As we look back on the year that was, one thing is certain: there was never a dull moment. From triumphs on the sporting front (Bolt! Blake! VCB!), to breakthrough moves in politics and entertainment (Portia! Cherine!) to the hard-fought battles of everyday heroes, these Jamaicans gave everybody much to talk about in 2011 – and did our hearts good. TALLAWAH couldn’t let the year end without recognizing those whose actions and accomplishments not only inspired us but proved without a doubt that one person can make a difference. Leaders, icons, artists and activists – these are the Jamaican men and women who inspired us in 2011 with their influence, clout and remarkable talents.
GORDON ‘BUTCH’ STEWART (Business mogul, hospitality pioneer)
He’s as famous for his enormous bank account as he is for his enormous heart and inspiring journey-to-greatness story. Stewart, still going strong at 70, took his empire to a whole new level in 2011. Not only did he woo thousands of visitors to our shores through his luxurious Sandals resorts chain, he brought glory to the tourism sector again when Sandals copped a whopping 12 trophies at the World Travel Awards in October. At the same ceremony, Stewart was honoured with the Travel Pioneer Award. Butch: it’s an appropriate name for the man, but so too is relentless mover-and-shaker.
MISS KITTY (Radio host, Digicel ambassador, author)
She’s been called everything from vivacious to feverishly outspoken, but truth is Khadine ‘Miss Kitty’ Hylton is really a charmer who’s been wooing ardent admirers in recent years with her highly personal sensibility on radio and television and now… print. This year, the 29-year-old queenpin upped the stakes by wading into literary waters and publishing her very first novel, Good Girl Gone Bad, a steamy pageturner that had everyone talking.
ANDREW HOLNESS (JLP Leader, Jamaica’s youngest ever Prime Minister)
In his historic ascent to the post of head of the Jamaican government last October, Andrew Holness opened our eyes to new possibilities and curious trivia, including his records as the youngest and shortest-serving PM in the country’s history. While critics have dubbed him a neophyte in a political field populated by more seasoned politicians, Holness, 39, has promised a new approach to Jamaican politics with a new set of ideas that his Gordon House rivals seemingly lack. As the new Opposition Leader (following a crushing defeat at the Dec. 29 polls), the true test of Holness’ abilities is on its way.
FATHER RICHARD HoLUNG (Priest, head of Missionaries of the Poor)
Father HoLung’s inspirational and trailblazing contributions to nation-building have helped raise the aspirations of countless admirers. In 2011, even as he expanded the international reach of Missionaries of the Poor, he got back into the musical swing of things with his latest blockbuster musical, Acts of the Apostles.
SUSAN SIMES (Talk show host, do-gooder)
If you’re one of the hundreds of Jamaicans who tune in to The Susan Show on TV J each week, you’ve seen an empathetic and street-wise woman who brings a dizzying range of people and stories into our lives. As it stands, Simes’ appeal can be traced to her presence as a living, breathing example of rare humanity.
PORTIA SIMPSON-MILLER (Prime Minister-designate, PNP leader)
Poised to return to Jamaica House as leader of Independent Jamaica, Simpson-Miller has gained the trust of the people primarily by being honest on issues that matter deeply. As the past reveals, only when she abandons her authentic self (however rare) does she lose our confidence. At the moment she has it, but the question is: Can she maintain the momentum? Still, if there’s one thing that’s certain, the Prime Minister-designate will continue to embody the strength of a woman: sincere, defiant, fist in the air.
BARBARA BLAKE-HANNAH (Organizer of the Reggae Film Festival, groundbreaking journalist)
She has the warmth of an old friend, the zeal of a competitor and an acute sense of how to focus the spotlight on a worthy issue like her primary passion project, the Reggae Film Festival, which enters its fourth year in 2012. It’s something she believes in, hence her tireless campaign to take the festival to new heights while giving local filmmakers a much-needed platform to showcase their work. Among Blake-Hannah’s accolades in 2011: a BEFFTA Lifetime Achievement Award for pioneering work in British television.
USAIN BOLT (The World’s Fastest Human Being)
In some respects, the influence Usain Bolt (the fastest human in history) has on the sport of athletics was preordained. The IAAF had been searching for, even trying to create, a new icon to help market the sport. Enter Jamaica’s sprinting marvel, now a PUMA-sponsored, record-shattering, so-fast-he-false-starts demigod who has had high expectations thrust upon him – and especially with the 2012 London Summer Olympics on the horizon. Bolt’s next step: etching his name in the annals of legend that transcend the arena of sports.
CHERINE (Singer-songwriter, spokeswoman, self-proclaimed rebel)
Over the course of the past half-decade, Cherine’s hypnotic dancehall-soul anthems have broken out of their forms, pushing her sound into a sub-genre all its own. Buoyed by her jaw-dropping evolution into a rebel songstress, complete with an edgier, sassier tone, Cherine continues to pen powerful songs of female empowerment, about patriotism and about the extraordinary power of love. The singer, who also expanded her resume in 2011 to include spokesperson portfolios, is right up there with the best of them. So could a Grammy be far behind?
THE FILMMAKERS (Visionaries, storytellers)
If there’s one common characteristic that links the award-winning films of Chris Browne (Ghett’a Life) and Storm Saulter (Better Mus’ Come) it’s that they both admit viewers to a more intimate knowledge of their country and a deeper respect for what they already appreciate and cherish. Both courageous filmmakers, who earned tremendous raves and accolades for their work in 2011, come across, if nothing else, as authentic messengers who’ve recognized that Jamaica is indeed fertile ground for storytelling. And because they are so genuine in their cinematic vision, the audience is safe in their hands.
>> JAMAICAN OF THE YEAR: Shaggy's Purpose