Pure joy! 10 must-see costumes from the 2022 Toronto Caribbean Carnival

A beauty expert celebrates her family's carnival legacy by choosing her favourite looks.

A beauty expert celebrates her family's carnival legacy by choosing her favourite looks

triptych of three people wearing their costumes for Toronto Caribbean Carnival
(Source, L to R: Instagram/@kayshaherman, @rodneydiverlus, @brittneecblair)

Like your auntie "from foreign" with the overstuffed suitcase, carnival made its triumphant return to Toronto. The excitement and revelry were on a whole other level after a two-year hiatus. It was a safe space to collectively bathe in Caribbean culture and artistic expression. Many masqueraders and paradegoers shared how emotional they were about taking part once again. 

For those of us who didn't make it to the lakeshore in costume this year, the "tabanca," the longing, was real. My feed was awash with a vibrant array of costumes as revelers took to de road again to celebrate 55 years of carnival in Toronto. So from the POV of a beauty and lifestyle writer — and daughter of veteran mas man Walter Elliott — here are 10 of my favourite looks.

DJ Lissa Monet 

DJ Lissa Monet donned a frontline costume from the section Amethyst Flame, part of the theme "Streets on Fire" from band of the year Saldenah Carnival. I couldn't look away from the gorgeous colours, design and styling of this costume when I saw it on my timeline. The standout beaded headpiece with a fringe is giving 1920s flapper chic, and Monet's high bun pairs perfectly with it. 

Rodney Diverlus

Rodney Diverlus, artist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada, stepped out in a radiant turquoise costume with strokes of green and pops of orange. They were representing Always Carnival's Masolini section. The eye-catching chest piece was meticulously made with a variety of gems and other embellishments. Diverlus exuded confidence and splendour in the costume's stunning feathered back piece and matching headpiece. Play ah mas, Rodney!

Brittnee Blair

Model and TV personality Brittnee Blair played for the first time this year, with Jamaal Magloire's Toronto Revellers. She was in the section Miami Beach, led by Crown Mas. I love the South Beach vibes and the various versions of the costume: everyone made it their own. Blair's long-sleeved turtleneck shrug with the costume's sapphire blue plumage is super cute. 

Lateisha Williams a.k.a. Carnival Bae

Lateisha Williams, also known as Carnival Bae, released her inner goddess with a Hera costume for Carnival Nationz. I couldn't stop staring at the metallic cutout high-waisted monokini! Her peacock-style back piece is a creative combination of feathers and fabric, and that electric-blue visor and those knee-high boots? Come on now … perfection! 

Esie Mensah

The mas band SugaCayne stole my heart this year with their moving onstage choreography and costume designs. As my dad says, "Now, that is mas!" The theme of their presentation was "Roots," inspired by the places Caribbean people call home. Well-known creatives and artists like Fiona Compton and Stacy "Jukeboxx" Letrice led sections, and I was obsessed with the Bloom section led by dancer and choreographer Esie Mensah. I love the different shades of green and all the flower and foliage motifs; they remind me of the lush vegetation of the islands.

Trey Anthony

Longtime masquerader Trey Anthony rocked a white costume with silver and iridescent embellishments from the band Epic Carnival. The section was called Pulse. It stood out to me because most of the costumes we saw this year were vividly coloured. I appreciate the cool, calming nature of the section and I also like the pride that the masqueraders showed for the costumes and their culture. Case in point: Anthony's seen here posing in costume with his son, passing on the culture to the next generation.

Kathy Spence

I love a costume with impact, and this neon yellow ensemble from the section Freya, led by Carnival Nationz, wowed onstage. It's simple but has lots of intricate details, including a bejeweled body and neck piece and a cobra-like, gem-encrusted tiara. Here's Kay wearing the costume with matching face gems to boot. Looks like she had a time!

Carleen Rose

Every mas band section has a leader who works tirelessly to bring that section to life. We don't often know their names, but we marvel at the fruits of their labour. Here's one such section leader (who was also the designer) wearing a frontline costume from her section, Fiery Satyr of Venom Carnival. The featherwork is immaculate, and the reds and deep oranges are so rich and full. I also appreciate her take on the gladiator-style thigh pieces that were so popular this year. 

Melvin Holland Jr. a.k.a. Cinco

Reality star Cinco, of Love Island and The Challenge fame, hit the lakeshore for Toronto carnival. The fitness buff played mas with Saldenah Carnival in the section Twin Flame. There's a saying "Carnival is woman," and as a result, the designs for traditional male costumes are frequently not as detailed. This year, male costume designs were elevated. The peach and navy tones in Cinco's costume work really well together. The collar piece with iridescent stones is also a nice touch.

Kaysha Herman

My goodness, I was floored by this Blushing Phantom costume from Tribal Carnival. The band placed second overall, and I'm pretty sure this costume played a big part in that. It's stunning! The version Kaysha's wearing is the frontline costume, complete with fabulous ink-blot wings. The pink, purple, orange and turquoise bikini are a showstopper and definitely look like a butterfly.

See you on de road next year!

Nneka Elliott is an award-winning TV news personality-turned-lifestyle content creator. She writes and talks about her of love of beauty, style and wellness, and her adventures as a new mom. Follow her @nnekaelliott.

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