Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A MEMORABLE YEAR: Cultural ambassador, businesswoman, role model – Chereese Ricketts always follows her passions

LADY OF THE 'HOUSE': As part of her 'wrap-up' tour, Ricketts strikes a happy pose by the entrance of the famed Devon House mansion.

In just about a week, Chereese Lavonne Ricketts – she of the sun-kissed complexion, cascading locks and disarming amiability – will greet her successor as we welcome Jamaica’s 2016 Festival Queen. She has big shoes to fill.

From the get-go, it’s been abundantly clear that Chereese takes her role as Jamaican cultural ambassador very seriously. Over the course of her year-long reign, she not only embarked on a winning national project but effortlessly epitomized patriotic spirit, poise and grace under pressure, meeting and surpassing expectations. By her own admission, the past year was by no means an easy one but it was richly rewarding to say the least.

Fresh from a mid-morning photoshoot at Devon House, the 26-year-old stunner is bringing us up to speed on life in her orbit, looking every inch the polished-to-perfection queen in a flattering one-shoulder gown (designed by local-based couturier Natoya Doulatt) that’s awash with kola-champagne sparkles.

As we speak (under a shade-generous tree across from the Devonshire), expressing gratitude ranks high on Chereese’s list of priorities. “I’m grateful for not just the opportunities that I’ve gotten but the support, especially in pushing forward my community project [the sound-body/sound-mind initiative Move Good, Feel Good],” she says, striking reflective tone. “People love it. At each stop [Mandeville, Port Antonio, MoBay, Kingston] we met between 40 and 60 students, and we agree that mental health is something that we don’t talk about enough. And I think I succeeded in spreading awareness in some ways – and just that but really building a network to continue to spread the message.”

This mental health movement awakened something in Ricketts, who has vowed to continue playing her part well into the future. As she explains, her soon-to-be-registered company, e-Motion, and entities she’s made connections with over the past year will get huge chunks of her time. On that note, time management is a singularly important subject for this Belair High alumna, who is pressing the accelerator on her entrepreneurial endeavours.

In case you haven’t heard, her line of sleek eyewear, Lavonne (her middle name turned budding brand) is about to start popping up everywhere, including at next week’s Fashion Greets Music showcase at the Independence Village. “I love being an entrepreneur, and right now my business is designing and selling eyewear,” she tells us, before dropping this confession: “It’s actually been very hard being an entrepreneur and serving as Festival Queen, and I look forward to a little less pressure, so I can really focus on my entrepreneurial pursuits.”

Maybe it’s part of her charm that Chereese Ricketts has a different kind of work ethic. “I’m the kind of person who might wake up at 5am, but I don’t want to do any work until 12pm. And then I go straight from 12 to 7,” she admits, chuckling. “I like to take my time in the morning to awaken my spirit, to awaken my body and just gently ease into the day. And I recognize that sometimes the 9-to-5 doesn’t allow that. But I just like following my passion, and right now my passion eyewear design is that passion.”

Does she have any advice for the incoming queen? “Remember why you entered and hopefully the reason you entered is in your heart,” she says. “There will be a lot of demands on your time and there will be a lot of demands on your energy, but you have to remember what you want to get out of it. For me, I wanted to have strong community impact and I got that.” 

Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, Chereese reaches into her medium-sized handbag, whips out a pair of auburn-red Lavonne shades and quickly slips them on. “As if in tandem with her new frame of mind, she is quick to made the distinction between the new and old versions of herself. “I am coming from a place of thinking I know everything and heading into an acceptance of uncertainty, but with an appreciation of the moment. And that’s where I’m at in my life right now,” she confides. 

Turning 27 in August, this go-getter is too blessed to be stressed. “I appreciate every moment simply for what that moment is. I try not to stress about the future. I work towards the future. I also maintain a level of humility, in terms of what I think I know about life. So I’m constantly learning.”

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