Monday, 4 February 2013

FEELING GREAT: With a bright new outlook, Michael Cuffe talks about shedding the pounds and being in the best shape of his life

PURPLE REIGN: “I love pushing myself. I feel stronger.” 

On a warm late January night at the Wyndham in New Kingston, Michael Cuffe is talking animatedly about where life has taken him after three decades – and his keen determination to make 2013 a most memorable year for him career-wise. These days, Cuffe is all grown up, but as he speaks you are able to see flickers of that young tyke who shone so brilliantly in living rooms as a TV J sportscaster a few years back. The unmistakably refined speaking voice reminiscent of his legendary dad (Michael Cuffe Sr.) remains firmly intact, and there’s that occasional laugh that reverberates with a passion for letting the good times roll. 

By his own admission, Cuffe has matured considerably as a member of the media profession, but he hasn’t forgotten where he’s coming from. “I do give a lot of credit to FAME FM. They kind of allowed me to let my own personality out. That’s how people got to know me. Yeah they saw me on TV doing sports, but people really knew more of who I am through my work with FAME FM,” he explains, as our waitress delivers the order of drinks to our poolside table. “I actually like radio more. I know it sounds crazy, but there’s still a certain amount of anonymity on radio. People hear your voice, but they can’t see you. And it’s easier to move around. Radio was always my first love; TV just kind of happened, which I am grateful for.” 

As you read this, Cuffe is gearing up to fill the co-hosting chair (next to Regina Beavers) on the station’s long-running and provocative Monday-night show Uncensored. Cuffe is replacing Rodney Campbell, who can now be seen on TV J’s JN Vibe. “I’m very excited,” Cuffe confesses. “Uncensored is a show I’ve known about for as long as I’ve known FAME. So I’m just looking forward to this new opportunity. And, as you know, I’m all about pushing the envelope.” 

Indeed. So much so that Cuffe often earns the ire of many a disapproving snob who feels he should behave more like his dad, a man widely regarded for the poise and dignified aura he’s brought to Jamaican media. “People realize that there are times when I’m like my dad in terms of how I behave and my personality, and there are times when I’m nothing like him. I have a different side that can be animated and wild,” Cuffe tells TALLAWAH. “Sometimes we sound the same, but we’re two different people. And I can remember I got called to do this commercial and someone was like, Why can’t you be more like your dad? Why are you so hyperactive?,” he recalls, then bursting into a peal of laughter. 

Occasionally hyperactive? Yes. But Cuffe (who splits his time between FAME and his three-year gig with the Guardsman Group, where he serves as Project Manager) is not afraid of embracing change, whether in the professional sense or in his personal life. Case in point: his jaw-dropping weight loss that saw him shedding more than 40 pounds off his sturdy frame in recent months. 

Chances are you’ve walked pass the new-look Cuffe recently, failing to recognize him. He’s getting used to it. But the weight, he says, was something he had to get rid of. “Weight for me has been a 30-year problem. I’ve been struggling to get my weight down. I had a personal trainer at one time, but I never saw results. I never saw abs,” Cuffe, a graduate of Guelph University, explains. “In college, I was like 220 lbs, but it was muscle. And up to summer last year, I was 218 lbs.” 

The turning point came this past October. “I said to myself, ‘That’s it. I’m gonna drop it.’ I got really disciplined. And between October and December, I dropped 47 pounds. I was a 38 waist last summer for my cousin’s wedding, and right now I think I’m down to a 31 or 32,” Cuffe reveals. “I haven’t seen those numbers in years. It’s ridiculous how much I’ve lost and I intend to keep it off.” 

Wife Tessanne Chin is his biggest cheerleader, and their relationship continues to thrive in this wonderful new phase – in spite of the challenges. “Marriage takes work, but the important thing is that Tessie and I are still two individuals, and it’s about making both of our lives come together and work,” he says of their now two-year marital affair. “We’re best friends. We have our ups and downs, but she was and is and continues to be The One.” Amen. 

As it happens, the Michael Cuffe that’s emerged in time for 2013 is a supremely confident fellow determined to push the envelope in new creative endeavours (a t-shirt line, recording a Carnival tune, trying some acting) – even if it means exposing himself to criticism along the way. “When I had the weight, people said, You need to drop it. And now that I’ve lost the weight, some people are saying you look sick, you look better with the weight. All kinds of stuff. So if you’re doing it for people, it will never work for you,” says Cuffe, emphasizing that that he has a few more personal goals to fulfil. “My current thing is fitness. I ran the half-marathon in December, and I want to enter the Spartan race in February, and I’m gonna do the Jake’s triathlon in Treasure Beach coming up.” 

More health-conscious, older and wiser, Michael Cuffe seems eager to face the next 30 years and beyond. “I feel good,” he tells me, inhaling the crisp night air. “I love pushing myself. I feel stronger.” 

>> PART II: Cuffe reveals how Tessanne’s love saved his life and his plans for 2013

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