by Adrian Frater-News Editor
Left: Brian Martin (left), the CEO of Big Head Clothing, presents the Red Label Wine Dancehall Queen title to Shalara Gayle, who won the coveted 2006 Dancehall Queen title on Saturday night.
Right: One of six Japanese contestants on stage at the Red Label Wine-sponsored International Dancehall Queen Competition at the Pier One Complex in Montego Bay on Saturday. - Adrian frater
Eighteen-year -old Shalara Gayle emerged the toast of Saturday night's 10th anniversary staging of the International Dancehall Queen Contest at the Pier One Complex, in Montego Bay, when she walked away with the coveted Red Label Wine Trophy and the $250, 000 winner's purse.
"I feel good." I am overwhelmed," said Gayle, who also copped the sectional prize for the contestant with 'The Best Attitude'. "I was always confident that I had a great chance of winning, so taking the title did not come as a surprise to me."
Mix of rich entertainment
The event, which unfolded before the largest crowd ever seen at the popular seaside venue, saw diminutive 23-year-old South Florida resident Nicolalee Sylvester taking second- place ahead of 30-year-old Japanese contestant, Nami Kurisu. The event featured over 25 participants from 10 countries.
On a night in which the promoter announced the launched of a $100,000 Shanique Taylor Scholarship Fund, which is in memory of the 2005 Dancehall Queen, who died during her reign; and unveiled a new Dancehall Queen (DHQ) line of clothing, patrons were treated to a mix of rich entertainment, which kept them buzzing until the show ended at daybreak.
Despite a persistent early afternoon drizzle, it soon became obvious that the event was going to be a massive affair as elegantly-clad dancehall fans braved the elements as they descended on the venue in their thousands.
While there were no climbing of pylons this year, the excitement stayed at fever-pitch all night long as the contestants, the DHQ models and the various guest performers unleashed various versions of the popular new dance, the Dutty Wine, whose creators, the amazing Aila and Dima, were on hand to demonstrate the rudiments of the dance to the fans.
As for the contest, it was obvious from as early as the first of the three rounds of dance-off that Gayle and Sylvester would be in the reckoning for the title as each time they hit the stage the crowd erupted with appreciative screams and cat calls. The Japanese contestants, who outnumbered all other countries, except Jamaica, were also quite popular, drawing spontaneous applauds for their well-choreographed dance moves and flashy outfits.
Those patrons who were close to the stage a had a field day as they got a bird's eye of the various body parts that were exposed and the wigs and other accessories that went flying in all directions as the contestants mixed acrobatics with their various dance routines to impress the judges.
The giveaways, most of which came courtesy of First Choice Video, were also quite popular as patrons jostled each other for the various goodies, especially the sex toys, which were tossed their way. Some of the women drew much attention to themselves as they lovingly embraced the dildos they had managed to secure for themselves.
Unlike last year when the judges were forced to abandon their original choice and crown the big crowd favourite Taylor, this year's winner was widely accepted. In fact, except for the chasing of a male dancer, whose outfit earned the wrath of the crowd, the event was both chock-full of excitement and incident-free.
However, amid all the excitement, there was one poignant extended moment of reflection when the theme of this year's event, 'Live Life and Dance' was temporarily forgotten as video tribute was paid to the late Shanique Taylor, whose death made her the first reigning queen not to be around to crown her successor.