One of the most anticipated nights of the year will feature four young ladies strutting their stuff and showing off their talents as they vie for the title of Miss St. John Festival Queen on Saturday night, June 27, at 8 p.m. at the Winston Wells ball field.
In a first this year, the St. John Festival Committee opened the pageant to St. Thomas residents, from where two of the four contestants hail. While the ladies competing for the crown call different islands home, they all share a passion for performance and pride of the Virgin Islands.
Contestant #1, Lea Scott, is a 19-year-old University of the Virgin Islands student, who is pursuing a double major in criminal justice and biology, pre-med.
Although the Rock City-native, who just wrapped up her freshman year, isn’t completely settled on a career in medicine, she’s keeping her options open.
“My father has skin cancer, so that really prompted me to want to learn as much about the disease as possible and study health and medicine in general,” said Scott. “I’m not exactly sure what route I’m going to take as far as pre-med or criminal justice, but it allows me a lot of potential with my studies.”
A skilled dancer, Scott and her mother own and operate the French Academy of Performing Arts on Main Street in St. Thomas, where she has studied traditional French pieces as well as Russian ballet.
When she heard that the pageant was open to St. Thomas residents, Scott — who is being chaperoned by Cheryl Willie — jumped at the chance to vie for the crown.
“I’ve always thought about trying out so when I heard the pageant was open to St. Thomas residents, I decided to give it a shot,” she said.
While she’s no stranger to performing in front of a crowd, Scott still works to calm her nerves before a show, she explained.
“I’ve danced a lot but this is my first pageant,” said Scott. “I always get nervous when I get on stage, but I work through it. I think my nerves actually get me going and I feed off them.”
St. John-native Chereena Didier is contestant #2. The 18-year-old Ivanna Eudora Kean High School student just finished her junior year and has definite ideas about her future.
“When I graduate from high school, I definitely want to go right to college,” said Didier. “I want to study psychology and I’d like to at least start my college career at the University of the Virgin Islands. I think it would be fun to finish school in Florida or someplace different, but I don’t want to be too far from home.”
“After I get my bachelor’s degree, I want to marry the man of my dreams and have a few children,” Didier said.
Didier, whose chaperone is Kenya Frett, decided to compete in her first pageant at the urging of her family and friends.
“This is my first pageant and I’m so excited,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about running for a while and the community and my family have been asking me to go ahead and run. So I decided that this year was the right time.”
As Didier has been preparing for the big night, she was surprised at how much work it takes to be a Queen contestant.
“Getting ready for the pageant has taken so much practice,” said Didier. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s also really fun. You definitely have to put your all into it.”
“To even run for Queen, it takes dedication, courage, self-confidence and a lot of work,” Didier said.
Nerves aren’t something about which Didier is worried.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but I’m just really excited,” she said. “I can’t wait for the show.”
Contestant #3 is the only contestant this year with pageant experience under her belt. Kerla Fessale won the St. John Princess crown in 2001 and she’s back going for the Queen crown this year.
A 19-year-old St. Johnian, Fessale just graduated from the Gifft Hill School. After enjoying her summer on Love City, Fessale will be heading to Atlanta Georgia where she’ll study business management at Clark University.
“I want to come back to St. John after I graduate and open my own business,” said Fessale. “I want to work in teen outreach. I want to work toward keeping the youth off the streets.”
“If there were activities and opportunities for youth, I think we’d have a lot less problems and less crime here,” Fessale said.
As the former St. John Princess steps into the bigger shoes of a Queen contestant, she is reuniting with her chaperone Lee Ann Oquendo.
“It’s been so much fun working with Lee Ann again,” said Fessale. “She works me really hard, but it’s all worth it. We have a lot of fun.”
Fessale decided to run in part to keep the St. John tradition alive.
“I think Festival and the pageants are important traditions,” Fessale said. “I think the St. John youth need to be more involved with Festival and that’s why I decided to run.”
If she wins the crown, Fessale will be a positive ambassador for St. John.
“If I win, I will represent St. John to the best of my abilities,” said Fessale. “I want to be a role model for younger girls.”
Seventeen-year-old Shari Alfred is contestant #4. The St. Thomas resident just graduated from Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and is heading off to Pennsylvania in the fall to study what she loves.
“I’m leaving in August to go to Seton Hill University where I’ll study journalism and new media,” said Alfred. “I want to be a broadcast journalist and a writer and photographer.”
“I love photography and I love writing and I just wanted to find a career where I could do both,” Alfred said.
Alfred, who is being chaperoned by Krystal Isaac, always dreamt about competing in a pageant, she explained.
“Running for Queen is something that I’ve always wanted to do and this year when they opened the competition to girls from St. Thomas, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to realize my dream,” said Alfred. “It’s been a great a experience already.”
Preparing for the St. John Festival Queen show has taught Alfred some valuable lessons.
“It’s a lot of hard work and you need to be motivated,” she said. “You have to be determined and you have to have your head on. You can’t afford any distractions.”
“Already I’ve learned that any obstacles that come my way, I have to find a way to get over them,” said Alfred.
If she wins the crown, the singer and dancer will represent the whole of the Virgin Islands, she explained.
“I want to serve as an ambassador for the youth and St. John as a whole and for the entire Virgin Islands community,” said Alfred. “I want to make people proud.”
Don’t miss these ladies going head to head as they vie for the crown of St. John Festival Queen on Saturday night, June 27, at 8 p.m. at Winston Wells ball field.