When the Caribbean’s most recognized and beloved beauty pageant title winner needed to announce and toast the extension of her investment in reality TV, she invited faithful comrades, sponsors and media to join her atop Betsy Hotel on Miami Beach for a quaint evening celebration.
For the sophomore season of Caribbean’s Next Top Model, executive producer Wendy Fitzwilliam, teamed up with Barbados to host her crew and cast of hopeful models. “We worked like animals, we turned this show out in less than 21 days.” Ms. Fitzwilliam was crowned Miss Universe in 1998, and is one of three pageant crown winners from Trinidad & Tobago.
Fitzwilliam suggests it’s only rumor that production of CNTM left Trinidad after the first season due to salty experiences with crew. “The beauty of this franchise is that it’s a regional franchise, every season we get to move the entire production.” After screening 8,000 candidates for the 10-episode series Wendy produces with her sister Dionyse Fitzwilliam, we were curious to know how does she stay inspired.
Since you recognize the value and influence of TV, did you consider creating your own show instead of joining a franchise?
I didn’t know how to make it happen. In this space there is nothing that truly unifies the region. If you go back to 1997 when I was competing in Miss T&T, I said very clearly that I know whatever I do, whether I’m lawyering [sic] or being Miss T&T or Miss Universe, I would like to spend my time uniting us and celebrating us beyond our shores. How? I didn’t know. The franchise makes perfect sense. It is very recognizable and well respected globally, but most importantly, here in the Caribbean. In the Caribbean we’re not great risk takers, our culture is generally risk adverse, so it makes sense to go with something that is established, popular and well liked and then create our own flavor. Make it into our own event.
From all the turmoil that unfolded producing season one, what is your key takeaway from your maiden journey into TV production?
My biggest takeaway is patience with myself, patience with the process. TV is not as organized, per se a business as banking, which is where my sister was before. It’s a lot more ad-hoc and like everything else, not because you attain success in one area that means you are automatically going to have it in the next. I understood that very clearly. I have done many things well and many more things not so well, I have failed at a lot.
But when you are very well known like I am throughout the region, your failures are amplified. When you have success no one remembers them. My biggest takeaway is patience with the growth process, not forgetting that, taking the time to learn the aspects of the business.
What mantra drives your professional pursuits?
This I learned at St Joseph’s Convent. In very subtle ways Sister Paul, God Bless her, told us this every single morning at assembly: Rule number one, never be number two.