"In these shoes? I don't think so!"
These words from a Kirsty MacColl song came to mind as I watched the contestants pose on stage wearing sexy bikinis and high heels. You are so not going swimming in those outfits...
"Competition swimsuit" and "swimsuit competition" are two very different things. The former is a sturdy suit that stays in place when its wearer is swimming or diving. The latter involves more, uh, minimalist outfits that look like they might not stay on if their wearers waded into the pool.
Fortunately for the contestants, anyway the swimsuit competition involved no swimming. Instead, the ladies paraded on a poolside stage during the preliminaries and on the deck of the pirate ship Song in front of the TI during the finals. The preliminary phase also had the ladies modeling "country costumes" from the places they represented. These ranged from traditional (a European maiden costume, albeit with a sexy garter showing), playful (a modified Canadian Mountie outfit with a miniskirt) to festive (an extravagant Mardi Gras costume with green plumage), to elegant (a satin gown in the colors of a country's flag). The regular eveningwear competition took place during the finals, along with another swimsuit phase.
During the stress of the finals, the contestants got to have some more fun as they joined several cast members from The Sirens of TI to give a dance performance on the decks of the two ships. They had to be patient during several "takes" of the opening number, as the event was being filmed for television. Later, several contestants gave individual performances: ladies from Australia and Poland performed very athletic dances; the Czech contestant did a creative sleight-of-hand act while dancing, and the contestant from Antigua sang a challenging pop tune.
Ron introduced them as "the future of Hawaiian Tropic." He also introduced distinguished friends in the audience and members of his own family. Far from a seamy or "spring break" atmosphere, this pageant had an air of wholesomeness and class, reminiscent of last year's CarnaVé 2003 pageant. We can joke about ditzy "beach babes," but I was impressed by the intelligence and poise of the international contestants with whom I spoke.
The contest was narrowed to 15 semifinalists, and awards were presented to Miss Congeniality (Bahamas) and Miss Photogenic (Australia). The "Dream Body" award, sponsored by TrimSpa, went to the contestant from Moldova.
Mr. Rice returned for announcement of the top five finalists. The crown for Miss Hawaiian Tropic 2004 went to Ashley Smith of Jacksonville, Florida, with runner-up awards going to ladies from Vietnam, Panama, Hungary, and St. Martin. Ron congratulated Ashley on her perseverance; she had competed several times before and was first runner-up in 2003.