CHOSEN: The ten finalists for this year's Miss T&T/Universe pageant are Mauricia De Peza, Jessica Didie, Greer Iton, Renee Bhagwandeen, Avionne Marc, Amanda Chedu, Sheneille Leelah, Sarah Jane Waddell, La Toya Franklyn, Ria Da Costa and Mary Esdelle. The selection took place yesterday at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, St Ann's, Port of Spain, yesterday. –Photo CURTIS CHASE

The casting panel for the local leg of this year's Miss Universe pageant had a difficult time selecting the ten girls who would compete for the local title from the word go.

The members of the panel, put together by the pageant's franchise holder Tribe, spent a gruelling ten and a half hours yesterday at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, St Ann's, attempting to make the final cut.

Speech and interview coach for the pageant, Adrian Raymond was the first of the panel to voice the difficulty that the panel faced as they worked together to narrow down the numbers.

From as early as 9 a.m. scores of beautiful young women of varying heights, complexion and ethnicity turned up at the Hilton to be screened by the panel, and by 1 p.m. the panel saw 95 young women ranging between the ages of 18 and 27 from across the country.

The task before the panel was a huge one but by 2 p.m. the number had been cut to a mere 34, exclusive of the three Tobago semi-finalists who were screened last week on the sister isle.

A lunch break was taken and by 3 p.m. the 34 girls from Trinidad were told to get back into their swim wear and once again present themselves before the panel.

This time 21 of the girls were chosen to be interviewed by the panel including the three girls from Tobago.

For more than an hour the panel wrangled over the final cut, as time wore on it was with great difficulty that 12 girls were short-listed and once more asked to go before the panel, which found great difficulty in eliminating two more girls to get to the final 10. By 7.30 p.m. the final ten had been chosen.

The pageant finalists for this year's local competition are La Toya Franklyn, Ria Da Costa, Renee Bhagwandeen, Sheneille Leelah, Jessica Didier, Sarah Jane Waddell, Avionne Marc, Amanda Chedu, Mary Esdelle and Mauricia De Peza.