Student takes center stage

Charmaine Chinapen is not your typical St. John’s student-instead of wearing a T-shirt, flip-flops and sweats, she wears a tiara, an evening dress and fancy heels.

The Chemistry major and winner of the Miss Belize beauty pageant which took place this July, is currently in the running for the Miss World title.

“It’s not just a top model competition,” she said about the competition. “It focuses on the girl and who she is as a person.”
While many people tend to stereotype beauty pageants and their contestants,

Chinapen explained that Miss World is different than other competitions.

She noted that the slogan for the competition is “Beauty with a purpose.”

“[The winner] is a girl who is compassionate,” she said. “[She] can show all of her virtues… it’s not about having an attitude, it’s about caring.”

Miss World will be judged on Dec. 13 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The competition lasts for 30 days before the winner is decided.
Because of this, Chinapen is unable to take classes this semester.

“It’s a busy hectic schedule,” she said. “People only see the glossy side of it.”

According to Chinapen, Miss World is not as well known as Miss Universe is in America.

However, she is trying to change this.

“I do my best to go above and beyond to make Miss World as important or exceed Miss Universe,” she said.

Chinapen, who moved to New York City from Belize to attend St. John’s, has a passion for helping others and giving back to her community.

The aspiring neurosurgeon is starting her own charitable foundation called the “Charm Foundation” later this month in Belize.

She said that she believes that competing in Miss World will help her help others.

“[Pageants] give you a voice, give you an outlet… Miss World would give that on an even grander scale,” she said.

In addition to this, Chinapen hopes to one day work for Doctors Without Borders.

Born in Curacao in the Netherland Antilles, she moved to St. Lucia and Grenada before settling in Belize when she was nine years old.

“I am Belizean, but my outlook on life is worldly,” Chinapen, who has traveled to more than 19 countries, said.

Belize, a country in Central America, is a former British colony with a population of about a quarter of a million.

Chinapen added that there is an AIDS epidemic there, which is one of the reasons she is so intent on starting her charity.

“I’m a visionary,” she said. “I see the idealistic and the realistic.”
During her time in Belize, Chinapen made a name for herself, starring in a movie at 15 years old, and starting her own modeling agency and coordinating fashion shows at the age of 17.

While at St. John’s, she worked at the Tutoring Center, helping students with Organic and Biological Chemistry.
She also had a part in the Chappell Players’ Haunting of Hill House during the 2005-06 school year.

“I feel really comfortable performing on stage,” she said.
Chinapen said that she credits Jay Goldstein, the president of Barbazon Modeling and Acting, for supporting her endeavor in beauty pageants.

“[It is] really nice to have that person believe in me,” she said. “He said I would go far.”

She also said that she has gotten positive responses to the charitable work she has done.

“It’s nice to hear feedback when people like what I do,” Chinapen said.