Mauricia De Peza won several victories two weekends ago when she captured the first runner-up position at the local leg of the Miss T&T Universe help at NAPA Auditorium.
Securing the spot was indeed an honour for her after many weeks of preparation and hard work. "I always wanted to enter a Miss Trinidad competition and my parents encouraged me to do it this year. The five weeks of preparation were amazing, I learned so much and I became a more holistic individual. The experience enhanced my skills and made me a better person," the 21-year-old stated.
In the event that the Miss Universe T&T, recently crowned Avionne Mark, can't fulfil her duties for the international competition carded for December in Las Vegas, De Peza will automatically pick up the role. Coming second to her close friend was also a great achievement for De Peza having been in the modelling arena since the age of 15 under the nurturing umbrella of House of Jacqui Modelling School. "As a model you always wish to represent your country on the big stage not only in fashion but on a larger level," the budding poet declared.
Walking gracefully to the cheers of her fans on the night of the competition also helped her conquer her fear of entering a pageant. "My nerves were killing me moments before the local pageant. I had butterflies in my stomach and I was afraid that I won't deliver on the big day," the former pupil of St Martin's Girls' High School informed. Adorned in her outstanding gold gown she seemed so calm and composed no one could detect her anxiety.
And now for the most significant victory won. "Walking down onto the stage looking all pretty and elegant no one could tell that I was from Gonzales, Belmont. The area is not the most desirable destination for many. It is stereotyped as a ghetto area, but when I placed second in the Miss T&T Universe competition I proved to everyone that not everything from Gonzales is ghetto. I proved that positive people and positives come from Gonzales as well. We are not just a group of poor people making the news each night. We are beauty queens, we are doctors, we are lawyers (I hope to become a criminal lawyer someday). Of course there are a few involved in wrongdoing tarnishing the name of the area but you can't judge an area by the mistakes of a few," argued the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) Psychology student.
In fact, De Peza entered the Miss T&T Competition to raise the bar for her fellow Gonzales people. "I have been living with this stigma for years. When I tell people I am from Gonzales they look surprised, they can't believe it and sometimes ask: 'you sure you not from another part of Belmont?' But I never hide my roots, I want my accomplishments to uplift my area. When I placed in the pageant all the villagers celebrated my victory. Their support was amazing and I felt like my victory had been won even though I didn't capture the crown," she said.
In the future De Peza wants to do much more for the area of Gonzales through charity work and empowering programmes for the youth. In the meantime she is focussing on completing her BSc in psychology and is soon to begin studying for a Law degree and plans to do a short stint as a flight attendant. "I love to travel and I believe that the sky is the limit in terms of my goals. I refuse to limit my opportunities and think inside the box. Who knows where my ambition may take me? I know it's outside the alleys of Gonzales but I will always return to celebrate my area!" she vowed.
To conclude, the tall svelte model/student/poet intends to make her parents, siblings and country people proud. Whether it is on the stage, the court room or at her modest home in Gonzales she will leave her indelible mark which will go beyond all stereotypes and stigmas!
Mauricia De Peza
Clothing: 212 Location and Jebelles
Make-up: Kirk Thomas
Photography: Calvin French