Liam Rondon and Sophia Howell were all smiles on the night of December 16th, when they emerged the victors of this year’s Star Strut: Phoenix – Rising From the Ashes at the Queen’s College auditorium. It was anyone’s game on the night as there was no clear winner even up to the moment that the judges left to tally up the final scores. However, the audience favourites for the crowns seemed to be Aaron Grimes and Gabrielle Brome (who essentially had her own cheering section, with attendees sporting sashes saying “Team Gabby”). Perhaps what pushed Rondon and Howell ahead of their competition, was the fact that they were just about the only contestants who consistently smiled.
Rondon also took home the prize for the Olympus Fashion Week segment and Howell won prizes for the Runway Phoenix and Living Art segments as well as Most Improved. Joining them in the winner’s circle were first runners up Aaron Grimes and Atara Padmore and second runners up Jamahl Burke and Kaya Barnett.
The contestants started strong with their introductory segment entitled “Olympus Fashion Week: Greek Gods”, in which they wore “fashionable, edgy, ready to wear looks” inspired by the Greek gods of myth and legend. Their costumes certainly lived up to the theme and were among the night’s best. Aaron Grimes made the biggest impression in this segment by coming out on stage on the back of a motorcycle.
In the girls only second segment, in which the female contestant wore designs from local designer Shanna Boyce’s Fashion Couture line “Fire”, the young ladies certainly brought that “fierceness” that models are best known for. Many of them looked borderline angry, but no so too much so. With Sophia Howell being the only one who smiled. The designs in this segment were eye catching and fashionable and the contestants looked very good in them, wore them well and did their jobs as models; they sold the garments.
The third segment, “Fit for Fashion,” which was described by the MCs as “promoting healthy lifestyles with an eye for fashion”, saw the contestants wearing “gym and athletic wear fit for the runway.” Unfortunately, many of the looks in this segment were not consistent with that description. Aside from Liam Rondon, Gabrielle Brome, Shequanna Morgan and Atara Padmore, whose outfits did look fashionable, everyone else’s looked like basic athletic wear. Those worn by Aaron Grimes, Mark-Anthony Hinkson and Kaya Barnett came close, but didn’t quite hit their target. That being said, it was this segment that was the turning point of the competition. The contestants appeared to lose their nerves, get comfortable and bring their A-game.
Living Art was another segment which featured beautiful costumes. This was the avant-garde segment, meant to feature fashion with “bold, unconventional and artistic pieces that push the boundaries of fashion; wearable art [that combined] fabric and unconventional materials.” However, this was another example of a school model search in which the contestants and/or their designers did not understand the difference between haute couture and avant-garde fashion and seemingly thought that “avant-garde” simply means “weird.”
The majority of the costumes fell under the umbrella of haute couture. Alana Springer, Shequanna Morgan and Aaron Grimes were the three contestants whose looks entered the realm of avant-garde. Sophia Howell (who stood out by going en pointe), Xavier Dash and Liam Rondon’s fell somewhere in between haute couture and avant-garde. Overall, the female constestants’ looks were more impressive.
The male contestant finally got their own segment when they took to the runway in designs by Dario Barrow. The prints of the shirts worn by the boys was initially striking, but as more contestants came out and it was evident that all of the looks were slight variations of the same thing, they all blended into each other and failed to maintain the heights of the “wow” factor that came with the first contestant. This, however, had nothing to do with the contestants themselves. Just that they all wore essentially the same thing. This was the most underwhelming of all of the segments.
The final segment, Phoenix Runway, saw the contestants walk the runway to the accompaniment of saxophonist Romario Wilkinson. Here the contestants were to “fuse personal style and create show stopping looks that show[ed] they [were] the embodiment of the phoenix.” And that they did. Each contestant looked different from the others and the girls here again outshone the boys. Whereas it’s difficult to say which of the girls had the most beautiful gown (although Kaya Barnett makes a strong case for it being hers and Sophia Howell’s was for sure the most interesting and was, according to the designer, made the day before the competition), Liam Rondon was far and away the best dressed male, in my opinion, despite not winning the prize for this segment. Aaron Grimes, who did win the prize for the segment, embodied the theme the most.
The organisers of the show made very good choices for the entertainment. Female trio Serendipity performed Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts.” Singer Miles Wilkinson – who has a very nice voice, but whose performance was very controlled and didn’t exactly hit a high point or bring real emotion – sang Pink’s “What About Us.” Singer Megan Greene gave a captivating and powerful performance. She had a very mature voice and displayed incredible talent. There were rap performances by two rap groups. The latter of which, New Matter Group, featured the top three from the recent Hit Island SCR Competition.
Check out our full album of photos from the show on our Facebook page: Star Strut: Phoenix – Rising from the Ashes Album.
Here is the full list of winners:
Olympus Fashion Week: Greek Gods (Male): Liam Rondon
Olympus Fashion Week: Greek Gods (Female): Shequanna Morgan
Designer (Male): Jamahl Burker
Designer (Female): Atara Padmore
Fit for Fashion (Male): Aaron Grime
Fit for Fashion (Female): Shequanna Morgan
Living Art (Male): Aaron Grimes
Living Art (Female): Sophia Howell
Phoenix Runway (Male): Aaron Grimes
Phoenix Runway (Female): Sophia Howell
Most Improved (Male): Zion Nicholls
Most Improved (Female): Sophia Howell
Most Photogenic (Male): Zion Nicholls
Most Photogenic (Female): Kaya Barnett
People’s Choice (Male): Jamahl Burke
People’s Choice (Female): Gabrielle Brome
Director’s Award of Excellence: Aaron Grimes
Second Runner Up (Male): Jamahl Burke
Second Runner Up (Female): Kaya Barnett
First Runner Up (Male): Aaron Grimes
First Runner Up (Female): Atara Padmore
Winner (Male): Liam Rondon
Winner (Feale): Sophia Howell