Sept. 8, 2003 – A St. Croix calypsonian who literally knows how to blow her own horn won the title of Ms. V.I. Senior America Sunday on St. Thomas. Gemma Noel Soogram narrowly emerged as the winner from a field of three contestants in the contest before a full house in the Charlotte Amalie High School auditorium.
The judges chose Soogram, who among her other talents plays the trumpet, in a second tally after a tie vote between the silver-haired singer and St. Thomas tourism specialist and modeling school operator Clorise Smith.
Contest organizer Ida White said Soogram edged out Smith by 10 out of a possible 1,500 points when the candidates' scores were retallied.
Soogram, who also captured the titles of Ms. Congeniality, Most Photogenic and Best Talent, is well known on St. Croix as being from a family of musical sisters. "My dad is the one who taught us to play trumpet," she said. In addition, one of her sisters plays saxophone, and another plays drums, she said.
Smith was named Ms. Personality in addition to first runnerup. The third contestant, Elizabeth Aubain, was named Ms. Popularity.
After being crowned, Soogram settled into a decorated chair to pose for photographers in her silver fishtail gown with a shimmering train attached to glove-length cuffs at the wrists. She credited her talent presentation for the victory. "The talent that I did is a calypso that I made for the pageant," she said, adding that she has yet to win any titles on the local calypso scene, where she made her entry recently.
After White announced there was a tie, many in the audience got up and left the auditorium at the end of what had been considered a very entertaining show. Those who stayed differed in their opinions about what should be done. Some said the two contestants should share the title. Others said the audience should have been allowed to pick the winner.
Pageant perennial William "Champagne" Chandler was among those critical of the public announcement of the tie. "I personally think it's the height of nonsense. I've never heard a comment like that made on stage before," he said.
While awaiting a resolution of the tie, Marlene Boschulte, the 2002 Ms. V.I. Senior America, said she was disappointed, because the show had gone well and the audience had appeared content until the announcement was made.
When the judges' decision was announced about 40 minutes later, most of those who had remained in the auditorium cheered.
White said pageant officials would review the contest rules before next year's competition. "The contestants were so close in everything, which is really kind of interesting because we've never had such excellent talent," she said. "I think the painful thing here is that it was very close, and it seems like it was handled unprofessionally, but I guess I'll have to live with that," she said.

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