Miss World Guyana is as charming in real life as she is on screen and stage. We discovered this when we caught up with Andrea King after the World Literary Summit at Oxford University, where she spoke about financial literacy. In a warm, informal discussion, Andrea opened up about her inspiration, family life, business project and even a fashion secret.
Aged 9 she attended a beauty pageant with her supportive mother, who she describes as a friend as well as mentor, helping craft a “well-rounded” woman – and there was a touching mother-and-daughter bonding moment immediately after Andrea won the competition. Andrea credits her parents with helping to shape her sense of purpose. Her mother, who had danced in the National Dance Company, also passed on a gift for dance. It was this same dance, later performed to Jackie Jaxx Guyana, that carried her audition.
Yet it is her culture that has shaped her as a person. Andrea explained, “Guyana is on the cusp of major transformations right now,” and she expressed her pride in “a country that’s on the rise”. The prominence of Letitia Wright (Shuri in 2018 film Black Panther) has also contributed to Guyana’s presence on the world stage.
This ‘hidden gem’, the fertile Caribbean bread basket, rich in minerals and other resources, has a culturally diverse population. Andrea herself is a blend of five of the six ethnicities prevalent in the country. The Guyanese are “compassionate” and “welcoming”, she says, but also resourceful.
Resourcefulness underscores her Beauty with a Purpose initiative, Project FLO. The acronym stands for Financial Literacy Orientation. It is her dream to bring “robust financial literacy education” into the curriculum. The activist and ambassador will be leading workshops, both online and in the classroom, to bridge the gap between theory and practice that so often exist in schooling.
Education is something we can use to our advantage, she insists. Whilst not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, we should at least try to apply our skills, beginning with our passion, Andrea believes. She speaks of, “A skill that you have within you,” that can be harnessed, pointing out that, “Opportunity exists where gaps exist”. Rather than lowering their ambitions, ordinary people can be trained to identify gaps in the market, and to fill them. It is fitting, then, that the government, having sponsored her trip to the UK, is also sponsoring enterprising spirits, offering grants and providing other kinds of support to turn creative vision into reality.
In her gentle voice, Andrea recalled, “My family really played a pivotal role, in that they were with me every step of the way.” The activist and ambassador believes she must use her influence and connections to champion worthwhile causes. One is the issue of representation. While she felt at home amongst the academics at the World Literacy Summit, she is rather disheartened that so few Caribbean people were at the event.
In her words, “education is so easily available these days,” that people can easily get started wherever they are. For this reason, she emphasises that it is not just books – ones her dad would have encouraged her to read – that she would recommend to her young followers, but also websites and YouTube channels – such as MoneySense.
Naturally, we moved on to the subjects of music, beauty and fashion. After asking about her dress, she replied that it was about feeling: “I like to be comfortable but also to maintain my presence.” Although she confessed to once being tomboyish, she revealed she nevertheless always had time for heels and make-up, knowing how to “blend or be noticed”, forever conscious of the image she puts out.
This seemed the right time to ask Andrea for her views about social media, so often criticised for its potentially harmful impact on impressionable young people. Young girls, in particular, want attention and “always want to make sure that [they] look good”, she noted. But as people seek likes and validation there’s a risk they can cease being true to themselves. Perhaps that’s why she chose to disconnect; “I like to be genuine”, she explained.
Having come from a strict household, Andrea praised the ‘soft skills’ her upbringing gave her. She was conscious of ‘protocol’ when growing up, and even before her formal victory she understood she represented a brand.
This led to our final foray into the mind of the lovely Miss King, where we asked her, “What does beauty mean to you?” Her answer was as sweet a blend as the caramel texture complementing her glowing skin and radiant smile; she said, “Beauty is who you are as a person and how that comes through and how you carry yourself. It’s more than how you look – it’s your presence.”
Andrea closed by taking the time to thank her government sponsors and other supporters who helped with the summit and engagements, along with her many family members, friends and fans.