Sunday, 26 May 2013

LIVING HER LIFE: Kamila McDonald on past personal struggles, championing fitness, and redefining her happiness

BEST IN SHOW: "I have a lot to look forward to because there's a lot I want to accomplish."

There can't possibly be any place less glamorous than inside the Chinese Benevolent Association on this hot Wednesday night featuring a phalanx of sweaty boxing competitors and screaming, blood-thirsty patrons. Yet here she is, polished to gleaming perfection and looking like a million-dollar bill in her little form-fitting black dress, a radiant face, and a head of immaculately styled locks. A regal manga princess. 

Proving there's some grit behind all that sheen and sweetness, former beauty queen Kamila McDonald-Alcock has been getting familiar with a different kind of wide television audience as the effervescent hostess of the brutal and increasingly popular competitive boxing series, The Contender. 

"It's been amazing. It's a learning experience, both in terms of developing my abilities to host a scripted live show, as well as learning about the sport of boxing in general," she gushes, talking to TALLAWAH just outside her dressing room. "It's a really exciting time for boxing, and I think this show is a great platform for Jamaican boxers. And it's really exciting that the show is [also] promoting the growth of it. And I'm happy to be a part of it." 

It comes as no surprise that, at 29, Kamila is totally driven by what I can only describe as admirable mogul ambition. In addition to The Contender, she also hosts (and produces) Wealth Magazine's Home Sweet Home, considered Jamaica's first real-estate show, which also airs on TV J (on Sundays) and is presently in its second season. "It keeps me busy because it's a very shoot-intensive show," she admits. 

Then there's her fitness boot camp, which not only allows her to train persons in the evenings, but also allows her to develop her skills as a sports nutritionist. At this stage in her life, perhaps more than ever, nutrition and fitness are big deals for Kamila, who struggled with weight issues in her late teens. "It was the point in my life when I hit rock bottom. This happened when I was about 18 years old, and I'd moved to Norway," she confesses with utter candour. "I gained about 45 pounds. You probably would not have been able to recognize me, but it was an important journey in my life." 

It also marked a turning point in her life and now fuels her passion to help others facing similar issues. "Because of my journey I feel that I can relate to other people who are going through a similar time in their lives," she tells me. "One day I hope to host and produce a fitness show because I'll be able to marry my passion for TV and my passion for fitness and be able to reach a market that I feel really needs it." 
"Everybody has their own challenges" 

The noise level in the auditorium has seriously intensified. Courtney Walsh has entered the ring to present medals to the amateur fighters. In a few minutes, Kamila is scheduled to intoduce the night's main attraction. (Not herself this time.) Devon Moncrieffe is set to oppose worthy challenger Richard Holmes. 

The Ivy League-educated go-getter reiterates that her battle with weight gain marked a seriously low point in her life. "I feel like I went through it for a purpose because now I can relate to people who struggle with the same thing," she says. "Weight loss is so difficult, and it's such an important thing in Jamaica because obesity is one of the leading causes of death in the Caribbean in general." 

The whole time we've been talking, Kamila is open and expressive. When it comes to her marriage to reggae superstar Jah Cure, however, she'll only say this with a meek smile, "We're just two people living our lives. And you know how relationships go..." 

As for motherhood (they have a one-year-old daughter together), she reveals, "It reinforces my purpose in life, and so I've been enjoying every moment of it. She's the most important thing to me. I feel like she inspires me every single day." 

She tells me she only recently turned 29. "It's the last year before 30, so I plan to just live it up." How did she celebrate the big day? "My husband actually threw a party for me with my family. We had a big birthday party with a lot of performances, and it was a mystical night." 

How does she really feel about turning 30 next year. "Thirty, they say, is the new 20s. I have a lot to look forward to because there's a lot I want to accomplish in life, and I work and strive for it every single day. " 

With the personal struggles of her past now behind her, Kamila is all about embracing the endless possibilities and holding fast to her happiness. "Life makes me happy; I'm living it. Waking up each day with a purpose," she says, with a hint of bliss. "Everybody has their own challenges, but everybody has the same 24 hours. We each have one life, and it's so important to live it." 

It's clearly a cherished philosophy she's eager to share with others. "I feel like what people don't really grasp is the concept of self-happiness. Don't look to others for happiness. You can't because you'll spend the rest of your life trying to be happy," she observes. "Look within yourself, and really find the purpose of life. There's no one that can get you down, regardless of what's happening."

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