Friday, 26 May 2017

TOP STORY: Boston Globe’s Walter Robinson recounts the highs and lows of working on a Pulitzer-winning exposé

SET SCOOP: Robinson reminsces with Global Reporters' Zahra Burton following Wednesday's screening; (below) with Michael Keaton, who portrays him in the film.

WORKING on that juggernaut child-sex abuse-in-the-Catholic Church story that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 presented Walter Robinson with one of the biggest challenges and most eye-opening experiences of his adult life and decades-long journalism career. 

The veteran Boston Globe editor, who led the team that inspired the film Spotlight (2015’s Oscar winner for Best Picture), says the experience only reinforced what he’d known all along: investigative journalism is at once a minefield to be navigated with the utmost precision and a work zone where there’s no shortage of lessons on humanity and human nature as you toil to break the big story. 

“It was difficult, but the issue wasn’t to protect the church; we had to get the story,” says Robinson, who was the guest of honour at a special screening of the film (followed by a Q-&-A), hosted by Global Reporters of the Caribbean at the Carib 5 Cinema in Kingston on Wednesday evening. “I was a lapsed Catholic when we did our reporting. I was raised Catholic in the 50s and 60s, and our lives revolved around the church. So it was a shock. It was extraordinarily difficult for a lot of Catholics when the story broke. The institution had let them down.” 

Robinson is referring, of course, to the ‘bombshell’ that for years dozens of priests had been brought before their superiors on charges of child molestation – cases that were largely buried to protect the church. But according to Robinson (portrayed in the engrossing film by Michael Keaton), they were a team of reporters committed to exposing wrongdoing via solid reporting. 

What they encountered, as the Tom McCarthy-directed film shows us, were sealed documents, legal tussles, and a fierce back-and-forth that led all the way to the top brass of the church in and around Boston. But they stuck to the task at hand, embarking on roll-up-those-sleeves digging and painstaking investigation, including door-to-door trips to interview former victims and their families – work that eventually bore fruit. 
“The film is faithful to what happened, step by step. It’s almost unbelievable to think something like this was going on,” he noted. “We couldn’t have done the story without the documents. The church would have come back at us so hard.” 

As far as punishment goes, Robinson says there was some semblance of justice. At least 15 priests were given prison sentences. One died behind bars. “The church defrocked most of those priests,” Robinson pointed out, “and washed it hands of them.” 

Unsurprisingly, when the hundreds of phone calls started pouring into the Boston Globe offices after the story broke, the reporters got an earful – a mix of backlash and heartfelt thank yous from members of the public. “A lot of them called to thank us, and more victims came forward. But some of them turned on us,” the editor recalled. 

“Before [the sex-abuse scandal] we had done a story on public corruption, and we asked readers to contact us if they knew of any other cases. In the week we had about 500 phone calls from people giving us info on other instances of corruption throughout Massachusetts. It’s very rare for people to make up this sort of thing,” he concedes. “The dirty little secret of journalism is we only get what people tell us, and they won’t tell us unless we ask them.”

Thursday, 25 May 2017

NATURALLY SPEAKING: After 21 years, Agrofest remains committed to an “eat what we grow” Jamaica

HAND IT OVER: MP Ronald Thwaites (left) assists Grant in making a presentation to Lenworth Fulton (centre).

“DENBIGH is Class A, and in three years we will be graduating to Class B, right behind Denbigh.” So says President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, referring to the annual Agrofest, which had its 2017 staging on the ground of Jamaica College on Saturday.

The event brought together dozens of farm groups (Mavis Bank, St. Peter’s and Mt. Charles among them) and exhibitors who straddle the agricultural and environmental sectors. What patrons encountered as they made the rounds was a mélange of horticultural displays, farm supplies, science and technology tools, and everything from forestry preservation tips to the latest advances in fertilizer treatments. Not to mention a plethora of ground provisions.

At the same time, entrepreneurs showed off offerings, which span the gamut from art-and-craft to pharmaceuticals. Rainforest Seafoods hosted cooking demonstrations at their tent, drawing a sizeable crowd, as the deejay spun some of the latest tunes.

In the end, Agrofest 2017 came off as a wholesome family affair full of sights and sounds. “Our show this year is being held against the background of significant growth in the agricultural sector, in keeping with the transformational campaign launched in 2003,” Grant boasted. “It is our intention to continue creating a big platform for our patrons and exhibitors.”

Custos of Kingston, Steadman Fuller, welcomed this bit of news. “Agrofest reveals a sincere commitment to the growth of agriculture in Jamaica. The fact that the event has reached the ripe old age of 21 years, while encouraging Jamaicans to eat what we grow and grow what we eat, shows that we are poised for sustainable development,” he said. “And as our farmers continue to supply the people of Jamaica, there are wonderful opportunities to be derived from careers in agriculture.”

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

CULTURE VULTURE: Safiya Sinclair for Bookophilia + J’can actors land roles in Yardie + Children’s Gospel finals this Sunday

POETRY WITH BITE: Her acclaimed anthology, Cannibal (University of Nebraska Press) recently won the OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry and a handful of other literary awards on the US mainland, putting her squarely in the company of the most important Caribeban poets working today. But Jamaican audiences haven’t seen or heard from Safiya Sinclair, in the flesh, in a miute. The Montego Bay native, who currently resides in Virginia, is coming home. She will be the guest of honour at a special reading at Hope Road’s Bookophilia, where she will deliver selections from her ever-expanding body of work and, indeed, some choice pieces from Cannibal. The reading, which has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 7, is expected to draw a standing-room-only crowd, filled with poetry lovers no doubt eager to get their hands on an autographed copy of Cannibal

CHARACTER STUDY: According to reports, Jamaican actors Shantol Jackson (Sugar), Everaldo Creary and Sheldon Shepherd (Better Mus’ Come) are set to add their film credits, when they begin shooting scenes for Yardie, the feature-film directorial debut of Hollywood hotshot Idris Elba, who is now an honorary Jamaican. The film, a novel-to big screen adaptation, is expected to begin production this summer, with filming to take place in both Jamaica and England over the course of seven weeks. By all accounts, it’s a passion project for Elba, Golden Globe-winning actor and future James Bond (*fingers crossed*), who recently spent time in the island, meeting with stakeholders in the local film industry. No word yet on the planned release date for Yardie, but alongside Storm Saulter’s Sprinter, it’s among the most anticipated Jamaican-themed films in the works. 

KIDS IN PRAISE: Considered the junior version of the National Gospel Song Competition, the Jamaica Children’s Gospel Competition has grown from strength to strength, unearthing outstanding talents who’ve gone on to do wonderful things on the local and international music scene. This year’s competition comes to a close this Sunday, May 28, when the cream-of-the-crop entrants, in several age groups and categories (solo and group), vie for a range of attractive prizes, at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre. Setting the stage for a slew of cultural events in the run-up to the grand Jamaica 55 celebrations in August, the show begins at 5pm.

Monday, 22 May 2017

NEWS FEED: Germaine Mason gets emotional send-off + Kandi King appointed Miss J’ca World Pageant Director

> FINAL RESPECTS: Usain Bolt, top athletes among mourners at Germaine Mason’s funeral 
Tears flowed amidst glowing tributes, as a sizeable congregation bid farewell to British-Jamaican Olympian Germaine Mason, during a thanksgiving service for his life at the Hagley Park Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Kingston on Sunday. Sprint king Usain Bolt, Ricardo ‘Bibi’ Gardner, Ian ‘Pepe’ Goodison, Chris Martin, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell, among other sporting figures and colleagues, showed support for Mason’s mother, Carol, and the other bereaved relatives, and served as pallbearers. Mason’s cousin, Eric Cyrus Jr, who read the eulogy, remembered him as the decent, stand-up guy. “He lived life to the fullest. Through his endeavours, he never gave up. He persisted until he triumphed. And that easygoing personality that we all know, he carried with him into his fatherly role.” A father of two (with one on the way), Mason lost his life on April 20, after his motorcycle crashed along the Palisadoes Road in Kingston. Following Sunday’s funeral service, he was buried at Long Road, Grange Hill, in his native Portland. Mason was 34 years old. 

> ‘KING’ OF QUEENS: Spartan taps Kandi King for MJW director 
Television presenter, businesswoman and tastemaker Kandi King is the Pageant Director for this year’s staging of Miss Jamaica World, a franchise that has been reclaimed by the Spartan Health Club. She is a former MJW contestant, now the CEO of Karnival by Kandi, a concierge service which has been providing destination and lifestyle packages for Caribbean carnivals since 2014. King is a valuable addition to the family, says Spartan. “With her passion for branding and strong organization skills, King will no doubt be a major asset to the Miss Jamaica World organization, as she helps to guide and supervise all aspects of this year’s competition,” the health club’s management said in a statement announcing King’s executive appointment. In 2016, King became a founding member and director of Xaymaca International, one of Jamaica’s newest carnival bands. Each week, she brings her radiance and charm to our living rooms as the host of Chill Spot on Business Access TV.

ON HER MIND: Dance educator Patricia Noble shares her life-changing testimony of triumph after debilitating trials

LEAP OF FAITH: Noble, who still walks with a limp, has reason to smile.

SEVEN years before I started Praise Academy of Dance, I experienced the most intense emotional storm that rocked me to the core and tested my mettle. This was in the 1980s, and I was on quite a trajectory – from trained dance student to dance educator at the Edna Manley College to accomplished ‘secular’ dancer. I was on a career high, making my own plans for a great future. But God had other plans for my life.

I was on stage dancing with wild abandon to the words of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” when out of the blue I heard a voice ask me, ‘Who are you edifying when you dance like this?’ Suddenly, an excruciating pain hit me in my leg and I leaped off the stage. The following Monday, at Jessie Rippoll Primary, where I prepare students for the Common Entrance Exams, I tried getting up from my seat but my legs wouldn’t budge. Down came the salty tears. I was struggling to breathe. I was crippled for a week. I had to find a way to talk to God.

I met Gene Denham, a member of the Kingston Open Bible Church, who guided me through the scriptures, with fasting, prayer and deep fellowship with God. I felt changed. The Holy Spirit was now guiding me. 

Within a year, I gave up my job at Edna Manley and the Lord invited me to embark on a new journey with him, developing a new dance experience based on praise and worship. With two other women, Ann-Marie Williams and Curline Thompson, I took up the challenge of creating this Christian dance – interpretive worship – and that’s how Praise Academy of Dance was born, in 1993.

It’s been more than two decades since. In fact, next year brings our 25th anniversary. I consider this a journey of faith that’s changed many lives and opened a lot of doors. We not only have branches in Kingston and Portmore (populated by dancers from five years old to thirtysomething), we managed to branch out to establish Praise Academy Barbados in 2003 and in Trinidad in 2007. Cayman is next. Some of the dance teachers and administrative staff have been with me since the very beginning. 

Unity, fellowship and love have kept us together. I see where our young kids become leaders at their schools, displaying the discipline and hard work that we’ve instilled in them. But what I cherish most about the experience is that it has taught the dancers how to have a deep fellowship with Christ. 

For the 25th year celebration, there are so many things we want to get done. Right now we’re at rented premises, so we’re working toward setting up our own home base and expand into a performing arts academy. We are also preparing to welcome more male dancers into the company, and for the 2018 season, we’re inviting back some of our past dancers to join in the celebration. 

I just published my first book, The Journey Continues, which shares my story, and I’m working on getting it into the bookstores. We did a first printing of 100 copies, and we have only 10 left. My life is a series of lessons that I want people to know about. It’s a testimony I want to share with the world.  As told to TALLAWAH Magazine

TALK OF THE TOWN: Bon voyage, Kelly! + KOTE’s 10th anniv. cancelled + Giving journalists more

Will JPS ever be the same without Kelly Tomblin? It’s been announced that after five years, the hardworking President and CEO is making way for a successor, as her contract expires this summer. According to our hardly-ever-wrong sources, Miss Tomblin will be taking up the post of Chief Executive Officer of the US-based power company INTREN, effective July 10. Tomblin, a workhorse and creative thinker, brought so much to our light-and-power company, helping to transform it into a people-friendly and super-modern entity with special emphasis on social responsibility and being a good corporate citizen that goes beyond the call of duty. Since joining JPS in April 2012, she has repeatedly opened the windows to let in some fresh air. The results speak for themselves. Not only did she spark the genesis of the Women in Energy conference, she helped to kick-start numerous initiatives to make life a bit easier for customers. No word yet on Kelly will officially depart our shores, but INTREN is beyond lucky to have her. And with Winsome, Sharee and the other ‘Women of JPS’ still on board, her legacy is in safe hands. 

If like us you were anticipating the series of artsy activities to mark the 10th anniversary of Kingston on the Edge (KOTE), you should know that the urban arts festival will not be staged this year. It’s incredibly sad news. The organizers have publicly stated that lack of adequate funding is the reason for the unfortunate cancellation, but they want the arts community to rest assured that every effort is being made to guarantee KOTE’s return in 2018. It just goes to show that it cannot be emphasized enough that initiatives designed to promote and preserve and showcase the work of Jamaican artists need to be taken more seriously. For the arts to thrive, consistent financial support is paramount. 

It’s heartening to see that the Press Association of Jamaica, led by the fearless Dionne Jackson-Miller (far right), is fighting for local journalists to get their due. As TALLAWAH readers have been informed, the cash prizes for the upcoming National Journalism Awards (taking place in November) have been generously upgraded. The Journalist of the Year, in particular, will take home a quarter of a million dollars. That sounds like progress.

TALLAWAH joins the entertainment fraternity in expressing condolences to the family of reggae veteran Frankie Paul, who died at the University Hospital last week after ailing for some time. R.I.P Frankie. #TrueOriginal

Saturday, 20 May 2017

WAYS OF SEEING: Stellar artworks bring intrigue, electric energy to 2017 Visual Arts showcase

FACE VALUE: Jermaine Morgan's "Untitled," the Jury Prize winner in this year's competition.

ST. Catherine-based painter Jermaine Morgan has won the Jury Prize in this year’s JCDC Visual Arts Competition & Exhibition, currently on view at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, until August. Morgan, whose eye-popping, hyper-chromatic work has graced exhibitions at the National Gallery and Kingston on the Edge (KOTE), copped the first-place award (and a gold medal) for his spell-binding piece “Untitled”, a powerful portrait of a young Jamaican man staring back at you from the canvas in lush brush strokes of red and green. 

The piece truly pulls in the viewer upon entering the lobby of the conference centre, is on sale for a reasonable $85,000. A companion piece to “Untitled,” Morgan’s “Beautifully Broken” copped a silver medal. 

Over 280 award-winning and original works (in youth and adult categories) make up this year’s electrically charged exhibition, whose pieces adorn the walls all over the sprawling conference centre and the upstairs-based gallery, where the youth entries can be found. It’s an endlessly fascinating showcase, chock-full of stunning photographs, sculptures, fibre arts, works on paper and paintings that deserve to be added to collections at home and abroad. 

Among the lot are several gold medal winners whose creators hail from parishes islandwide. While Kingston’s Patrick Planter (“Hand Mask”), Gianni Jahziel (“Brother Nature III”) and Michelle Lee Lambert (“Behind the Blue Door”) were recognized for their skilful photography, St. Catherine’s Dwane Bailey (“Road to Africa”), Trelawny’s Nicholas Rose (“Mother and Child”), Kingston’s Kitwana Robinson (“Portal of My Consciousness”) and Ranford Anderson (“Madiba”) won gold for their fine paintings and works on paper. 

Sixteen-year-old Sashoy Bewry, whose black-and-white drawings “Mother Dearest” and “Fruit of the Womb” also claimed gold, got the 1st Place Promise Prize for most outstanding youth entrant. Manchester High, whose students submitted some truly exquisite photographs, took the Summit Prize for Top School/Group. 

On the local arts calendar since 1963, the Jamaica Visual Arts Competition & Exhibition aims to showcase local talent and provide opportunities for artists to gain access to local and international audiences.

Friday, 19 May 2017

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: A Holocaust survivor looks back + ‘Reasoning’ with Rupert Lewis + Geoffrey Philp’s latest release

> What We Just Read:
Night (Bantam Books) by Elie Wiesel
The horrors of the Holocaust concentration camp are brought to palpable, hypervivid life in this critically acclaimed memoir, a book that’s simply impossible to put down. Candidly written, it chronicles Wiesel’s terrifying near-death experiences, as a teenager by his father’s side (and in the company of hundreds of other persecuted Jews), at the hands of heartless German soldiers, at the height of Nazi rule. In a nutshell, Night is visceral, heart-pounding prose and gripping testimony that critics have likened to The Diary of Anne Frank. As the book attests, Wiesel, who went on to become an Ivy League professor and a recipient of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, bore witness to and endured some truly unspeakable events that no one should be subjected to. Remarkably, he survived to tell the tale.

> What We’re Buzzing About
Garvey’s Ghost (Carlong Publishers) by Geoffrey Philp
Widely known novelist and poet Geoffrey Philp woos a Young Adult audience with this latest offering, an action-packed and emotionally charged narrative exploring fractious family dynamics, betrayal, redemption and every mother’s worst nightmare. It follows Kathryn Bailey, a single Jamaican mother of East Indian descent based in Miami. When her teenage daughter Jasmine disappears, Kathryn’s desperate search for answers leads her to Jacob Virgo, one of Jasmine’s college professors, a Rastafarian and Garveyite. Reluctantly, they join forces to find Jasmine before it’s too late. But does Virgo have to something to hide? And what about Cristina, Carlton and Russell Davenport – did they have a role to play in the young lady’s disappearance? As Carlong is quick to inform us, Garvey’s Ghost (packing some 256 pages) promises an intriguing ride and clever plot twists that will have you turning pages well into the night.

> What’s On The Horizon:
Caribbean Reasonings: Rupert Lewis and the Black Intellectual Tradition (Ian Randle Publishers) 
 From academic to cultural activism, Prof. Rupert Lewis has always distinguished himself as a force to be reckoned with. Now retired from the University of the West Indies (UWI), where he spent teaching sociology to undergrads, the renowned Garvey and Rodney scholar gets his due, as the headliner of the latest Caribbean Reasonings text from Ian Randle. Guest edited by Clinton Hutton, Jermaine McCalpin and Maziki Thame, the slender volume brings together noted and emerging thinkers who contribute articles centred on Lewis’ usual areas of focus – Black consciousness and the legacy of slavery and colonialism. Thame, Hutton and Maziki aside, the volume features work from such contributors as Mark Figueroa, FSJ Ledgister, Ken Post and Prof. Lewis himself, who offers his trademark insight and depth of research with a piece on “Jamaican Black Power in the 1960s.” Ideal for students and history buffs.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

TOUGHER STUFF: A Letter from the Editor

ALL THE WAY: Mignott and Suzie A (below, with Carlene Davis) continue to make strides in their respective careers.

ONE of the pieces we’re proudest to include in this May 2017 issue is our exclusive interview with Paula ‘Suzie Q’ Bonner, the veteran media player who epitomizes soul survivor and staying power. As you will read in “Not Easily Broken,” Suzie, who now hosts the weekly Suzie Q Gospel Trail, has been through quite a lot on her journey, but she’s emerged whole and eager to share her testimony with her international viewing public and those she comes in contact with in her everyday experiences.

Those who’ve been fortunate to witness the metamorphosis of her success story have certainly noted her graciousness in the good times and her grace-under-fire approach to the tough times. Today’s generation of young Jamaicans can learn a thing or two from her about dealing with adversity, and her profile in this month’s issue is a must-read for anyone caught in the undertow.
Akeem Mignott, our handsome cover star, is another noteworthy (and evolving) success story that keeps on getting better. After spending the past few years solidifying his place in the fickle performing-arts world, the 23-year-old has impressively – and with a little help from colleagues and those who wish him well – morphed into a bonafide leading man and a worthy contender for Alwyn Scott’s crown. Akeem has a brilliant career ahead of him, and as he tells us in “Standing in the Spotlight,” he’s set no ceiling on his plans for the future, particularly the work he intends to do as a member of the theatre fraternity. 

The ladies who grace “Cutting a Dash,” our round-up of the 10 Best Dressed Women in Jamaica, are well-known, dynamic divas who expertly balance the tough and the tender. To say the least, they are terrific role models for youngsters everywhere, while serving up that splendid mix of style and substance. Their names consistently pop up among the most admired and inspiring Jamaicans of the day for a reason. 

After all, like Suzie Q and Akeem, they never fail to remind us that there’s no substitute for hard work, resilience and the determination to rise to the top.

CULTURE VULTURE: JCDC extends Creative Writing deadline + GATFFEST pulls record number of submissions + Prize money goes up for Journalism Awards

PRESSING MATTERS: “In this fast-paced world, media houses are always breaking news. This is one of the staples of journalism. We want to recognize the work that goes into breaking news as accurately and informatively as possible, with important follow-up that expands on the story in a way that informs and enlightens the public. We’re very excited about this new award and look forward to the entries that will come in.” This coming from President of the Press Association, Dionne Jackson-Miller, who just announced the addition of an award for “Best Breaking News Coverage” to the National Journalism Awards roster. Honours for Best Radio Feature has also been added. As the PAJ head further noted, the prize money for the highly coveted Journalism of the Year has been ratcheted up from $100,000 to $250,000. Sectional awards usually valued at $50,000 have been pumped up to $100,000 and from $25,000 to $40,000. “This is our premier award to recognize excellence,” Jackson-Miller says. “We therefore feel it is important to ensure that the prize money reflects the importance of the award.” Media practitioners (print and electronic) have until August 31 to submit their entries for consideration. National Journalism Week will be observed in November.

THE WRITE STUFF: Local writers who have not yet submitted their entries for this year’s National Creative Writing Competition have until the end of this week, as the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) has extended the April deadline to May 19. The competition is open to Jamaicans of all ages to compete for top honours (trophies, gold, silver, bronze medals, certificates, among other prizes) in the categories of novels, plays, short stories, essays and poetry. A trophy for Best Overall Writer is traditionally presented to the year’s most outstanding entrant. Visit for more info or call 926-5726-9.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: Filmmakers taking part in this year’s Greater August Town Film Festival (GATFFEST) will have a chance to win some 14 awards during the awards ceremony slated for June 24. In addition to prizes for Best Local Film, Best International Original Film and Best Directing, trophies will be presented for Original Screenplay, Animation and a Best of GATFFEST award to be named in honour of UWI Mona Principal Prof. Archibald McDonald. Put on annually by the UWI Mona Community Film Project, the film fest (June 15-24) attracted a record 1600 submissions for 2017. With dozens of features, shorts, animated flicks and documentaries jostling for the attractive prizes, festivalgoers are in for a real treat. Among the most anticipated screening nights: Local and International Film Night (June 17), Japanese Film Night (June 21), Caribbean and Latin American Film Night (June 22) and Jamaican Film Night (June 23). Visit for details, including venues, the full schedule and other key information.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

MADE IN JAMAICA: Fresh-faced beauty Kerrell Bennett makes a splash with her Bella Scents line

HEAVEN 'SCENT': The product line includes everything from body butter to clay and charcoal masks.

YOU know the kind of bright, young, business-savvy entrepreneurs who come off as a walking, talking billboard for their products? The flawlessly radiant and youthfully energetic Karrell Bennett, founder and proprietor of Bella Scents, a small line of home-made skin-care and body products, is that girl. Bennett’s products are made from scratch, using all-natural ingredients that promote and aid in bringing out beautiful, healthy and glowing skin.

Her customers can choose from a great batch. There’s the body butter (with a moisturizing effect that’s “very healing”), the virgin coconut oil (extracted by the cold process technique), the body scrubs (sea-salt butter and sugar scrubs), clay and charcoal mask/scrubs (minimize pores and soak up pesky oil), African black soap (fights acne, removes makeup, conditions the skin) cleansing pads (control breakouts), the three-in-one hair butter (promote hair growth and a healthy scalp) and the clay and charcoal soap (a “perfect” skin detoxifier).

“I have found the simplest things to be most effective on my skin,” dishes Bennett, who swears by the healing and rejuvenative powers of shea, rosemary, lavender essential oil, cocoa butter and honey. “My goal is to bring awareness to what we put on our skin, as our body absorbs it all, good and bad, within a few seconds. I wanted to make natural products that are safe and without toxic ingredients.” 
The 20-something businesswoman, who was urged to enter the beauty market after testing her home-made products on friends and relatives, says the feedback over the past year and a half has been encouraging. “I want to open a little store, something warm and cozy,” she tells TALLAWAH, looking ahead. “Further down the line I hope to enter the international market to let people know that Jamaicans are making skin-care products that are just as awesome as the international brands.” 

Bennett (above, left), who was among the dozens of exhibitors attracting patrons to their eye-catching displays at the recent JN Barber & Beauty showdown inside the National Arena, feels young Jamaicans have a responsibility to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams with vigour and courage. “Just jump in, if it’s something you love and have a passion for,” says the adventurous St. Andrew native, who is into bungee jumping and horse-back riding. “You have to be your biggest cheerleader, but make sure it’s something that you love. It has to be something you’re passionate about.” 

> Connect with Bella Scents on Facebook/Instagram (@bellascentsja); Email; or call 366-5914.

Monday, 15 May 2017

GIMME SHELTER: Needy J'can families set to benefit from 40 new Food for the Poor houses

FOLLOW THE LEADER: “We had about 3,000 persons taking part this year. It’s definitely bigger than last year,” reports Mahfood, far right.

RED Stripe has committed to building 10. NCB has pledged to do four. The Rotary Club wants to build three, and JPS has indicated that they’ll do two. This year, some 40 houses in total will be built islandwide by Food for the Poor, in partnership with local and international sponsors, at a cost of US$7,200 per house. The charity-based organization’s US-based head office will contribute half of that amount for each house.

The houses, which will benefit needy Jamaican families across the island, will be well-crafted dwelling places, complete with double wooden panelling, sanitation conveniences and solar lighting. It is Food for the Poor’s latest gift to Jamaica, coinciding with the 3rd annual staging of the Food for the Poor Make a Difference 5K Walk/Run, which brought out hundreds of participants to the streets of New Kingston this past Saturday morning.

But according to Food for the Poor Chairman, Andrew Mahfood, the initial target was 100 houses. “The aim is always to do more. What we want to do is get more land to build houses. If we could get more available land from the government, then the number of beneficiaries would increase. But we are optimistic,” Mahfood told us during a post-race interview. 
For the record, he and the organizing committee were beyond pleased by Saturday’s turnout. “We had about 3,000 persons taking part this year. It’s definitely bigger than last year,” he reported. In addition to fitness clubs, societies and individual participants, the 5K Walk/Run drew support from such entities as the NCB Foundation, Grace Kennedy, Berger Paints, and Rainforest Seafood. 

Kingston’s Mayor, Delroy Williams, was on hand to present trophies, medals and gift baskets to the day’s top contenders. On the Men’s side, the 5K Run saw Kemar Leslie (16 mins 57 secs) crossing the finish line ahead of Ryon Chambers (16 mins 59 secs) and Troy Pennington (18 mins 21 secs), who copped second and third place respectively. 

Among the females, Chris-Ann Lewis (20 mins 46 secs), Juliet Dinal (21 mins 34 secs) was second, while Llori Sharpe (21 mins 47 secs) came in third. As for the walkers, Lenworth Hunter (29 mins 39 secs) proved too speedy for nearest competitors Kenardo Phillips (33 mins 5 secs) and Paula Sinclair (33 mins 8 secs).

Friday, 12 May 2017

LIFE + STYLE: Spotlight on upcoming J’ca International Exhibition + Logos Hope’s artistic offerings + Jeneil’s foray into design

DESIGNING WOMAN: There comes a time in every ambitious supermodel’s life when she wants to do more than just grace the runway in glamorous couture; she wants to create her own pieces. By all accounts, Jeneil Williams is at that stage of her career. The Pulse supermodel, who has been a Nike ambassador for the past few seasons, is set to debut her first swimwear collection at Caribbean Fashion Week, come next month. According to the catwalk pro, her freshman collection has been inspired by her travels to some of the world’s most exotic destinations. Hence, she plans to draw on the lush colours of the islands and the cosmopolitan flair of the big cities. In other words, swimwear that is highly fashionable, sexy and super functional. CFW 2017 (dubbed the Best of Caribbean Fashion Week) returns to Villa Ronai, Stony Hill, from June 7 to 11, for a glitzy, star-studded celebration featuring Grammy winner Ashanti, Fuse ODG, Meiling, Lois Samuels, Drenna Luna and dancehall hotshot-turned-urbanwear designer Alkaline, among a host of other noted names. 

BRANDS, BUZZ, BUSINESS: The countdown is on to next month’s inaugural Jamaica International Exhibition (JIE), which invites Jamaicans and members of the global community to experience the wealth of unique and high-quality products and services from over 40 different countries! Being put on by the Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA), at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, the JIE is a first in terms of its sheer size and magnitude and will see some 600 buyers and suppliers from within the region, South America, Canada, the United States, the UK and other parts of Europe and China, coming together to form new business relations and create investment opportunities. Following the Opening Ceremony and exhibition tour, led by PM Andrew Holness and government officials (on June 1), the exhibition will be open to the public for two days of business connections and retail therapy. A Jamaica International Party will bring the curtains down on the event on the night of Saturday, June 3. 

COME ON BOARD: The hundreds of Jamaicans who are expected to visit the Logos Hope Book Fair at Rockfort in Kingston, from May 12 to June 11, will be able to do more than just explore the ship’s 5000+ book titles. They will be able to participate in several onboard activities. Among the offerings: a live theatrical rendition of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (based on the classic C.S. Lewis novel, full of magic and mystery), being adapted for the stage by Jimmy Hendricks, working with director Tim Whitson. The performances are scheduled for Sunday, May 21 and Sunday, May 28 at 2:30pm. But prior to those shows, Friday, May 19, brings a Battle of the Arts, which invites patrons to experience the diversity of the world in a perfect mix of dance, music and more, performed by Logos Hope international crew members and young Jamaican artistes. The Logos Hope (considered the world’s largest floating book fair) is open to the public Tuesdays-Saturdays (10am to 9pm) and Sundays (2pm to 9pm). Information hotline: 585-3871.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

GIRL OF THE MOMENT: On-the-rise actress Renae Williams talks self-discovery, creative passions and her latest role

SHE'S GOT IT: Williams, co-starring in two plays this season, is ready for her close-up.

HITTING the books for a pharmacy degree at UTech appealed to Renae Williams’ academic instincts, but like many of her peers in contemporary Jamaican theatre, she soon realized that inhabiting characters under the bright lights is where her natural gifts are. 

Since making her commercial stage debut a few years ago (after getting her feet wet with the Tableaux performing-arts troupe), she’s played the conniving wife (Sins of the Flesh), the hard-to-please mistress (Saving Grace), a down-trodden old woman (The Trial of Governor Eyre) and the sassy teenage daughter Jada in 70X7: The Real Truth, still drawing audiences to The Blue Room. 

Now, Williams is gearing up to play against type as a devout Christian and single mother whose life takes an unexpected turn in Wah Sweet Nanny Goat, the new comedy-drama from writer-director-producer Fabian Barracks, opening this week at the Phoenix Theatre. Poised and headstrong, focused and determined to stay the course, Miss Williams makes it clear that the night is young on her career. TALLAWAH caught up with the 24-year-old Spanish Town native to talk theatre, finding balance and the joy of self-discovery. 

TALLAWAH: Appearing in consecutive theatre productions, in addition to your off-stage duties, has kept you busy in recent times. Are you enjoying the ride? 
Renae Williams: I am, and it’s been a fulfilling experience. I’m not an outgoing person, not very social, so when I do theatre it fills a big fat gap. I enjoy becoming a different person. I love that idea. 

TALLAWAH: Who is Renae Williams? 
Renae Williams: Renae is a young creative mind. Although I studied pharmacy at UTech, the creative side has always been dominant. I am the creative arts director at my church, so I write plays for productions that we put on. I also wrote pieces that have won awards at the JCDC Festival and Tallawah [at UWI Mona], and I still write poetry. The arts are my passion. 

TALLAWAH: Your new play, Wah Sweet Nanny Goat, opens in Kingston this week. Tell us about the character you’re portraying this time around. 
Renae Williams: I play Janet, who is actually a young single mother who is very rooted in her church. She can be very strict and she wants to impose her Christian beliefs on her daughter. But some unfortunate events happen, and Janet’s true character is exposed. 

TALLAWAH: Interesting. You’ve already worked with showrunners like David Tulloch, Suzanne Beadle (left) and Fabian Barracks, among others. What have you been learning on this journey? 
Renae Williams: All the directors approach their work differently, so when I’m working with a new director I try to understand their particular style, and that helps to make the process a bit smoother. Once I have an understanding of what they’re trying to achieve, you’re better able to get the job done.  

TALLAWAH: What’s the best of advice you’ve received since becoming an actress? 
Renae Williams: One of the more recent pieces of advice I’ve been given is that I am young and talented, therefore I should try to hone what I have; I’m not to hold back on my talent. And I’m not very social, so I’m being encouraged to get out there more and explore my options. 

TALLAWAH: We all have our mountains to climb and trials to endure. What are some of the hurdles you’ve had to overcome in the pursuit of your dreams? 
Renae Williams: The one big problem in my way was pharmacy school. I couldn’t wait to be done with it! (Laughs). The deeper I got into theatre, the harder it became to juggle school and preparing for shows. I had to give up a lot, sometimes rushing from school to get to rehearsal on time. A lot, a lot of sacrificing. 

TALLAWAH: Are you working in pharmaceuticals now? 
Renae Williams: No. Actually, I’m the sales and promotions manager at Made for Kids. I’ve been with them for two months now. We specialize in deodorants, bath washes and other supplies for kids. 

TALLAWAH: What keeps you grounded? 
Renae Williams: Just my passion for the arts. I love writing plays and poetry, doing stuff at my church. My writing helps me get through a lot of stuff. When we put on a a show and it’s well-received, the feedback is very motivating. It’s fulfilling. I think I’ve found what I’m really passionate about. 

> Wah Sweet Nanny Goat plays at the Phoenix Theatre May 9 to June 4. Tickets: 537-9564.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

THE BRAVE ONES: Usain Bolt makes his Kentucky Derby debut + Fraser-Pryce introduces her Lady Shelly line

KING OF THE HILL: “I’m not really a big horse-racing fan. I don’t like to lose money,” Usain Bolt confessed to PEOPLE, while attending the Kentucky Derby in the States on the weekend. The new Chief Entertainment Officer (CEO) for champagne giants Maison Mumm’s, Bolt took over the company’s offices in New York for a star-studded fiesta (Chanel Iman and Nina Agdal were among the guests), celebrating their enduring partnership with the Derby, along with Maison’s DareWinCelebrate campaign, and their “revolutionary” new bottle design for the Mumm’s Grand Cordon. One headline read, ‘Usain Bolt reinvents victory celebration for the Kentucky Derby.’ But by his own admission, up until this past weekend, the World’s Fastest Man was a KD virgin. “I’ve never been, but I’ve seen it,” he confided to PEOPLE. “My coach Glen Mills is a massive horse-racing fan. He owns horses and stuff, so he follows it. I’ve watched it a couple of times.” A few days earlier, Bolt joined his PUMA family, as the sportswear giants launched their latest NETFIT Technology products at the Altman Building in NYC. Next month brings the hotly anticipated JN Racers Grand Prix, one of the key meets leading up to his grand-farewell at the IAAF World Championships in England in August. 

THE MANE EVENT: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is all about hair that wins. And to help her sisters achieve that golden finish, the Olympian, businesswoman and expectant mom has created ‘magic in a bottle’ branded as the Lady Shelly line. Comprising six products with active organics to guarantee stunningly beautiful tresses, the Lady Shelly line looks set to attract a massive fanbase. With no sulfates, parabens or petroleum, Lady Shelly is an all-natural, organic line of hair products formulated with pure botanicals, plant extracts and essential oils a lady’s hair needs to be at its best. “I originally designed these products to take care of my hair in all the ways I love to wear it, and I’m excited to share it with you now,” says Fraser-Pryce. “Any way you wear your hair, you deserve hair that cleans, conditions and protects like a champ. Organic hair care for any hair. That’s my promise.” Lady Shelly is already generating a buzz on social media, with pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Visit to get more info.