fashion director | storyteller
The epitome of resplendence and excellence, Wendy Fitzwilliam is celebrating 25 years since her victory at the Miss Universe pageant in 1998. This lawyer, actress, model, singer, TV host, radio personality, mother and international beauty queen continues to do us proud and what a fitting way to usher in International Women’s Day to be commemorated on Wednesday (March 8).
Seeing Wendy at the 72nd edition of the International Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans, earlier this year, was an inspiring moment for all who dare to dream big, for 25 years prior, she captured the Miss Universe title in a nail-biting moment for us all, at the Stan Sheriff Centre in Honolulu. It was indeed an honour for all Trinbagonians to witness her again, stunning the world and magnificent, in all her glory.
On turning 50 years and celebrating life-changing events
There’s more that Wendy celebrates. I asked her how it feels to be 50 years old, she claimed that there is no sense of ageing, per se. Her birthday coincides with changing events in her life, she said, even more than her life responding to a sense of age. She believes in maintaining discipline and moderation in all she does and attributes that sense of centredness, as the key to her buoyancy and bandwidth.
Yes, this beauty with the ethereal gaze just turned 50 and never was she one to hide her age. She muses that as life changes, one does in fact get older but birthdays simply “etch a notch on your record of experiences.”
We were sitting in the open, with a bunch of students under the engineering block having a chat, and no one seemed the wiser as to whom we were. We enjoyed the seeming anonymity, as no one bore us any mind. I had asked Wendy to do an interview to celebrate her 50th with us, and she kindly obliged.
As we crossed the quadrangle to get to our spot to chat, she indulged in her favourite, some ice cream, satisfying her sweet tooth, quite unabashedly, as I sipped a double espresso. What a peculiar sight, I thought to myself–both of us towering over six feet, huddled under an umbrella, as it was drizzling, everybody minding their own business. Perfect for an interview!
What’s her greatest accomplishment?
An easy answer for Wendy—her pride, her unending joy is her son, Ailan. She considers him the greatest accomplishment of her life. Nurturing him to be the best version of himself is what kept her grounded and focused on being present and resourceful. Indeed, she had a network that facilitated this ongoing preparation and she is proud of this village that shaped him to be a decent human being, one that is respectful, non-judgemental and confident. The investment was worth it, she asserts, “no one can pull wool over his eyes, he should do well, for he is an old soul trapped in that young body.” Her smile of fulfilment says it all, no other achievement matters!
“Ailan is now at boarding school, so I am an empty nester, I have more free time to look after myself, so I am obliged to be vigilant about my self-care and the energies around me.” She has taken up the most ‘amazing job’ at the helm of the Ma Pau Group of Companies. It’s an empire built by a “most gracious wonderful human being John Wallace. I believe in his vision” for he allows women to be empowered, creating space for their articulation. It’s a very female-powered business with great synergy.
What attracted her to his modus operandi is that he hired kids from the Cyril Ross Children’s Home (formerly Cyril Ross Nursery). He was the first to openly welcome and embrace people with HIV, allowing them to lead normal lives and be contributing members of society. Another policy is that of hiring locals for which she applauds him, wholeheartedly. “I am very proud to be associated with this brand.”
Another book in the Future?
When asked when her next book is due, Wendy openly declares, she is in the process of living book two. Notwithstanding, she has begun writing Universal Experiences. It is not merely a book about experiences at Miss Universe but about cosmic alliances that speak to connecting the dots on the journey of life and gravitating to those who offer light.
Her assurance and confidence in this philosophy of gravitating to the light of the connecting dots are manifest affirmatively in her relationship with Peter Elias who was her steward into the win at Miss Universe and continues to be a guiding light. She references him with the deepest admiration.
What more can I say about this powerhouse beauty? She accredits her distinction to the upbringing of her parents and her consummate sense of ‘Trininess’ which she credits to her indefatigable spirit and indomitable drive. She is a true testament to the beauty and brain composite. As we lead into International Women’s Week, let’s take a tear sheet from our very own Miss Universe, an embodiment of embracing equity.
Wendy's Beauty Secrets
What’s the secret to this radiating skin, this lissom body and this youthful presence?
Discipline and moderation
“It all comes back to discipline and moderation. I was probably always an intermittent faster, before it was trending because I am not one for breakfast. Some hot water with lemon would do just fine. I don’t have a penchant for meat, I eat a lot of fish and vegetables, and I am not an alcoholic drinker. I must admit we Fitzes have a sweet tooth, so ice cream is my indulgence as you would have noticed.” She laughed that open-mouthed, big gregarious laugh which has been captured so flirtatiously and effortlessly by the most amazing photographers, Calvin French, Pedro Virgil, Patrick Demarchelier, and William Aguiton to name a few.
Consistency in exercising
She testifies to her consistency in exercising. It’s a must! She is not as diligent as her sister, Dionyse, but she always travels with a skipping rope, doing 150 to 200 skips when she gets a chance and light weights to complement the regimen. “How else can you maintain a little tone in the body?” She acknowledges that post 30 years old, her body wanted to put on a little weight around the waist, and that’s when she knew that she no longer can eat a bag of pholourie while sitting on the sidelines and watching others work out around the savannah. It had become time to craft the expectation of the body.
Evangelist for yoga practice
During COVID, she and her son, Ailan, picked up yoga. She is now a consummate evangelist for yoga practice, inviting everyone to get with the programme. “You must assist the ageing joints, maintain flexibility, centre your mental health, clear your lymph nodes and exercise regulated breathing rhythms.
“I am not a night owl and I have one big meal a day followed by soup and probably some organic herbal teas.”
In a nutshell, “You must be diligent and follow a daily regime with dedicated discipline.”
A sense of charity
One of the many fascinating things about Wendy is her sense of charity coupled with that engaging, benevolent spirit. It is less about her lending her celebrity to a cause and more because she really loves to do good and help her fellow man. She avows that if she could make big bucks by simply helping people, she would do that solely and assiduously. She genuinely loves helping people.
This sense of volunteerism was instilled from an early age when her parents would have encouraged her and her sister, Dionyse, to choose one of their three best gifts at Christmastime to give to the less fortunate. Christmas afternoons were spent at orphanages and children’s homes giving the needy treats that their parents parcelled out for distribution.
Her work with the Cyril Ross Children’s Home is a continuation of this benefactor spirit, choosing to work with children with HIV, whose dreams may have felt crushed because of the stigmas attached to the disease. Even when she was at St Joseph Convent, as a teenager, she was part of the St Vincent de Paul chapter in her parish, distributing meals on Sunday mornings. It’s no idle boast when she touts this as her “quiet passion.” So, this alignment with serving others supersedes all.
“I am not in love with material things. The greatest joy, I experienced was as a goodwill ambassador with the Sasamani Foundation, empowering gender equity, working in places as far afield as Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and, right here in the Caribbean, Haiti and Jamaica.” Indeed, she embraces equity as a mantra in keeping with the clarion call of International Women’s Day, this year.