Wednesday, 30 May 2012

MORE THAN SKIN DEEP: New Miss Jamaica defends the role of beauty pageants

I'M YOUR VENUS: Zaky takes a “holistic” approach to loving herself.

Miss Jamaica Universe 2012, Chantal Zaky, takes the vow of beauty with a purpose seriously. So she unsurprisingly finds it disheartening when pageants are blithely dismissed by some as vacuous vanity projects. “I believe they get an unfair rap,” she tells the Style Observer. “It’s a plateau from which a lot of opportunities can come. If used properly the stage can be used to benefit the country and yourself.”

It’s that same sort of sensible reasoning the 24-year-old aspiring actress is hoping will help her excel at December’s highly anticipated Miss Universe coronation, which will take place at a venue to be determined. “My strategy is to exercise the power of positive thinking. I will do everything to make Jamaica the brightest star in the universe and shine,” she offers. “I want the judges and contestants to get the opportunity to know the real Chantal Zaky and judge me based on that. At least that way I can say I was true to myself.”

As for her own personal self-pampering rituals, Zaky prefers to keep it simple with nods to Mother Nature. “I’m very holistic when it comes to my beauty regimen. I follow the beauty secrets learnt from my grandmother,” she reveals. “I nourish my skin with our natural Jamaican products like aloe. I also use shea butter. I believe in drinking a lot of water, eating plenty of fruits – and getting a lot of rest is key.”

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MISSION CATWALK: Meet this season’s top 5 contestants

DESIGN STARS: It's a fashionable party of five on MC.

After weeks of sweat-inducing challenges and nail-biting eliminations, five designers are left to duke it on Season Two of Mission Catwalk for an attractive array of prizes, including the chance to send a collection down the runway at the upcoming London Fashion Week, scholarships, as well as cash awards.

In addition to longtime favourites Rebecca Stirm (Belize), Gregory Williams (Jamaica) and Crystal Powell (Jamaica), the lucky five includes Bajan hopeful Kerin Scott and Trinidad’s underdog Ryan Chan, who finally snagged a challenge win on Tuesday night when his teen prom-perfect creation scored highest among the judges.

Meantime, this year’s top 3 finalists will have some of their finest pieces among the collections at Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW) for a veritable showcase showdown on June 8.

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WHO NEEDS CHARISMA: Is Delano Seiveright the most hated man in Jamaica?

REBEL SPIRIT: The polarizing G2K leader is on the move.

If a sense of remorse is what his detractors are expecting, Delano Seiveright is offering none as he prepares to exit his position as president of G2K. “I don’t have any regrets really,” he told TV J News this week. “Of course we did have issues as it relates to our communication, but I believe we were very strident because we told the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

To say the very least, over the course of his G2K sojourn, the 28-year-old Seiveright has ended up in quite a few bad books – among them his vicious critics. “Those people are usually comrades or hypocrites,” he concludes without missing a beat.

Regarding his tenure as leader of the JLP’s youth arm since 2009, Seiveright (whose resignation takes effect this Friday, June 1) makes it clear that the organization was constantly faced with tough choices.

In the run-up to last December’s General Elections the G2K found hard-hitting tactics, including antagonizing the Portia Simpson-Miller-led People’s National Party with scathing TV and print ads. They played a dangerous game and their party lost – badly – in a landslide defeat at the polls. The blame for the JLP’s humiliating exit from power was largely dumped on the G2K. But mostly on Seiveright, who has been called everything in the book from arrogant to polarizing to overly zealous. Many felt he should have quit the presidency months ago.

But according to Seiveright, when all is said and done, the G2K accounted for (and still does) a fundamental aspect of the overall Jamaica Labour Party machinery. “There was a need for more robust communication infrastructure, and G2K took up that role, and that’s pretty much why we have gotten a bit of flack. But we had to do it,” he explains. “There was the truth that was out there, and no one was willing to put the truth out there, and we were willing to put the truth out there – and put it out quite forcefully and stridently.”

In spite of his perceived bad qualities, no one can deny that Seiveright possesses, in substantial measure, a fearlessness and decisiveness that often reliably indicate the ones destined for greatness. So what’s his next move? While it’s unclear what he’ll be doing post-June 1, it appears that the JLP’s enormous loss at the 2011 Elections will be part of the stigma by which Seivwright will be ultimately judged.

Meantime, there surprisingly seems to be a bracing sense of unity left in the G2K as they prepare to anoint a successor from three primary possibilities: Collin Virgo, Ryan Morgan and Floyd Green. “Well, it would be difficult not to support Floyd Green if [he] puts his name forward,” offers Seiveright. “There are many persons who would probably offer themselves, but if Green offers himself it would be difficult not to support him.”

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POSTCARD FROM CALABASH: Olive Senior tackles the Panama Canal in upcoming work

“Right now I’m reading for my next project,” iconic writer Olive Senior told TALLAWAH at the festival on the weekend. “It’s something I did many, many years go: research on the Jamaicans who went to build the Panama Canal. It’s lifelong interest of mine…and very much a part of the Jamaican narrative. It’s my current interest.”

“You can tell the readers to look out for my next book, Bringing Culture Back In: New Approaches to Understanding the Dilemmas of Black Youth (Harvard University Press). It’s going to be coming out sometime next year,” asserted Orlando Patterson (pictured with Kwame Dawes, left) when TALLAWAH chatted with him at Jake’s. “The other thing I’m working on is a look at comparing the development trajectories of Jamaica and Barbados. It’s something I’m working on with one of my students.”

On Friday night, while sharing a passage from her sharply observed memoir, Chimamanda Adichie was swarmed by hungry mosquitoes mid-way through her presentation and had to be sprayed with repellant. The Nigerian-bred author (and past Orange Prize winner) managed to finish her stint like a trooper, but she was nowhere to be seen at the readings on Saturday. A chat with one of the festival’s organizers revealed that Adichie was holed up in her hotel room with the hubby. Totally understandable. Essential Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun and That Thing Around Your Neck.

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EDITOR’S PICKS: What’s inspiring Tyrone this week

The Goodbye Girl (1977)
Director: Herbert Ross

A struggling off-Broadway actor (Richard Dreyfuss, excellent) moves in with a former dancer (Marsha Mason) and her precocious tween daughter (Quinn Cummings) in the wake of her married lover’s sudden departure. Written Neil Simon and deftly directed by Ross, it’s a highly enjoyable and sympathetic look at how friendship can bloom into romance under the strangest of circumstances. Well-acted (Dreyfuss nabbed an Oscar), frequently humorous and compassionate, The Goodbye Girl wins you over with it’s clear-eyed exploration of human relationships, loneliness, and the art of picking up the pieces.

Cabbie Chronicles
Creators: Alison Latchman and Anieph Latchman

TV J has decided to inject their Friday night lineup with a fresh dose of home-bred humour, attractively packaged in the vessel of Cabbie Chronicles, a witty and hilarious animated series which follows a much put-upon cab driver and his batch of colourful customers (like the painfully funny Fluffy) as they traverse the hot city streets.

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OUT & ABOUT: Yohan Blake + PM Portia Simpson-Miller + Casmar James + PJ Patterson + Pamela Bridgewater + Konshens

EATING OUT: May 27, Kingston. Konshens prepares to chow down on some freshly prepared jerked chicken following his performance at the CB Pan Chicken Championships, Eastern Eliminations, at the Ranny Williams Ent. Centre last Sunday. (Photo: STUSH).

TWO'S COMPANY: May 27, Kingston. The ace entertainer, whose provocative new hit "Stop Sign" is currently riding the dancehall charts, was also seen enjoying the company of Kimmi Mullings of CB Chicken at the event on the grounds of the Ranny Williams Ent. Centre. Check out the cap! (Photo: STUSH).

SIZE MATTERS: May 25, Kingston. Cozying up to a pretty young thing, supermodel and Pree Dis host Casmar James was spotted sporting a sleek new haircut (and a pack of XL rubbers) at last Friday's Rough Riders-sponsored Maydaze Krazy Dress Up in the city. (Photo: Skkan Media).

FAST FRIENDS: May 26, St. Andrew. Yohan 'The Beast' Blake recently picked a winner (Khalil Munroe) for his inaugural Show Your Stripes competition, which comes with an attractive prize of an all-inclusive trip for two to New York to watch Blake blaze the track at the Adidas Grand Prix on Saturday, June 8. (Photo: Yohan Blake).

FOUR PLAY: May 26, Kingston. Last Saturday night, a gleeful PM Portia Simpson Miller was in the house for the special performance of the Dance Theatre of Harlem at the Little Theatre. The recital was organized by US Ambassador, Pamela Bridgewater, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and the United States. Sharing the photo-op: former PM P.J. Patterson (left) and Bridgewater's hubby, Rev. Russell Awkward. (Photo: OPM).

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Monday, 28 May 2012

OLIVE SENIOR @ Calabash: ‘Writing is how I define myself’

STORYTELLER: “I don’t say I’m a novelist or a poet. I’m a writer.”

Olive Senior has planted herself in the shade of a gigantic deciduous tree, sitting right beneath its red-and-white sign marked Silence Zone. So on this warm Saturday afternoon in Treasure Beach it’s easy to locate her among the large Calabash crowd. About an hour from now, the celebrated Jamaican writer will be reading passages from her delightful debut novel, Dancing Lessons, published earlier this year to immediate acclaim and a handful of award nominations, including the First Novel Award and the Commonwealth Book Prize.

“The response from people, particularly those who know the culture, has been terrific,” Senior tells TALLAWAH of Dancing’s success. “People see aspects of their lives in the book, and they tell me this. And it is sort of the greatest gift to a writer when readers say the writing is real and is about real people. I’m really thrilled by the feedback I’ve been getting.”

At the same time, Senior admits that she had reservations about putting the book out there. After all, she was wading into uncharted waters. “It’s my first novel and I was unsure of what I’d done and how it would be received. I feel much more confident about my short stories and poetry because I’m more experienced there,” says the Canada-based author, whose 1986 collection Summer Lightning won her the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. “So the novel was a new experience for me. I felt like a new writer, and to be honest I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received.”

Even so, Senior pointedly refuses to put any limits on her craft. To wit, she recently published Birthday Suit (Annick Press), which marks her foray into kiddie lit. “I write in all genres,” she says. What about plays? I ask her. “I’ve been trying to write a play, but I haven’t been successful at it. It’s different, so I don’t know if I’ll get anywhere with it,” she says. “But I want to explore all forms of writing. I’m a writer. I don’t say I’m a novelist or a poet. I’m a writer.”

And like many others in her profession, writing is seriously a fundamental part of who Olive Senior has always been. “It’s my imperative,” she tells me. “I’ve always written. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s how I define myself.”

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A MAN APART: Cover star Prodigal riffs on giving back, Junior Gong, and Tyler Perry

SOLO STAR: "I hate monotony. I choose music based on lyrical content."

The mission behind Freedom Fest: “It’s my charity. And the mission is triple R: Radikal reaching Radikal. I started out this thing years ago doing Recharge, but I wanted more than just a concert. So what I did three years ago was change the name to Freedom Fest. People are free to worship, free to enter and free to just have fun. It’s just as its name says. And we’ll have free health clinics all day. Last year we gave way about 300 reading glasses. This year we’re doing 400. This year the event is a three-in-one. We’re having the free health fair and fun day, we’re launching the new album, and it’s my birthday celebration as well. So we’ll be popping a little sup’m, sup’m. (Laughs).

What’s on your music playlist?: Right now I’m listening to Dwayne Murphy, who is a bad, bad likkle artiste, and Sean Lypher. I like John Legend, Junior Gong, Konshens, and Sasco. Those are the ones I’m listening to right, right now. I hate monotony, so I choose music based on lyrical content. I really like how Junior Gong puts his stuff together. The guy just sees things differently. Outside of black and white, you have colours. And that’s what I like.

Three things you can’t live without: My family, money, and God.

Latest fashion splurge: A Carlton Brown suit.

Travel essentials: Cologne, Bible, money and my cellphone.

Made you cry: Losing my grandmother a while back. I lost my mommy last year, so Mother’s Day was a bittersweet moment for me. I cried for almost the whole day.

Memorable concert attended: Beres Hammond’s “A Moment In Time,” the first one, at the National Arena.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?: Being able to give back to society.

What is your current state of mind?: I really want to achieve more so I can give more. I want to build a half-way house.

Who are your heroes in real life?: My grandmother, even though she’s gone. I really admire Tyler Perry. And God, of course.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?: I wish I could grow my hair longer. (Laughs).

What is it that you most dislike?: Prejudice

What is the quality that you most like in other people?: Honesty

DREAM TEAM: Prodigal, with Stephen Miller of Freedom Fest sponsors LIME.

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WAYNE MARSHALL: ‘Busy Signal is a great youth, not a dealer’

HEAVY HITTERS: Wayne Marshall (left) and Busy Signal.

The legal woes that have befallen entertainer Glendale ‘Busy Signal’ Gordon within the past week have snagged headlines across the media landscape and drawn responses from industry insiders and colleagues in the music fraternity – but with very little detail about what actually led to the deejay’s troubles.

Dancehall vet Wayne Marshall recently took to his Twitter account to offer his two cents on the situation and in the process shed some light on the Busy Signal many of us might not know:

“As some of you may or may not know Busy Signal is [a] good youth and artist, and not some big time drug don. Busy was caught up with friend and company as a teen in the US years ago. Instead of facing the music then he avoided them. Now it’s back to haunt him. He is a great youth, not a dealer in the crime world. My prayers go out to him. Hope he gets over this and gets back to his music as soon as possible.”

Meantime, a statement attributed to Busy Signal appeared on his Facebook fan page over the weekend addressing his decision to waive his rights to an extradition hearing:

“I have never admitted that I was involved in any drug deal or drug arrangement. I waived my rights to an extradition trial here in Jamaica, so that I can return to the US to face a charge of absconding bail ONLY. This incident took place ten (10) years ago before I even considered becoming an artiste.”

Busy also expressed gratitude to the well-wishers who continue to stand by him in this time of difficulty. “Your messages and prayers via social networks and via members of my team are what have brought light to the darkness of my cell,” he said. “In this a time of reflection, I would like to thank my fans who have supported me through this difficult situation and who will continue to support me.”

The dancehall star was arrested on a US extradition warrant last Monday after he was deported from England. According to The Sunday Gleaner, he is to appear in court in the US to answer a charge of failure to appear for a trial after a 2002 arrest on a cocaine charge.

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POSTCARD FROM CALABASH: Kerry Young educes the big laughs at Calabash Festival

Two women writers who won over Saturday’s Calabash audience with passages from their novels about marriage and the essence of womanhood were the great Olive Senior and the superb Kerry Young (above), who came in for a standing O. While Senior’s excerpt from Dancing Lessons soared on her clean, intelligent prose and a warm, friendly reading voice, Young (who is possessed of a masculine swag and Chinese heritage) had everyone in stitches with passages from her East Kingston-set Pao, delivering this classic gem: “Marriage is not for celebrating; it is to give your children a name.”

Following in the footsteps of their iconic dad, the Jamaican poet Evan Jones, Britain-based Melissa and Sadie Jones have, in their own right, emerged as literary forces to be reckoned with. Both young ladies also gave delightful readings from their acclaimed novels at Calabash on Saturday. “It is the writer’s condition to be an outsider,” observed Sadie, who bears a resemblance (even in speech) to Maylynne Walton-Lowe. “There is a freedom, a liberation, in observation.”

Paul Holdengraber (above) possesses a real knack for getting his subjects to open up candidly. His history at Calabash includes notable interviews with Wole Soyinka and Pico Iyer, This year, with South African freedom-fighter Ronnie Kasrils, he again worked his magic, resulting in a spirited ‘Reasonings’ segment full of power, rich insight and memorable quotes like the late JFK’s admonition: “Those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable.”

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POSTCARD FROM CALABASH: Famous faces in the crowd, easy-breezy fashion

BRIGHT IDEA: Cooper at Jake's for Calabash 2012.

A finger-lickin’ feast of the spoken word, a breathtaking seaside setting, glorious (if a tad overpriced) food, effortless clothes and a marvelous sense of fellowship. What’s not to love about the Calabash Literary Festival? Toss into the mix the all-embracing spirit of Jamaica 50, and you’ve got a bonafide recipe for a good ole time.

By all appearances, all of society was represented in Treasure Beach on the weekend. Looking gorgeous in white, black shades and a neat little ponytail, culture minister Lisa Hanna put in two hours on Saturday before returning to her commitments back in the city. (Was that her young son sitting beside her?). National security minister Peter Bunting was also spotted, in shorts, tee-shirt and his signature shades.

The likes of Calabash regulars Douglas Orane, Prof. Mervyn Morris, Marlon James, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Storm Saulter, Nile Saulter, Jay Will, Jean Small, Aston Cooke, Fabian Thomas, Brian Heap and Dr. Carolyn Cooper (who had her hands full signing people up and later hosting the Open Mic) mixed and mingled with the first-timers, local and foreign, making for a truly massive, diverse and interesting throng.

...What did you wear to Calabash?...

To say the very least, Jake’s was transformed into a sea of vivid and vibrant colour over the weekend. But, not surprisingly, white was a popular hue of choice: lots of breezy cotton tops (like Lisa Hanna’s) and easy, strapless and spaghetti-strapped dresses.

But overall it was a colourful mix. While the men kept it basic for the most part, the stylish women were the weekend’s scene-stealers, turning heads in ankle-grazing maxi dresses, bold prints (floral, spring-ready) – some of the best looks completed with a big floppy straw hat. Call it island-vacation chic.

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ORLANDO PATTERSON @ Calabash: A razor-sharp intellect, a jovial spirit

MAN OF THE HOUR: Patterson, photographed at Jake's, Treasure Beach.

It all started at Kingston College. But to hear living legend (Horace) Orlando Patterson recount his trajectory from boy wonder to groundbreaking Jamaican novelist to acclaimed academic and cultural historian is to follow the great man on a globe-trotting expedition from May Pen to London and beyond – with some fascinating pit stops in between. At Calabash on the weekend, Patterson, who presently teaches at Harvard, sat down to reason with Kwame Dawes on life and art, culture and history – revealing a skilled storyteller, a jolly good fellow and, simply, a brilliant mind. Below, some excerpts:

His “transformative” years at UWI: I would have been a totally different person had I not gone to UCWI. It was an amazing experience because for the first time I had a room of my own. But more importantly, the university at the time – and it was the only university at the time – was dominated by people from the Eastern Caribbean. So I was suddenly thrown into this West Indian environment, which the Trinidadians dominated. That’s when I learnt calypso. Reggae was still coming up, but calypso dominated the scene. You met a lot of people from Barbados, Guyana, Grenada, and they all had their special characteristics. So it was a very, very wonderful experience. At Chancellor Hall at the time Walter Rodney was also there. We were all inspired by each other and we became West Indian through the process. And that has stayed with me.

His early fascination with slavery, history and sociology: That started in high school, where I started writing short stories and won an essay-writing competition about the Morant Bay Rebellion. I grew up in Clarendon, surrounded by estates like Monymusk. So you could smell the stench of history, and it became clear from I was a boy that to understand this country you had to understand the history. So I was always deeply engaged in history.

The impetus behind writing 1964’s Children of Sisyphus, published at age 23: I was always concerned with the sufferers, and when I was in high school, my folks were in May Pen so I had to board [at KC]. At some point I had to go live with my grandfather’s family in Jones Pen, right next to Trench Town. And on Friday evenings I used to go and play by the Ambassador Cinema, which was where all the youths gathered before going to the triple bill. So there I was surrounded by Trench Town. And so I was always concerned with the poor who were around me.

The road to literary and scholarly stardom: I saw my future mainly as a literary person, and I did quite well in England while I was a graduate student. I published my second novel and was publishing stories in all the major newspapers and so on, and I was doing reviews for the Times Literary Supplement. So I saw the trajectory primarily as one as a novelist. But there were times I was rethinking what I should be doing with my life because financially I felt a strong sense of responsibility to help look after my parents.

How George Lamming ‘opened his eyes’: When I went to London I was doing well, and Lamming was the great writer at the time. So George invited me to come have drinks with him at his place somewhere in North London. So I was looking forward to that to see how a successful novelist lived. When I turn up I see this place with rows of townhouses. So I went in, walked up three flights of stairs, and there was the great George Lamming’s apartment. It was what they called a bed-sitter. He was living in a studio! So I thought, ‘Ra--, what’s this? Is this what I gotta look forward to?’ So it was a big transition for me, and I decided I’d seriously pursue an academic career because I was quite good at it, and I’d been appointed to the faculty straight after graduating from the London School of Economics.

His cautious optimism about Jamaica’s future: Jamaica is such an extraordinary place. We are one of the most creative sets of people in the world. But we are risk-takers, and sometimes needlessly so. We’re a very unusual people, and the island is better known than any other country this size anywhere in the world. But the other side of the coin is recklessness, disdain for authority and violence. We’re a bad-tempered people. So am I optimistic about Jamaica’s future? You have to be. We’re doing very well in the creative arts, which emerges from this restlessness that we have. But the kind of discipline you need to run a modern economy, we don’t have it. But I love this place. I try to come home four times a year. But you have to be realistic; we have to make some fundamental changes in our attitudes if we are going to make it in the modern world.

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ON THE SCENE: Stephen Marley + Michael Cuffe + Maya Wilkinson + Regina Beavers + Damian Shaw + PM Portia Simpson-Miller

THE BRIGHT SIDE: May 26, St. Andrew. Hosting the proceedings at the Miss Jamaica World sashing of the 2012 finalists at Sovereign Centre on the weekend, FAME FM buddies Regina Beavers and Michael Cuffe look like fresh tropical produce ready to be devoured. Yum. (Photo: STUSH).

WIPE ME DOWN: May 23, Kingston. With her sharp eye for detail, PM Portia Simpson-Miller gives the bust of National Hero Marcus M. Garvey a royal cleaning as part of her Labour Day duties at the National Heroes Park on Wednesday. (Photo: OPM).

THE SON ALSO RISES: May 16, The Netherlands. At a recent sold-out concert in Rotterdam, Grammy winner Stephen Marley invited rising reggae star Joe Mercer, to join him on stage for a brief father-son moment. The resemblance is uncanny! (Photo: Stephen Marley).

LEAN ON ME: May 26, Kingston: No doubt one of the best dressed 'pairs' of the night, Damian Shaw and Maya Wilkinson brought a classy touch of elegance to the Style Week after-party inside the Fiction nightclub on the weekend. (Photo: STUSH).

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