“COULD there really be one person for one person in the whole world in your whole life?” inquires Keisha Patterson with wide-eyed skepticism. On a warm Friday evening at the Bob Marley Museum in St. Andrew, we are discussing relationships and marriage, sitting at a small table for two at the ital café. And when it comes to matrimony, let’s just say the singer-actress has some radically fascinating thoughts on the subject.
“It kind of makes me wonder if it’s a kind of brainwashing. I don’t know,” she continues. “I’m really not sure where I stand on marriage, but I do believe in relationships. I believe you can have many soulmates throughout your life. Some of my best friends are my soulmates but not romantically,” she adds with a laugh.
With a polished air and a refined speaking voice, when Keisha Patterson engages you in conversation, it’s usually with a smile that brightens her eyes. It’s hard not to take notice of those eyes. Large, limpid and full of life, they pull you in. They are the kinds of windows to the soul that would be tremendous assets to a dramatic actress intent on giving the performance of her life – which, as it turns out, is exactly what Patterson is gearing up to do with her starring role in Mr. & Mrs. Blacke, a two-hander marriage drama, which opens July 13 at Mona’s Philip Sherlock Centre.
In the play, her first serious stage production in years, Patterson plays Samantha Blacke, a creative soul whose relationship with her spouse (played by Keiran King) is thrust under the microscope over the course of an evening. In real life, the singer-actress is the first to admit that she’s not exactly gung-ho over the idea of tying the knot. But don’t interpret that to mean that Keisha Patterson is anti-marriage or the kind of girl whose idea of the perfect wedding gift is a wreath. “I can’t picture myself in a white dress with flowers. I doubt it,” she tells TALLAWAH with absolute sincerity in her voice. “But if I were to ever get married I’d probably have a very small thing.”
And her idea of the ideal mate? “Someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Somebody who is very outgoing, someone who makes me laugh, ‘cause I love to laugh and talk.”
A Cherry Gardens habitué and an acclaimed performer in her own right, Patterson has had a lifetime’s practice of entertaining people. The youngest of five, at age three her parents enrolled her in dance classes. She went on to excel at Campion College and the University of Technology before ending up at the Edna Manley College, where she majored in dance. Along the way, she graced many stages with the likes of the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company, Ashé and Father HoLung & Friends. As a vocalist (with larger-than-life chops), she has found success both as a solo act and as a backup for such icons as Freddie McGregor.
Sitting across from me in a blue sleeveless top and black skirt, Patterson’s slim and trim physique speaks volumes of a concerted effort to stay in shape in an industry where image is everything. It’s a “svelte” look, she tells me, which is largely the result of a healthful diet. “I drink a lot of vegetable and fruit juices. I love it, love it,” she dishes with a spark. “And I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and nuts and berries. The things they say we should eat but we don’t. So I eat a lot of fish. I don’t eat beef, I eat very little chicken. I try to do the rules as they say. Maintaining a physique like this is very important for my self-confidence.”
The rest of the year will see Patterson giving wing to the musical side of her artistry with the fall release of her as-yet-untitled sophomore record. “This album is me but in a different way,” is how she describes the effort. “It’s a mix – it’s slow, it’s fast, it’s reggae, it’s disco. I love it so far and I can’t wait to be finished with it.”
The new album has at least one fan already. “She has improved a lot. The sky’s the limit for her,” offers Patterson’s producer/manager Dalton Browne, who also worked on her 2008 debut Sunday Kind of Love. “If we’re lucky, this album could be Grammy-nominated.”
As the evening wears on, Keisha and I are enjoying cups of delicious Marley coffee, served with tiny packs of milk and sugar. As she tells it, the demanding role in Mr. & Mrs. Blacke has come at a time when she is evolving into not only a full artist but a full woman. “Characters I’ve played before were easier to play. But this girl is very true-to-life. So it’s been a real thrill getting into all the emotions of who she is,” explains Patterson, currently in her early 30s.
“This role has brought me to life. I’ve always been very laid-back and very spirited and wanted to stay a child-woman forever,” she confesses, “but playing Samantha has really brought a lot to mind about who I am as a woman. I’ve started seeing myself as the kind of creative being that Samantha is.”
>> PART II: Patterson on ambition, favourite things, and being a new woman