Shannon Hutchinson is more than just a pretty face , although come Carnival you can find her in all her glamorous feathered glory as a section leader in Harts this phenomenal woman who has lived on three continents is a pilot, artist and can add reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro to her already impressive resume.
Apart from making her début as a band launch model with both Harts and YUMA this year, you may have also noticed her face on an Angostura billboard and she has appeared as a model for “Glam” the middle eastern version of Vogue.
Dedicated fitness buff and travel aficionado let’s get to know more about this week’s featured Goddess of the Road, Shannon Hutchinson.
1. We know a woman never reveals her age but, what’s your date of birth?
09th January, 1983. That makes me a proud 30, and 31 on the road next Carnival!
2. Besides being one of Harts gorgeous Section Leaders, what’s your occupation ?
I am an artist. I have been exhibiting my paintings for 15 years in Trinidad, Canada and Italy. I am also a commercial pilot and was a first officer with our local airline before moving to Qatar for two years– a movie-worthy story I can tell you another time over a few drinks.
I have just recently moved back to Trinidad and am currently working on an upcoming exhibition.
3. In what year did you start playing Mas and have you always been a Harts masquerader?
My first carnival queen experience was when I was four! I was the “Mother of Pearl” in ’87 and I thought the song “Tiny Winey” was written just for me. I didn’t play Carnival again until ’99, I was 16 and have played most years ever since.
4. Have you ever missed a Carnival? If so what was the reason?
I’ve missed a few over the years while I lived in Italy, and when I was in University and flight school in Toronto. Friends would call and tease and tell me about their beautiful costumes. Thankfully that was before Facebook so I couldn’t pour over their photos on Ash Wednesday.
5. Do you participate in Carnival outside of Trinidad? If not which Carnival would you like to experience and why ?
I have been to Carnival in Toronto and in Venice, Italy, and I’ve done Crop Over in Barbados a few times. They are all completely different experiences, and none compare to Trinidad’s Carnival, losing yourself in the rhythm, the vibe, and the energy of the people… our carnival is like no other and is something I find hard to describe to foreign friends.
6. What was your first Frontline or Section Leader costume experience and have you done Backline since?
I had my first experience as a section leader in ’09 in a beautiful teal costume. It changed the way I played Mas forever. Yes, the infectious music and reveling in the band with friends is fun and is something I enjoy on Monday; on Tuesday in my big section leader costume I am exposed to new people and experiences every year. I absolutely love it. I almost feel like a spectator myself as I get to experience the smiles and excitement of tourists and kids on the side of the road as I stop to chat and take the obligatory photo.
7. Favourite Carnival costume of all time?
I love seeing the old time mas bands on Tuesday.. the sailors and Indians.. My favourite costume of mine would have to be my yellow 2012 costume. I spent a lot of time in the mas camp that year sewing my bra, bottom piece and working on my boots. I also helped build the head piece, and I say ‘build’ because it was absolutely enormous and was like a sail in the breeze on the road. Thankfully this wasn’t my first rodeo and I knew how to move in it, boy was it heavy, I wore it all day though. It was gorgeous!
8. What do you love the most about Carnival and playing Mas?
Carnival is a bit like Christmas for me, I get to see everyone on the road as most of my friends and family, aunts and uncles still play in Harts. We dance, we laugh, catch up and at the end of the day I go home happy and exhausted.
9. How do you choose your Carnival costume ? Do you have a choice with Harts or do they hand select you for a particular section?
It is usually a bit of a collaboration. Gerald has a great eye for knowing what will look good on you from cut to colour. It’s a lot of fun as you get to try on all of the costumes and talk about what works and what doesn’t and you go from there. He has a vision, he is extremely talented.
10. When does your Carnival preparation start and what does it include? Diet? Exercise? Secret rituals we should know about ?
I work out year round and have been active since I can remember. I started weight training about 15 years ago. I eat well and eat often. Muscle building and recovery depends on feeding your muscle and getting enough rest. People are always surprised by how much I eat but without eating girls tend to have that very soft look you see so often on the road.
Secret rituals? I exfoliate and moisturize like a beast. I get a blow-out Carnival Sunday, and I get lots of beauty sleep the weekend before Carnival (ie. no parties for me). I drink a gallon of water a day, and I drink very little alcohol during carnival season as it is dehydrating and causes inflammation, and I lace my food with turmeric and cinnamon, and drink ginger and green tea (all anti-inflammatory).
I also adjust my costume to fit me absolutely perfectly so that I am comfortable on Monday and Tuesday. If you’re uncomfortable it will show, and you’re supposed to be busy having fun, not tugging at and fixing your costume on the road.
And the secret to keeping your makeup on all day? Hair spray! Now you know everything =)
11. Single or taken?
12. Solo Superstar or plays Mas with a crew?
A bit of both. I make sure and see all of my friends and family on Monday, because on Tuesday I am absolutely a ‘Solo star’. I have some wonderful friends that check on me throughout the day as it’s hard to get to the cart sometimes with the big costume. The Harts Crew on the road are also amazing to me and making sure I am okay.
13. If you could only choose ONE Carnival fete to attend at Trinidad Carnival which one would it be?
I used to go to One Fete and Wicked in White, I’ve done Bacchanal Wednesday, Vic, Blue Range.. I’ve not gone to many in the last few years.. Have any suggestions for me?
14. What is your choice of Carnival Footwear? Are you one of the Harts girls that wears heels on the road?
I am one of those girls in the 6” knee high boots on Tuesday, Yes! And Yes, I wear them alllllll day! Another Carnival secret of mine is I tape each of my toes with sports tape. It doesn’t look pretty and I’ve gotten a few laughs at the Mas camp but that saves me from blisters and losing toenails. Try it next year!
15. Give us a run down of getting ready Carnival Tuesday morning before hitting the road. Do you have a glam squad to get you ready?
Tuesday morning I must get up early enough to sit and have a quiet cup of coffee, usually around 3am. I throw my hair in a pony and I head out to get my makeup done and arrive at the mas camp around 5 to get dressed. I don’t have a glam squad but once I get to Harts there is an amazing behind the scenes team that do help us dress…… OK, definitely a Glam Squad! There are so many amazing people behind the scenes, they are lovely and are with you from the inception of the costume to Tuesday evening helping you with your cape and headpiece. They are warm and friendly and the backbone of the Harts Carnival family that I feel so lucky to be a part of.
16. Harts Section Leaders always look impeccable, is there competition among you ladies as to who looks the most fabulous ?
I’m not in competition with anyone 😉 I get out there and have fun. With such beautiful costumes every year you really feel like you’re the only one on stage.
17. The one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Lately, people seem surprised that I summited Kilimanjaro (the highest free standing mountain in the world) in Tanzania. The Carnival queen thing and camping for ten days don’t mix, but I’m a country girl at heart (I grew up in Couva) and a bit of a thrill seeker. Tanzania reminded me a lot of Couva twenty years ago, as did Kenya. Of all of my travels, I loved Africa.
I also spent a lot of time building hours in flight school doing aerobatics in Toronto with my Guyanese instructor. I might look like a princess but throughout my life my dad never let me miss a good experience, whether it was classic theatre in London or taking my trail bike screaming down a cliff.
18. How do you deal with the fans, haters, stalkers and being asked to constantly pose for photos on Carnival Monday and Tuesday?
Fans are always lovely to me. Haters – I take them with a pinch of salt and their talk as some of the best compliments, however backhanded they are, and in truth I love irritating a good hater 😉
I don’t have any stalkers, and posing for photos in my beautiful Harts costume with revelers and spectators is a lot of fun. Again, meeting new people is something I so enjoy on Tuesday.
19. Your top tips for anyone wanting to look like a Carnival Goddess?
There is nothing more beautiful than a genuine smile. Forget about the hair that you didn’t get perfect or worrying about your makeup, get out there and enjoy the energy, get lost in the music.
Drink a lot of water, and take along a lipstick and compact =)
Here’s my carnival bag must haves: safety pins, lipstick, hair pins, a small mirror, and some vex money in your shoe.
20. Can we expect to see you once again with Harts for Carnival 2014 and what can we expect your costume to look like?
Absolutely ! And it is beautiful !!