It was last year that Crown Events Inc. announced the departure of Shantel Ifill, who was crowned queen on September 7, 2019 at Hilton Barbados. Ifill had signed with a major London-based talent agency to pursue a professional career in modelling. Hillary Ann Williams had been reigning queen from then till last Saturday when her new reign was announced during broadcast production.
Barbados TODAY chatted with the newly crowned Miss Universe Barbados 2020 queen. Hillary Ann praised Crown Events Inc. for staging the inaugural The Making of A Queen production that was broadcast last weekend. Hillary Ann spoke about the COVID-19 national lockdown period and how she coped. She also touched on her preparation for the big Miss Universe stage in 2021.
Barbados TODAY: Talk to us about your reign during the COVID-19 national lockdown period. What kind of things and initiatives did you have to come up with and employ in order to ensure the monarch remained relevant.
Hillary Ann: I often say that I am the very first ‘Quarantine Queen,’ but I did not allow the curfew to curtail my reach. The time allowed me to use the Miss Universe Barbados platform to develop creative digital initiatives like my Instagram Live series called “Conversations with the Queen” and “Life in Lockdown.”
They allowed me to connect with some of the most inspiring people, and to talk to them about unexpected issues from Black Lives Matter, to Gender Parity and Women, Leadership and Success.
I also used the opportunity to create communities among people who share my interests. I began a video series of workout videos, starting my vegetable and herb garden, and took time to indulge in some necessary homemade self-care routines.
Barbados TODAY: What lesson (s) have you taken away from that national COVID-19 lockdown period as the reigning Queen? And what personal lesson (s) did you learn?
Hillary Ann: I learned that I am far more resilient than I thought. Being nimble helped me lean into my skill set as a digital marketer which took over my time and became my primary income source after being displaced from my travel industry job. While I know it is not easy for everyone to pick themselves up and keep ploughing through, I am grateful that I chose to bet on myself and say ‘yes’ to the opportunities presenting themselves. I built my client portfolio and became the CEO of my own digital marketing agency, HW Digital. That may never have happened had I not been forced to dig deep and tap into that
Barbados TODAY: What are some of the things you did or didn’t do to cope on a personal level during the COVID-19 national lockdown period?
Hillary Ann: Maintaining my mental and physical health became exceedingly essential for me. I had my Miss Universe Barbados reign to keep me busy by generating creative and engaging ways to stay connected to the broader audience on our digital platforms.
The lockdown also made me appreciate that not everyone could meet their basic needs as quickly as others, so even something like being able to access groceries became a real challenge for some. So, on my designated day, I would find out who needed items from the supermarket, and I volunteered to do the grocery runs for those who were not in a position to go on their own.
I am also a dog mom to the most adorable and loving black Frenchie ‘Lola’, so I relished our long walks through the neighbourhood and the beach. Sometimes twice a day. You would be amazed how differently you see your environment when you don’t have the daily distractions of work and other social commitments.
Barbados TODAY: When you heard about The Making of a Queen project, what was your initial thought?
Hillary Ann: One word: genius! Brian Green, our national director, has no end of incredible ideas. When he presented this concept as the way we would execute the 2020 show, in a COVID-19 world, while protecting the Queens and our live Barbadian audience, I was excited immediately. But the goal of Crown Events is always to give Barbados high-quality productions.
Barbados TODAY: How was it for you being a part of this historic and innovative production which kept the brand and franchise relevant?
Hillary Ann: I knew it was going to be incredible from the very start. I would never have imagined being able to create such a phenomenal production with my fellow sister Queens while showcasing the most stunning parts of Barbados for the world to see. I could not wait to work with the dream team of videographer Nigel Wallace of NWP Caribbean and his infectious energy, Beauty By Vandana (Chatrani), our incredible makeup artist, and our official photographer Logan C. Thomas, a genius with a camera. Of course, I cannot forget the team at Trident 10TV who put the entire production together that Brian envisioned and directed. This combination was destined to be nothing short of amazing.
Barbados TODAY: Do you believe there was value for you, the other participants, the viewers and the stakeholders in Miss Universe Barbados staging such a production?
Hillary Ann: Absolutely! We were able to pull back the curtain on all that goes into preparing a delegate to cross the international stage in front of 800 million viewers! Viewers got the rare chance to gain valuable insight from the experiences of the former queens in Shannon Harris, Lesley Chapman-Andrews, and Megan Theobalds. They have been instrumental in preparing me for what to expect and how to navigate this incredible journey.
Barbados TODAY: How did it feel at the exact moment when Gaynelle revealed or when you found out that you were selected to be the Queen?
Hillary Ann: When Gaynelle said that the young woman was ‘in the building,’ my heart started racing, and I was trying not to look around to see who ‘she’ was. But when Gaynelle officially announced my name, I just exhaled in relief! And then the excitement welled up inside me again because I had worked so hard the first time, and I readily accepted and ran with the opportunity to finish the 2019 reign. I feel completely honoured that my directors have the confidence in me to continue this incredible legacy. I cannot wait to represent my beautiful country and make our people proud.
Barbados TODAY: How do you intend to continue to advance the monarch and your reign from now in to next year?
Hillary Ann: I am focused right now on getting ready for the Miss Universe stage. My days are filled with essential training, from daily workouts with Cary Holder at Bassa Bassa Gym to expert walking sessions with Michellan Bascombe, public speaking, elocution, and media training with Gaynelle Marshall, and so many more trainers.
I will also continue to use my platform to bring greater awareness to gender-based violence. As a survivor myself, I know the importance of speaking up and speaking out for those who feel voiceless in their situation and creating a community of safety and confidentiality so more victims can find the spark of courage to seek the support they so desperately need. Being safe cannot be optional! It is a fundamental human right, and as a country, we need to play our role to ensure that our most vulnerable are protected. We owe it to everyone everywhere. (IMC)
(Picture by Logan C. Thomas.)