The RCS team recently caught up with the reigning Miss US Paradise World 2014, Aniska Tonge. Tonge was crowned at the St. Croix Educational Complex Auditorium in Frederiksted on April 6th, 2014. This title affords the St. Thomas native the opportunity to compete as Miss World US Virgin Islands 2014 at the Miss World Pageant in London UK later this year.
We are thrilled for Aniska and wanted to get a likkle insight into the pageant world and her background. What we got was a lot more insight into a seemingly mature-beyond-her-years young woman and her bold aspirations. A graduate of the University of South Florida with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology (minor in Women and Gender Studies) Aniska Tonge is a well-rounded, cultured young woman who even has her own foundation. As Founder and CEO of 4Her, a non-profit organization Aniska Tongge is dedicated to “promoting the positive progression of young women socially, professionally, and personally”
RCS: Congratulations on becoming Miss World US Virgin Islands!
Tonge: Thank you so much! I actually won the title of Miss Virgin Islands in 2012, that qualified me for the Miss America pageant, which I competed in, in January of 2013. The title I have now is Miss World US Virgin Islands, it qualifies me for the international pageant. Both titles are separate but require a lot of the same dedication.
RCS: How will the fabric of your Caribbean heritage translate in your stage presence, talent and social platform etc.?
Tonge: Well, what I love most about my heritage in particular is how mixed it is. So my talent is very subtle and easy. I think if anything it’s representative of where I am in my life on many levels, whereas my social platform can resonate with any culture. While growing up I’ve dealt with so many negative aspects of just being a woman. From low self esteem to abusive relationships, so many things that I believe aren’t given enough attention but can be so detrimental, so that’s why my social platform is promoting the positive progression of young women through my foundation, 4Her.
But my Caribbean culture and heritage will definitely show in my performance and presence. I’m a firecracker but I’m the sweetest one you’ll find! I’ve got roots through out the entire Caribbean. So I’m blessed with the grace of a Bahamian woman, the no nonsense and beauty of a Dominican woman and the strength of a Virgin Islander. All of that is going to show in my performance. When you see me you’ll know “She’s about it.”
RCS: Some feel pageants are out of date, objectify women and are sexist. What is your response to this?
Tonge: Pageants saved my life. I know that sounds so ridiculous. But before I competed for Miss America I was a shell of a girl. I had a degree in something I hated studying, I was living a life I didn’t want to have. I was content with the fact that whatever I suffered through didn’t matter to the world because I didn’t matter to the world. It wasn’t until I discovered a “platform” and it wasn’t until I had girls ten years younger than me telling me about pains I’d known far too well that I realized what pageants are about. It’s about finding yourself, discovering what you’re meant for and helping someone else do the same thing. I’m not saying they do that for everyone, but for me they helped. I still have a lot to learn and love about myself but Miss America wasn’t a bad first step.
RCS: Aniska is such a unique a name. Does it have a specific meaning and/or origin?
Tonge: It does actually! No one ever asks, they just assume it’s “hood” or made up. My name is actually Russian. Like Anishka but no “h”. It means: One who seeks life with the intent of having no enemies. I love it. I mean it’s impossible to be loved by everyone, but it’s not hard to not give people a reason to hate you.
RCS: How do you think your upbringing in the beautiful island of St. Thomas affects your competitive sharpness in pageant competitions?
Tonge: I think my eclectic surroundings have both shaped and hindered how I participate in pageants. I’m very laid back in some aspects. So I won’t be hijacking dresses with itchy powder or any of that crazy stuff. But I’m also a perfectionist and I’ve had to learn to be a fighter because I’m almost always the underdog. I think coming from the VI, I’m almost always underestimated and that’s the silliest thing any person could do when it comes to me.
RCS: What is your favorite island to visit outside of USVI?
Tonge: Dominica! Over and over again! I love visiting my family on the Carib Reserve. All I need is a roti and a milk pop from town, a trip to any of the three hundred and sixty five rivers and I’ll be a happy girl. My dad actually just began managing an airline carrier that has direct flights from STT to Canefield airport. I’m working on sneaking into the cockpit for Creole fest since all the flights have booked up!
RCS: What is your favorite Caribbean food?
Tonge: Smoked herring and green bananas with cucumber salad. I can eat that every day!
RCS: Do you see world issues that affect women differently through the eyes of your non-profit 4Her and if so why?
Tonge: One issue that infuriates me is that we’ve accepted rape culture and violence against women. Somehow it’s become the woman’s fault every time we are violated. It’s hard to fight it because it’s something we have been programmed to accept. Because I’ve experienced it and because I know what it feels like to be terrified of merely seeing someone, my goal first and foremost is to always to protect my girls from experiencing that.
RCS: What are some St. Thomian sayings that you just can’t let go of?
Tonge: None. lol. I sound terrible saying all of them.
RCS: What’s your favorite guilty pleasure (rachet) reality TV show(s)?
Tonge: Oh wow, the list is a long one. Basketball Wives, Love and Hip Hop. I know it’s all fake, but that makes it more fun.
RCS: What are your future plans for 2014?
Tonge: Well my year is pretty much accounted for. I leave for Miss World in just under a month. After the pageant I spend a few days with family in London, Christmas in Paris, and I’m looking forward to that quite a bit. I start graduate school in January (Theater and International Communications) but anything before that is fair game.
Sounds like Aniska has a pretty busy year and an even more exciting future. We wish her all the best as she represents for the Virgin Islands this year at Miss World and beyond!
Be sure to follow Aniska on social media: