The Trinidad and Tobago blogosphere has been extremely active over the past week as Season 9 of Lifetime's hit reality show, Project Runway, drew to a close. The big finale – and revelation of the judges’ choice for the winning designer – aired this past Thursday October 27. Even prior to the final show, regional netizens were spending lots of time on Twitter, trying to ensure that their home-grown design hopeful, Anya Ayoung-Chee, walked away with the Fan Favourite title and $10,000 prize money, at the very least. The dramatic rise in local users of the microblogging service even prompted @outlishmagazine to quip:
RT @knycky: And became best friends with #Hootsuite? RT”@outlishmagazine: How many of you joined Twitter just to vote for Anya? #PR9Anya“
As it turned out, Ayoung-Chee also won the judges’ nod; her effortlessly elegant “Tobago Love” collection won her the coveted title of Project Runway's Season 9 designer. The Caribbean blogosphere was jubilant: fans and supporters posted their congratulations on Twitter, Facebook, and of course, on their personal blogs.
@LaShaunPrescott was a dedicated Tweeter during the Fan Favourite competition and on the night of the final show, she was bursting with excitement:
@LaShaunPrescott: @TeamAnyaRunway we readyyy, hands up, we ready, jump up lol we pumping tonight fuh Anya #PR9Anya
Once the final four designers had shown their ten-piece collections at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, the judges’ debate began; @anniepaul, tweeting from Jamaica, soon began to try and predict the winner:
@anniepaul: Viktor's out isnt he? Josh is the competition for Anya #projectrunway
A few minutes later, she was convinced that:
ok she's done it….it's hers…@AnyadeRogue #projectrunway
But one judge's comment soon changed her mind:
ok so its Josh #projectrunway
When the moment of truth finally came, all @anniepaul could do was tweet:
That tweet was soon followed by a more composed comment:
@anniepaul: Trindiadian designer and beauty queen @AnyadeRogue wins Project Runway You can exhale now Trinidad and Tobago #projectrunway
Trinidadian followers of the show soon joined in:
@kalypsoul: Trust a Trini to pull it off against all odds, at the last moment, and despite the H8Rs! Love it! You go girl!!!! #PR9anya Congrats!!
@Carnivalfeteish: Small islands, big heart. #PR9anya
@bblchrn‘s tweet showed the degree to which Anya's win was a boost for national pride, as it grouped her with other Trinbagonians who have excelled in everything from the arts to sports:
@bblchrn: Minshall, Berkeley, Walcott, Vidia, Penny, Giselle, Wendy, Lara, Hasely, ANYA! #PR9Anya
Diaspora tweeter @izatrini could already see a repeat of the Twitter action prior to Anya's Fan Fave win; in fact, Trini tweeters have said that they will celebrate her victory all weekend long by continuing to include the hashtag #PR9Anya in all their tweets:
@izatrini: And twitter goes wild…Just when U thought U had enough of #PR9Anya hashtag here we go again!
@samnanton, recognizing the integral role that local Twitter users played in Anya's success, said:
@samnanaton: I think we should all put – T&T – in our final tweet on @AnyadeRogue. Everyone take a bow. #PR9Anya
Ayoung-Chee's performance throughout the show – and her eventual victory – inspired some to poetry; Jamaican diaspora litblogger Geoffrey Philp republished an ode to Anya by Jennifer Rahim:
To a stage that rivals any brand of farce, a light–
a young woman comes, a rainbow. No sign
taken for wonders hitched to dead pasts,
but witness of prophecy’s advent –Walcott’s
new Athens. Her field, a runway stylin’:
raiment as phenomenal as the language
islands stitched from worlds made seamless
as the weave of sea her hands command
architect of how we may wear our tomorrows,
delight in this sad carnival of waste and mamaguy,
may your challenge be always what Thursdays
have come to mean, for us: our colours lifted up
and the inexhaustible grace that is your name.
Back in Trinidad, aka_lol took a more humourous view…
Kamla will send congratulations from Australia and declare that fashion may well be the thing that turns the economy around. Along with Jack Warner, that is. After Kamla and Anya return from their respective visits, Kamla will declare a fashion scholarship in Anya’s name. Maybe she will be given land on Lady Chancellor Road as well.
…but the online reactions from Trinidad and Tobago, the land of Anya's inspiration, were overwhelmingly supportive. Taylor Scott wrote:
I am so proud of my Anya (yes, she’s all mine because I have been rooting for her all season long!!!!) Defying all odds entering the competition with just 3 months of sewing experience under her belt, it was clear from the first challenge that Anya had impeccable taste and amazing style.
WUZDESCENE! broke into local dialect to express his excitement:
My gyul runway wit de Project …. and she lick-up with de Fan Favourite …..
Lawd …. how proud are Trinis tonight …… we likin weself …..
Strangeness and Charm didn't jump on the national pride bandwagon, but was genuinely happy for her:
Anya Ayoung-Chee just won the 9th Season of Project Runway.
I am tremendously proud and glad for her.
I don’t particularly think this is a great day for Trinidad and Tobago.
I mean, by extension we’re in the public eye right now.
But this is her moment.
I want her to revel in it -
and for her to be a sign for other people, especially in creative fields,
to show that if you seize the opportunities given to you and give your best,
you can reap the benefits,
and you should follow your dreams no matter what.
Finally, Trinidadian diaspora fashion blogger Afrobella posted an interview that she did with Ayoung-Chee before it was revealed that she had won. She found the designer “talented…very smart and surprisingly funny, and super likable” and was impressed with her resilience and grace:
As Trinidad and Tobago’s representative in the 2008 Miss Universe pageant, she showed the world the diverse range that Trini beauty comes in. As a woman slandered and disparaged during a scandal that would bring most people to the brink of a breakdown, Anya demonstrated grace under fire. And now as one of the strongest contenders who may be poised to win the current season of Project Runway, Anya Ayoung-Chee has re-written her own script. She’s now the beauty-queen beautiful Caribbean designer who shut the naysayers up with her talent.