the new ICF Queen Chandani said she plans to give back to the community as best as she knows. She supports community projects. The young beauty pageant winner said she hoped her participation in the contest would inspire her community and other young ladies to participate in community programs especially cultural activities. She wants to help young people to develop confidence in themselves and encourage them to help their communities.
Chandani also indicated that she hopes to visit the places where her parents were born and grew up. Her mother is the granddaughter of the late Partab Singh of Palmyra Village, Corentyne, Berbice and her dad grew up in Enmore. She also hopes to visit some of the beautiful places in Guyana that she has only read about.
Chandani Singh just two weeks ago graduated from St. Francis Preparatory High School where she was an honor student. She will be attending St. Johns University in the fall of 2019, pursuing her bachelor's degree in Biomedical Sciences.
Chandani’s number one passion is dancing and she has been dancing for 13 years now. She has performed for many different events such as birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, and has also participated in many volunteer events, including at City Hall. Chandani loves giving back to her community with the talent of dancing. And sometimes she performs for mandirs and fundraiser activities without accepting any form of compensation.
When asked by this writer who was most influential in her life and why, Chandani responded that there have been many people who have been influential in her life. Firstly, she gave thanks to God for all her achievements and “for being here in the world at this very exciting period of her life”. She also credited her mom for her success in life and overcoming obstacles. “My mom, Devi Singh, has been very influential, always encouraging me to try to be the very best and to represent our Indian culture in a respectful and meaningful way. I also thank my dad, Tony Singh for making this possible.”
Chandani is most impressed with the work of Mahatma Gandhi. She said: “Perhaps the one person who has been most influential to me in my thinking and in motivating me to be a better person is Mahatma Gandhi. I love his teachings of non-violence and his love for all regardless of race or religion or status in life. I admire what he did for India’s Independence. As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘You must be the Change you wish to see in the world’.”
Chandani is full of gratitude and expressed thanks to Lolita Singh, Colleen Chattergoon, Ralph Tamesh, Imran Ahmad, Rehana Mohammed and her daughters from Rehana’s Exclusive Designs, Patricia Raghunandan, Akash Krisna Singh, and Thakur from Thakur Digital Photos for the pictures (photographer).
Her siblings and relatives are proud of her achievement. Chandani has one sister, Shivani who is pursuing her studies at New York Institute of Technology and a brother, Avinash, who is a prolific dancer who is just 12 years old and has appeared in many local stage shows. Look forward to seeing him at ICF competitions.