UNIVERSE, make way for Barbadian beauty queen Shannon Harris. After claiming the coveted Miss Universe Barbados 2016 tiara, the 22-year-old has fire in her eyes and spunk in her stride.
But Harris loves more than the spotlight, glitz and glamour. In addition to her dazzling crown and breathtaking gowns, she’s also clothed in confidence and bursting at the seams with national pride.
“I want the world to know that Barbados might be small but we are very, very talented people. It’s hard to get out there but . . . we can take over, no matter how small we are,” she told EASY during a recent interview in Haggatt Hall, St Michael.
The Miss Universe contestant plans to bring her own flair to the show, which will be hosted by Steve Harvey and American model Ashley Graham in Manila, Philippines, on January 29.
Though poised and graceful, Harris could barely hold back her excitement over the opportunity of a lifetime. And what’s more, she is the first Bajan to compete in nine years. There’s so much she can’t wait to show the audience inside the Mall of Asia Arena and millions of viewers, like her custom-made gown by American designer Michael Costello and national costume by Xhosa.
So far, her journey has been “surreal” and unforgettable. She gets butterflies in her stomach just reflecting on some of the most exhilarating moments, such as the coronation night last September and the official photoshoot after.
“The moment [I was crowned] was so special to me because it was Barbados celebrating its 50th anniversary of Independence and me celebrating my crown . . .,” she said.
For anyone who knows Harris, it might be awe-inspiring to see how she has blossomed into the woman she is today. Harris, who grew up with parents Derek and Kathy and brother Ryan in Christ Church, explained that she had always loved sports, and even has lots of trophies for swimming and track and field. But she was not a “girly-girly” and “tomboy”, Harris was simply driven to excel in anything she was good at.
At 15, she discovered another talent, modelling, and is currently signed with overseas firm, Elite Model Management. She is no stranger to the stage but it was only after some nudging by her friend (and chaperone) Zhané Padmore that she decided to join the prestigious pageant. The 5’ 9” beauty said this move was life changing and opened her eyes about the pageant world.
“It’s not just about being cute and being on stage and walking in a gown that’s sparkly. It’s definitely hard work. It definitely makes you determined. It makes you strong as well because with the good comes bad. And you’ll get negative comments . . .,” she said.
Harris’ win was met with criticism, with some Barbadians calling the show ‘rigged from the start’. Without commenting on the backlash directly, she noted that she has grown stronger from the “ups and downs” that came with the title.
There’re many things that Harris, a lover of macaroni pie, breadfruit and cou cou adores about Barbados. And the mere thought of representing this little rock gives her goose-bumps, she admitted.
“I will do my best to mention Barbados as much as possible and raise my flag as much as possible,” she enthused. “There was a video that we had to send about Barbados to the official Miss Universe [organisers]. And it was basically me on a tour of the island. I think that in itself would encourage anybody to come here.”
For the reigning queen, there’s nothing like home. Its pristine beaches and exciting places of interest like the Animal Flower Cave “are unmatched”. However, there’s one thing Shannon finds unnerving. She said the plight of those who suffered from chronic water outages pained her.
“ . . . . That was a big issue for me because I can’t imagine living without water. There’s nothing like seeing a four-year-old who hasn’t had water for a year,” she said.
Nevertheless, Harris hopes the future is bright for all, including other young women who might be inspired by her success. It’s not surprising then, that the ambitious woman has worked closely with local charities like I Am A Girl.
Harris said she believes it’s possible for all youth to thrive. But to reach this goal, books must become your best friend, she said. As for her favourite book, How To Be Successful With People by Paul McGee easily rolled off her tongue.
“I would advise others to read as much as possible. Read self-help books because they are the one thing that will open your eyes and help you realise who you are as a person. And be positive; just surround yourself with positive people who want the best for you and who aren’t just there to go to the party with you, take pictures with you and go on Instagram, and Snapchat. Surround yourself with people who [want] to better you as a person,” she said.
But since no man is an island, her inspiration and motivation also comes from loved ones. Harris who left the island last Wednesday for the competition, credited her parents and “significant other” as her source of strength.
In fact, she said she hopes to settle down and create a loving family of her own someday, just like her parents. Whether she is on or off the runway, you can expect one thing from the bombshell, she will be strutting her way to a “happy and successful” life. (LT)