By Hubert Williams
MRS Baksh’s daughter Shakira was a pretty little girl with no knowledge of the world, no appreciation of political niceties, no understanding of protocolary; but was destined for world adulation and greatness. Today, she is now Shakira, Lady Caine, wife of Sir Michael Caine, Academy Award-winning British actor, author and well-known member of the English gentry.
When Mrs Baksh decided that “my daughter is special”, and dressed her up for all the world to see and entered her in the Miss Guyana beauty contest of 1967, the judges were astounded, not merely by the young lady’s innocence, intelligence and physical beauty, but also by the remarkable creation of the gown which her mother had made for her.
Shakira won the local pageant hands down, and went on to represent Guyana at the Miss World Contest in London. There, she was adjudged the third prettiest girl in the world, decided not to return home, became a sought-after model and actress, hobnobbed with high society and won the heart of one of the most admired actors of that age – Briton, Michael Caine. Upon seeing her, he said that no other woman in the world looked quite like her. They have since had a wonderful life together. They have one daughter, Natasha.
For some time Shakira had continued a career in the public eye modeling, acting, and being Mrs. Caine, (and later, Lady Caine, after the Queen of England Knighted her husband) and they have become one of the enduring couples in the ‘meet, mate and break-up’ environment of show business.
Shakira Baksh had wowed Guyana and the world with her striking beauty and intelligence, aligned to the skill of her dress-maker mom, but few of her admirers know much about her before she first trod onto the magical arena of fashion and pageantry.
I first met a teenaged Shakira at the headquarters of the Government Information Services (GIS) on Brickdam Avenue, Georgetown. I had been introduced to her by Guyanese diplomat Lloyd Searwar. It was her first job. Soon after, however, she was peremptorily dismissed after committing a fatal, but honest error.
The Prime Minister of the country had entered the office, and the young, unexposed girl from a humble household had committed a cardinal sin: when everyone else in the office stood, she remained seated, because she did not know the protocol, and her sedentary state was considered an infraction. That might well have been the reason for her disappearance from the GIS, and perhaps the strongest factor for placement in her successor job. With the odds being unlikely for her to get a job anywhere in the public service, she instead landed a job at the United States Embassy.
Shakira worked there for a time, before high drama again encircled her. Political terror was a factor of daily life in the “Guyana” of those times; and one day, the US Embassy on Main Street, Georgetown, was bombed; and, yes, Mrs Baksh’s beautiful daughter was right in the middle of it.
Out of this near tragedy emerged one of the truly unforgettable photographs of Guyanese journalism, when then Chronicle reporter Oscar Edwards rushed into the bombed building and emerged bearing a stunned and terrified Shakira Baksh across his arms; a moment that was splashed across the paper’s front page next day.
Shakira recovered, of course, and went on to do great things in a world of beauty, poise and glitter – making Guyana very proud and Sir Michael Caine very happy.