Just over 12 months ago, Anya Ayoung Chee was a name that still raised judgmental eyebrows and invoked unflattering thoughts of scandal. Having decided to brazenly face her detractors, the former beauty queen then saw a tweet (message on twitter.com) about auditions for the Lifetime hit series, Project Runway and the rest, as they say, is history.
Enlisting the help of Tobagonian seamstress/designer, Delia Alleyne to instruct her in the vital art of sewing, the budding designer then displayed the quintessential Trinbagonian personality on the show, successfully campaigned for several months to win the Fan Favorite Award and with it — the hearts of millions of viewers, including her very own countrymen and women.
Today, we find her engaged to her longtime beau, Wyatt Gallery, at the top of her game having won Project Runway Season 9 and more recently, appointed as an official cultural ambassador of this country.
“This last year has been so amazing,” she gushed, “it’s almost impossible to put it into words. I feel such a tremendous sense of accomplishment and purpose now — and along with it, so much gratitude to God and to all the people who have helped me, stood by me, supported and encouraged me…”
For Carnival 2012, Ayoung Chee took on two new challenges, namely: designing her own section (fittingly called The Runway) with popular mas band, TRIBE and hosting her own event on Carnival Saturday, grandly dubbed “Anya — The Fete”.
“This Carnival was very unique and very special to me,” she said, “because I’ve only ever just played mas before, so it was a totally different experience being so involved from a production and commercial standpoint. It’s very different being so involved in making Carnival what it has become. I definitely enjoyed both, but the party really pleased me because it ended up having the perfect ‘house-party’ kinda vibe — which I think was missing from the landscape for awhile — and it was also in benefit of the Tallman Foundation: so I’m trying to start a bit of trend in having events which give back to the community, because so much money passes through the system at Carnival time and I don’t think enough is given back.”
Celebrities attending the debut event included: NBA Champion and TV Personality, John Salley, Supermodel, Selita Ebanks, BET Television Host, Terrence Jenkins, House of Payne Star, Lance Gros and Trinidad’s own, Def Jam recording artiste, “Aaron Fresh” Hinton.
Triple winner, Machel Montano and 2011 Groovy Monarch, Kees Dieffenthaller performed at the event, before making room for “Aaron Fresh” — who celebrated his birthday, along with Ebanks.
“Anya is such a cool person, like, when I met her for real I couldn’t believe she was so down-to-earth and humble and she carries this vibe with her that just… makes everything flow smoothly and makes everyone want to be around her.” Stated Hinton. “Last year, I came for Machel Monday and we had a time with that, but this year I only came in on Carnival Friday, so Anya’s Fete was my first official party, my first performance this season and it was a blast! We had a time celebrating the birthdays — although I played Jouvert and mas and celebrated my birthday officially on Carnival Monday — but Anya’s Fete was the bomb! Thanks to Simon and Antilia for getting me there.”
Caribbean special events company and entertainment brand, Antilia hosted a private lounge upstairs at Anya’s Fete and threw a glittering 29th birthday party for Caribbean supermodel, Selita Ebanks (complete with concierge services, a personalised hair and make-up session, luxury ground transfers and a stunning two-foot tall croquembouche birthday cake designed by coveted local pastry chef Khalil Ali of Pêche Pâtisserie), as part of their ongoing mission “to put the world’s greatest show on the celebrity radar”.
“We are honored to have been a part of such a special night,” said Antilia CEO, Simon Khan, “having brought together a number of young international trendsetters who hail from across the Caribbean, with a vision towards stamping our region’s footprint on the world map. Selita was ranked by Forbes in 2008, as one of the highest paid supermodels in the world and she visited Trinidad for her birthday to experience the vibrancy of T&T, exemplified by our Carnival.”
After the event, the former Victoria’s Secret Angel tweeted: “My bday weekend was beyond life darlings! S/O to @simonkhan and Antilia. The cake was amazing! #·trini”
With her Carnival projects proven successful, next on Ayoung Chee’s agenda is launching a “Resort Line”, along with a “unique boutique shopping experience” here in Trinidad and Tobago in May. Additionally, she will have a number of events to attend in her new role as a cultural ambassador.
“Trinidad and Tobago is so unique and incredible,” she said, “and Carnival is the time when people can visit and take something away that is all-encompassing and dynamic. I think that the more we promote Carnival, the more we give the world a slice of T&T. Carnival sets us apart from any other destination because it makes a visit to T&T more than just a trip to a beautiful island — it’s a spiritual experience. I am committed to being a part of all the Carnival festivals in the Diaspora cities around the world because I think we are so well represented at those times and have such a powerful presence at all these festivals — which have also drawn their inspiration from us — that it’s the perfect setting to promote this country.
“Consider that no other destination in the world can offer the combination of cultural dynamism that is Carnival and the energy that Trinidad possesses, along with the rejuvenating, spiritually-awakening beauty and unique healing vibe of Tobago. It’s the perfect combination to have and to offer to the world, so I’m happy and proud and excited at the same time to be a part of the team. It all happened so naturally that it doesn’t feel like a job — it’s almost an extension of who I am already.”
For more on Anya, visit her Facebook page, website at www.anyaayoungchee.com, or follow her on Twitter @anyaderouge