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Seeking the prize

With her mother Gail Jones and son Jaquon Blackman-Gittens after the coronation.

by Donna Sealy

Katrina Blackman knows what she wants and she is going after it.

At 24 years old, you could say she has her head in the right place and her eyes set firmly on owning her own catering business.

It is a dream she has been fostering since the age of seven when she started cooking for her mum who was unable to do so at the time. It is one she intends to fulfill with all the necessary qualifications along the way, even though these days she is leaning more towards cakes than cooking food.

Presently, she works at the canteen at St. George Secondary School but she says that won’t be for long. She has also worked part-time at Divi Southwinds Resort, Chefette and has attended a range of classes to ensure she is qualified for the profession she loves.

She also did courses in office procedures and tourism to see if an “office job” was for her but she didn’t like that.

Sitting in the board room of Barbados TODAY’s Warrens, St. Michael offices wearing a floral strapless dress she made and a pair of white sandals, Katrina was relaxed as she recounted the months leading up to the pageant and the fact that “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk”.

Although determined and smart, the winner of the Miss Big & Beautiful pageant was candid as she spoke about the times in her life when she opted to give up and walk away instead of sticking to the task and completing the job.

She also shared her hopes, dreams and fears as well as the fact that she considered quitting during the lead up to the annual pageant, which is aimed at highlighting the full figured woman.

“I entered the Big & Beautiful pageant basically to build my self-esteem and my self-confidence because everyone says I’m pretty, I’m this, I’m the next and the third but I don’t strongly believe that. I’m really, really shy,” said the Christ Church resident.

Patrons attending the show on Sunday night got a glimpse of that shyness during the formal wear section when she appeared nervous. Apart from that she seemed comfortable on stage, confident but never overly so. Today she said that was because she knew the question-and-answer segment was to follow and she knew she would freeze.

Her question related to a solution to tackling the traffic congestion on Barbadian roads.

“I felt I was getting into an accident. I tried to continue but then I stumbled and I tried to relax. I then continued. I don’t do very well with things like that but I’m trying my best to come out of my shell.

“In order for me to get to the point where I was on the night of the show I went through a lot. Every time I went to rehearsals I used to get quarrelled with. [Tonia, Ingrid and Camar] used to say, ‘Katrina you look good, just push yourself. Come out of your shell’. I only realised about a month ago when we had rehearsals about four times that I wasn’t getting picked on anymore and I told myself that I had improved.

“I realised that people who were on top were being quarrelled with and I wasn’t, so I really started to come out of my shell more. I’m not fully out of my shell but I can feel that I’m getting there,” she stated.

During the talent segment of the contest, the former St. Patrick’s Primary and Parkinson Memorial school did a dramatic speech where she was the HIV virus. Written by Janine White, she said she wanted to do a skit with a positive message that was infused with humour. She achieved her objective as the audience listened and laughed at the funny parts.

Looking back on the pageant, Katrina, who was sponsored by Structure Boutique, remembers when she made up her mind she wanted to win. That saw her waking sometimes at 1 a.m. to practise walking through the house to make sure she nailed that aspect of it.

She said she had the full backing of her family and is very grateful for all the assistance and love everyone showed her, including her mother Gail Jones, her father Sylvan Franklin, and son Jaquon Blackman-Gittens, other relatives, designers, the Bellamys, sponsors and friends.

During her reign she will be encouraging other full figured women to get involved in the pageant as she believes there are tremendous benefits from entering.

That’s not all she will be doing though. Her intention is to work with the HIV/AIDS Food Bank because she believes that not enough attention is paid to it.

Katrina is set to take on any challenge; she’s also ready to have fun, represent the organisers of Miss Big & Beautiful pageant and show the world that she is unstoppable!

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