Tribe is getting into the beauty queen business. In an exclusive interview with Metro, Dean Ackin, head of the popular mas band and events organisation, said Tribe is about to take over the Miss Universe franchise in Trinidad and Tobago. “We feel the business fits very well into our business and what we can reap outside the financial aspect would be beneficial to us,” he said. The Miss Universe franchise is no doubt a natural fit for Tribe which has expertise in selecting models, staging events and sourcing stylists and makeup artists. Of course, one can’t forget that Tribe is a mas band so the provision of a costume is a no-brainer. In fact, Ackin says they are aiming to conquer the costume segment of the Miss Universe show, particularly since Gabrielle Walcott’s Tribe costume placed sixth last year. Tribe will also provide the swimwear to whoever wins the right to represent the country. Ackin assures that unlike the Miss World committee that didn’t hold a competition to choose a representative, Tribe will be holding a show in a few months to select a winner to represent the country at the Miss Universe pageant in December. Casting will be held in September and Ackin says the competition would be a fair one.
Ackin will make an official announcement about Tribe’s Miss Universe venture tomorrow at the launch of the band’s 2013 presentation: Butterflies, Beasts and Bacchanal. The franchise is just one of the many areas the Tribe brand will be expanding to over the next few months. “Tribe is a brand. Because of brand awareness, management feels we can leverage equity into new areas of business that is not necessarily Carnival or entertainment related,” Ackin said, declining to reveal more details. Tribe developed out of an all-inclusive section in Poison in 2004 to become T&T’s first all-inclusive band. Since then, Tribe has become the band many love but others criticise, blaming it for everything that is wrong with Carnival, from skimpy costumes to too many trucks on the road. Ackin takes it all in stride stating that “they love to love us and love to hate us.” “As a band there are many things you have to look at. You need to ask yourself what the masqueraders want. Our masqueraders want to have a good time on the road, they want to have the ultimate Carnival experience, the Tribe experience. It’s about the costume as much as it is about the experience. We always say we sell an experience, the costume is complimentary and that slogan underscores the importance of the other factors.”
He says from the outset, Tribe aimed to introduce a new concept to Carnival, a new way to market Carnival and a new way of producing it.
“Tribe is made up of management trained professionals and we felt we could marry these management and marketing skills and take it to a different level. We introduced a sort of organised bacchanal.” Focused on offering new experiences each year to its thousands of masqueraders, Tribe will certainly surprise many next year when they cross the main stages. Though the band usually registers for competitions but never crosses the judging points, the 2013 theme will see the band take a different approach more reminiscent of Peter Minshall and Brian McFarlane. The band’s theme will see all its masqueraders decked in colourful wings as they represent the kingdom of Bacchanal where each beast is the protector of a butterfly. “At the beginning of the season when we were brainstorming we said why not choose a theme that the masquerader could be in character but come Carnival Monday and Tuesday we could do a theatrical presentation, that’s our intention this year.” Of course competing means following the rules, particularly as it regards the routes. Tribe was disqualified for violating the parade routes this past Carnival.
If Ackin had to change one aspect of the Carnival it would be that. “The routes are increasingly smaller as more and more bands enter the Carnival arena and for years we have been clamoring for changes to the management of the route. It needs to be larger, the actual physical real estate needs to be extended into St James. “It wouldn’t be a bad idea to explore a second main stage with the same amount of stature and prominence. Going to the Savannah is total utter chaos on Carnival Tuesday. Many bands flout the rules, which is what happened to us this year. We were to turn up on the route and there were many bands assembling there which is against the rules.” He says lessening the number of trucks Tribe has on the road is not an option since the trucks form part of the experience. “If we want to attract tourists we need to step up the game and offer them a service they are accustomed to and that’s all inclusive. Taking trucks off the band is a huge backward step.”