Two days before leaving for Las Vegas, USA to represent T&T at the 59 Annual Miss Universe pageant, La Toya Woods was at the Hyatt Hotel for last minute preparations and without a moment to spare. The 24-year-old Pt Lisas born lass, who has been on the local modelling scene for the last four years, still couldn't believe that the time went by so quickly. "I have been preparing for this for the past eight months and now that the time is here I am like 'wow." In those months, Woods went through the fine tuning process with a team of experts that included Peter Elias, former franchise holder of the Miss T&T Universe, Adrian Raymond, Calvin French, Bally, Sonya Moze and Yvonne Popplewell. "The woman you see now is different to the one who won the pageant eight months ago," new franchise holder Ian Andrew Lee declared.
"She is much more polished and confident. She is ready."
Referring to his experience getting the show together as a baptism of fire, given the amount of work that goes into being a franchise holder, Lee said he was thankful for the support he got from his team and sponsors including Hyatt and Caribbean Airlines. Government has also been generous, pumping some $350,000 into the franchise. "They have helped us with a lot of our bills. I especially want to thank Ministers Winston Peters and Anil Roberts for recognising the work that we do." Quietly confident was how Lee said he felt about Woods' chances at the 23 August pageant. "We have done all that we should do to ensure that she is a great chance." There was nothing quiet about Woods' confidence however.
"My friends and family have been telling me that I would win and I totally agree," she said with a laugh. "The other 80 girls are coming with that kind of thinking so why not me?" Woods recalled the days when she thought that beauty pageants weren't for her. "It was never something I aspired to even though Peter Elias used to encourage me to try it." For Woods, being a Miss Universe meant that she had to be a wholesome woman. "Yes I was modelling already, and I think of that as my mini practice for where I am today, but I also wanted to attain my degree (Psychology) and get serious. I mean this is a huge responsibility. "After doing my research on the pageant and what they were looking for, I was finally ready for it."
Asked what she was most looking forward to at the international leg of the pageant, Woods said meeting the other delegates and singer John Legend, who is due to serenade the delegates. "When I got my itinerary yesterday and saw that he (Legend) was going to be there I got so excited because he is my favourite musical artiste." She admits that she has been telling friends that she now has an extra goal to make it to the top five "just so John could serenade me. "I think it is awesome that I am about to meet with girls who have gone through the same training like I have gone through for this pageant. "I want to tell T&T that it has been ten years since we brought home the crown and I am going to do my best to bring it back home."