Grab a seat with Miss Trinidad and Tobago and Designer 'Athaliah Samuel'
In 1977 when Janelle Penny Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago won Miss Universe; she was the first black woman to do so. She pioneered a dream for other aspiring black models including Wendy Fitzwilliam who followed in her footsteps and became the second winner of the esteemed title from the sister islands in 1998. Today, the name Athaliah Samuel is also quickly becoming a household name throughout the Caribbean as Miss Trinidad and Tobago World 2012, runner-up for Caribbean's Next Top Model 2013-14, current representative for Miss Intercontinental 2014 and now designer of the swimwear line, Afrodesiack.
Having the opportunity to sit with Ms. Samuel, I was very enlightened to learn of all the ambition, aspirations and talent wrapped up in this 5ft 10in vivacious and fierce island beauty.
OB: What do you do?
AS: I work and study. First and foremost, I work as an ambassador for my country. I model, design and possess a few other skills such as styling hair and make-up. Let's just say that I learn fast and I'm a jack of all trades [lol]. I also attend COSTAATT (College of Science, Technology & Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago), where I'm pursuing BA in Mass Communications. In addition to all of this, I'm a Certified Broadcaster, graphic designer with great stage dynamics and possess a great sporting history.
OB: You recently launched your swimwear line, Afrodesiack. Tell us a little about your line and why the name Afrodesiack. What does it mean? What does it represent?
AS: My line is basically made to make people feel sexy in their own skin. Some women like showing legs but not stomachs, so I designed a high waist cut with those women in mind. Some women are generally comfortable in their own skin and the high cut in underwear and whole piece signifies that. My line is made for every woman. My aim is to make every woman feel like a goddess, no matter the piece chosen. A simple but powerful feeling.
I started with an all black line with a touch of colour. It's easy to wear black that's why I started with an all black line. The touch of colour represents our Caribbean people. The simple handy artwork with fabric paint is just to add positive words for people to wear nothing that brings other people down. The actual aphrodisiac- stimulates sexualities, and Aphrodite- the 'goddess of beauty' is all added into my one line. When designing, I see myself wearing each piece as a model, as someone who loves the tropics because I am from the Caribbean, and as a person who has friends who would call at a moment's notice to hang out. So, if I had to throw on a pair of jeans over my swimwear, I would still look good and blend in.
OB: Where did you first launch the line? Have you presented or showcased at any other events since the launch? If so, which?
AS: I launched my line in Grand Cayman at the 2014 Cayman Islands Fashion Week this past April. I was invited as a featured model for the event based on my participation in Caribbean's Next Top Model and a former Miss Trinidad and Tobago. With me going to the event, I asked the organizer if I could showcase my line and it was agreed for me to do so. To date, I am still receiving compliments and inquiries about my designs from some of the models who did and did not wear my pieces. I am already scheduled to attend and present at the event in 2015 and I'm super excited about that.
Outside of the initial launch in Grand Cayman, I also showcased at Counter Couture in Trinidad. I hope to present the line this August at Red Runway in Trinidad, and at Caribbean New York Fashion Week in New York in September.
OB: You competed in Caribbean's Next Top Model in 2013, what was that like?
AS: My experience in Caribbean's Next Top Model was a bitter sweet one because of course I wanted to win and I didn't. At the end of the day, I guess it's ok that I didn't win because I still remain one of the top models for Trinidad and Tobago. The show has room for improvement as I was one of the "originals" to have participated in the show.
OB: What can we expect from you as a model and designer in the near future? Is there anything in the pipeline?
AS: No one wants to remain stagnant so there are definitely future projects in the pipeline. For the line, I would like to expand into men's wear and even children's wear. Although I don't like to talk much about my plans unless I am actually going to pursue and fulfill them, I hope to host my own runway show in the near future so be on the look out for that. Experimenting with different fabrics and textures is a must, and of course showcasing in many other fashion weeks around the world is more of a long-term goal.
As a model, there is always something happening with me. Although mostly locally, I intend to remain a household name and fulfill my duties as an ambassador for my country, Trinidad and Tobago.
Words: Olivia B