I”M standing in the hot sun of a Santa Cruz afternoon, looking over at the face of Carmen González, newly crowned Carnival Queen 2012, who’s chatting to Mayor of Santa Cruz, José Manuel Bermúdez (below, left), and Councillor for Fiestas, Fernando Ballesteros (below, right) in the garden of the Hotel Mencey. After the photo calls come the interviews and Carmen smiles through endless takes with a TV camera pointed at her and a microphone placed before her. Without the ornate make-up of last night’s Gala Election, the beautiful face of the 18 year old model betrays her tender years. But she’s beginning to look pale and a little uncomfortable.
“Carmen is feeling a little dizzy,” says her agent as she links Carmen’s arm and helps her to walk towards the shade of the hotel. “She’s going to get something to eat and then she’ll be back for your interview.”
The fact that Carmen is tired comes as no surprise to me. When I left the Gala Election at the Recinto Ferial at 1.40am today, Carmen was still on stage, in her full make-up and costume, mobbed by TV cameras and flash bulbs.
Looking refreshed and more relaxed when she returns, I ask Carmen what time she finally got to bed this morning.
“At 3am,” she tells me. “But at 6am I had to get up because I had TV and radio interviews.” In fact, she hasn’t slept much at all in the last two days, she admits, nerves keeping her awake the night before the Gala Election too. I”M sympathetic to her lack of sleep but she shrugs it off. In the excitement of the last 48 hours, being tired is a small price to pay she assures me.
Tall and slender with straight, long dark hair and the sort of face any aspiring model would kill for, Carmen Gil González has a grace and ease of movement that comes with her profession. Still in her final year at school, Carmen is hoping to combine a successful career as a model with her studies. Modelling since the age of 13 years and turning professional at the age of 16 years, it’s an ambition that she’s managing to balance well at the moment.
When the judges gave their long awaited decision 13 or so hours ago and the name of Carmen Gil González rang out around the vast stadium as the 2012 Carnaval Queen, it was an emotional moment for Carmen and the tears flowed. I asked her if she had managed to come back down to Earth yet:
“I”M not quite back on Earth yet,” she laughs. “I”M still getting there!”
Carmen’s winning costume was ‘Imperio’, a stunning interpretation of the splendour of the Roman Empire, designed by Santi Castro (with Carmen, above) which combined elements of a chariot and centurion helmets in luxuriant feathers of the palest blue radiating out from a gold and silver chariot adorned with sapphire and diamond costume jewellery, lions and the Imperial eagle. Like a cross between Boadicea and Helen of Troy, Carmen rode her chariot from its epicentre, dressed in an elaborate gold and bejewelled headdress, some strategically placed jewels in gold braid, and very little else. Although the event was held indoors, I couldn’t help but wonder if she hadn’t been just a teeny bit, well, freezing.
“Yes!” she admits, her face animated by laughter. “At first when I put my costume on backstage I was really cold but once I had the full costume on I forgot about the cold, and the emotion took over,” she says. “I have bruising here and here.” Carmen points to her hips where the harness with which she pulled her costume sat. “But I felt neither cold nor pain, nothing!”
Weighing in at an incredible 300 kilos (over 47 stones), it seemed to me that the stage at the Recinto Ferial must have seemed like an awfully large space for a slight young girl to pull that weight around and the bruises would seem to confirm that fact. I ask Carmen how much of a struggle it had been.
“Yes, it’s a very big stage to pull a costume around,” she confirms. “Imperio is a big costume and I was worried about being able to pull the weight successfully around the stage. But on the night, with the emotion, the audience and the applause, it felt like no weight at all.”
The ability to “Wear’ a costume as if it weighed nothing at all is one of the most important aspects of being a candidate for Carnaval Queen and the girls who are chosen to represent the designer and the sponsors have to be able to move as if they are a part of the costume and to look happy and relaxed as they do so.
The spectacular show which surrounds the election of the carnival queen in which the 12 candidates are introduced to the audience and the panel of judges, is a cabaret of epic proportions spanning almost four hours. As candidate number one, Carmen was first to appear on stage. I ask her if that made for a very long night.
“Personally, I was glad to be the first onto the stage,” she tells me. “I didn’t have time to get too nervous, you know. It only felt like a long time waiting for the second time to go out because I had to wait through all the other candidates and the whole show. But I liked being first.”
As an only child in her home in La Laguna, Carmen is used to being first, and now that she has realised her dream to become Carnaval Queen, she has a busy year of engagements ahead of her, representing Santa Cruz de Tenerife in events and promotions both at home and abroad. I have no doubt that Carmen will be an excellent ambassador for Tenerife, she’s a delightful young woman who’s beauty goes deeper than her flawless surface and here at Tenerife Magazine we wish her the very best for her year ahead.
The voluminous stage is filled, end to end and rear to front with five metre high rainbows of luxuriant plumes rising from what are essentially mobile stage settings on the themes of imperial Rome, the rhythms of springtime, eternal love and nine more. At the centre of each stage is its star; a scantily clad woman harnessed into her chariot, her perfectly coiffured hair, painted lips and bejewelled face waiting. We’re all waiting. Audience, designers, families, cameras, laptop screens and TV viewers ““ all waiting for the moment when presenter EloÃsa González announces the name of the new Carnaval Queen 2012.
“Reina Carnaval, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 2012 …la señorita…” EloÃsa pauses in between the words, a polished nerve jangler of an announcement. “…Carmen Gil González!” she shouts into the microphone.
There’s a collective releasing of breath as the full house of the Feria Recintal roars out its applause. Plumes of fireworks rise from front of stage alongside glitter streams which explode into the air and rain down on the entire ecstatic scene on and off stage. Slowly, Carmen moves her chariot ‘Imperio’ to front of stage and blows theatrical kisses to the deafening applause. Her body is shaking and her tears are flowing. She’s emotional, and she’s tired. We all are.
It’s been almost four hours since the curtain raised on the spectacular show that accompanies the election of a new carnival queen in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
To a packed house and a live TV audience of almost half a million, the night began with a sombre reminder of the war torn world from which the Carnaval’s theme of Flower Power emerged. A mock Vietnam War of silhouette soldiers, machine gun rattles and fearsome bombings gave way to the surreal world of the Beatles” Yellow Submarine and the sex, drugs and rock ‘n” roll of the Rolling Stones” Satisfaction.
Through a medley of hits of the 1960s, the audience were treated to performances from some of their favourite singers including Chago Melián, Isabel Gonzalez, Morocho and Pepe Benavente, all accompanied by magnificent stage sets and polished dance routines. As the night continued, the twelve candidates were introduced to the judges and audience, each girl having just three and a half minutes in which to make her appearance, do a circuit of the huge stage area and get the audience on side.
Having started 15 minutes late to accommodate the TV channels” need to satisfy the twin demi-gods of football and adverts, the show moved at a pace through musical numbers, a Venezuelan folklore group Yacambú; a homage to 49 years of Carnaval Queens from 1966 to present day; a tribute to Manolo Monzón who founded the first ‘comparsa’ carnival group, Los Rumberos, back in 1965 and who died in October 201; and no less than two Murga performances, the clock ticked relentlessly on until the early hours of Thursday morning.
When the new queen was finally announced, the stage was mobbed by TV and camera crews, Carmen Gil Gonzalez got her first taste of what life in the spotlight would be like for the next 12 months, the audience made its weary way homewards and Carnaval 2012 could get ready to take the party to the streets with its Opening Parade.
Title: Granadilla Carnaval Queen Election
Location: Parque de Los Hinojeros, Granadilla
Description: This showpiece event sets the tone for the Carnaval as the candidates parade in their wild and extravagant costumes. Starts at 9 pm.
Title: Election of Queen – Fiestas de Mayo
Location: Plaza Candelaria, Santa Cruz
Description: The start of the Fiestas de Mayo events which run over 4 weeks. This FREE open air big night starts at 9pm and features comedian Manolo Vieira and musicians Los Sabandenos