It has happened. Trinidad's fashion chief Anya Ayoung-Chee has prevailed, and is the newest winner of the Emmy award-winning show Project Runway. It's a funny thing to be invested in something that you technically have no personal stake in, but that's how every Trinidadian felt over the last 2-3 months as we sat and watched Anya prevail time and time again against designers more experienced than herself.
I was a fan of the show before Anya became a contestant. But this season I found myself torn between loyalty to my fellow Trinidadian (and Convent girl), my personal tastes, and my need to judge the show objectively. Because as much as I am glad that Anya won, there were times when she floundered and others when I simply was not personally taken with her design. (See looks 3, 8 and 9 below).
On the show, Anya mentioned feeling the pressure of having to live up to the nation's expectations, and commenters online wondered if the pressure was all in her head. Since I knew better, something struck me about the immense support back home for her: Anya is ours and we are immeasurably proud of her.
Trinidadians are quick to claim any person who is even vaguely well known as a compatriot. We've claimed Nicki Minaj, Nia Long and Tatyana Ali, but with the exception of Nicki (sometimes) have they ever claimed us? Anya's success resonates so deeply with the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago because she is wholly and truly ours. She grew up here, she went to school here, she represented us at Ms. Universe, she started her fashion career here and she speaks our lilting dialect. She is ours to claim completely and outright. So Anya, if you haven't gotten tired of hearing it already, congratulations again on winning Project Runway Season 9, and thank you for representing us so well, with equal measures of talent, class and dignity.