Rhythm of beauty | Daily News

Rhythm of beauty

We have known her for her flair for rhythmic gymnastics. However Anna-Marie Ondaatje was recently back in the spotlight for another reason. She made her debut into the world of beauty pageants, an ambition she had been cherishing all these years, to follow the footsteps of her paternal great aunt Maureen Hingert who was runner-up Miss Universe 1955.

“I have been aspiring for the Miss Universe crown. I decided to take part in Miss Grand International 2021 in hopes of bringing Sri Lanka the Miss Grand International 2021 crown. It was my first beauty pageant and I was so excited to be given the opportunity to represent my motherland on an international platform. It is a representation of culture and grand beauty,” Anna-Marie said.

She was crowned as Miss Grand Sri Lanka in November 2021. National Director Brian Kerkoven and the local panel chose her for the title. The international beauty pageant was held in Bangkok, Thailand, at the end of last year. Around 60 contestants from across the world took part in the event.

“The Miss Grand International organization created a whole experience in Bangkok for each contestant. We were sent on excursions to view the city and enjoy the culture. We explored so much of Phuket, Thailand, such as their farms, islands, historic areas, multiple exotic restaurants, cultural dances, cruises and more. The girls and I were taken by surprise when we had our interviews. The conversations were so casual. The interview went very well. The President Nawat Itsaragrisil, Vice President Teresa Chaivisut and Miss Grand 2020 Abena Appiah, were extremely friendly and curious to learn more about Sri Lanka. The organization and team made sure to follow and respect Covid regulations, ensuring the contestants and audience were safe. All contestants and staff were regularly tested for Covid and there were strict rules as to how you conduct yourself within the base to avoid close contact,” she explained.

Though social distancing was maintained Anna-Marie says that she used every opportunity she got to bond with the other contestants.

“I got along so well with all of them and we connected on so many levels. It’s a beautiful thing to feel this bond with other strong women over mutual interests. My roommate was Miss Grand Portugal. We bonded well and I will miss her. Each contestant had their own culture, story, and goals, and it was incredible to connect, relate, learn and share this experience with them,” she said.

The most memorable moment at Miss Grand International was the final show in Bangkok for Anna-Marie. All the contestants and the Miss Grand International team had been rehearsing all day for the finale. There was dancing, choreography, and speeches to rehearse that had to be perfect before the final show.

“The day of the final show was absolutely unforgettable. Miss Grand 2020, Abena Appiah, performed her song and we created an incredible dance performance. I also got to announce “Anna-Marie Ondaatje Miss Grand Sri Lanka” in front of millions of viewers. I had an overwhelming yet love-filled feeling of pride, joy, and honour to represent my mother country and make us heard loud, strong, and confidently,” she enthused adding that she believes that her fame as a rhythmic gymnast helped bring excitement and a scene of difference to the event.

“At rehearsals, I demonstrated some rhythmic gymnastics and everyone was stunned. It was a super fun moment!” she revealed with a smile.

Queried on what was the most challenging moment in the competition for her and Anna-Marie notes that it was waking up in the morning!

“We had really early call times anywhere from 4 am to 8 am, as well as late nights. Each day was also a set schedule of activities. For example, rehearsals, sightseeing, dinners, and of course the competition, so my sleeping patterns were not the best,” she disclosed.

“I learnt so much during and leading up to the competition at Miss Grand International. I learnt a lot about myself and different cultures. I learnt how to be a beauty queen - most importantly a beauty queen who is intelligent, strong-minded, brave, confident, kind to others and carries herself with elegance and strength.”

The Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham, England, is next on Anna-Marie’s bucket list. She is training hard in Toronto, Canada, to win a medal for Sri Lanka these days.

“Taking part in a pageant was a new venture for me. Coming from a sportsperson to pageantry was a huge scene change. Nonetheless, I was able to use lots of the skills, discipline and determination that I developed through sports and apply that into my pageant journey. I believe pageantry is a lot of hard work, full time dedication and is not only beauty but brains and discipline too. To partake in pageantry, you must really love it and understand the value and purpose of your journey,” she opined.

During her stay in Thailand, Anna-Marie’s father, Alistar, was always behind her, supporting her at any time of day from Canada. Her sister, Alexis, was also her emotional backbone, and she ended up taking a trip to Thailand to support her as well.

“I am forever grateful for the support from my father, sister, mother and brother. They believed in me until the end and was rooting for me always. My sister, Alexis, is currently keeping very busy coming out with her original music very soon, as well as embarking on her modeling journey. My brother is studying hard in school and supporting me in every way,” she said.

Her New Year resolution is to earn a medal for Sri Lanka at the Commonwealth Games 2022, Asian Games 2022, University Games 2022, and Asian Championships 2022.

“I also want to improve my pageantry skills, and gain more experience in rhythmic gymnastics, coaching, and modeling. I am looking forward to coming out with my own branding AQO / AnnaQuintO, to uplift and self-fund my charity foundation A Quint Ondaatje Foundation. I am super excited to be joint managing director of AQO Sports & Entertainment, as we will be releasing our platform this year!” she said.

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