Monday, 21 August 2017

TALLAWAH MONITOR: Shelly’s baby joy, Donisha Prendergast as leading lady, Suarez Brothers Circus, and more

SPECIAL DELIVERY: It’s a boy! Retired sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and hubby Jason Pryce are the proud parents of a healthy son whom they recently welcomed into their nest. His name is Zyon. Heartiest congrats to the fab couple, who will, of course, make great parents. As Fraser-Pryce has said in the past, motherhood is a role she was born to play. 

APPOINTMENT: There’s a new Chairman at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). Michael Stern, former MP for North-West Clarendon, has been given the nod, following approval from Karl Samuda (Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries). Stern, who replaces Genille Attalla (who resigned in June) was a state minister in the Bruce Golding administration and was among the parliamentarians embroiled in the 2009 dual citizenship issue that dominated media headlines. 

COMING TO TOWN: Ladies and gentlemen, step right this way! The Suaraz Brothers Circus, Mexico’s biggest spectacular attraction (founded in 1872!), is bringing its big top and a host of exciting features and creatures to Kingston (following a stopover in Ocho Rios), pitching tent at the National Stadium Complex from Friday, August 25. With flyers going up all over town and gradually generating a buzz, the SBC ( promises the experience of a lifetime for the entire family. The box office opens at 10am daily. Info hotline: 347-9769. 

SCREEN GEM: Bob Marley’s relentlessly achieving grand-daughter Donisha Prendergast brings her charms and star power to the travel documentary Rasta: A Soul’s Journey, directed by Stuart Samuels and executive-produced by Patricia Scarlett and Marilyn Gray. Rasta is the opening number for the 2017 Cinema Paradiso Portie Film Festival (now in its 7th year), on this month at Great Huts in Portland. A national tour is also being planned. For more information call 857-7828. 

WORTHY CAUSE: Recording artistes Jeffrey ‘Assassin’ Campbell and Jermaine Edwards have agreed to serve as ambassadors for the new ‘Save a Child, Save a Nation’ initiative (under the auspices of the Ministry of National Security and the Department of Correctional Services ‘We Transform’ programme). “I am humbled and honoured to have been considered for such an initiative. I think it’s critical that we all play whatever role we can in the development of our young people, our future,” Campbell offers. “Being a father, I understand that it takes real effort and commitment.”

Saturday, 19 August 2017

5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED: Multifaceted star Neisha-Yen Jones on dreaming big, self-discovery and telling the truth

AS I AM: "I love knowing more and having something to give back," the 30-someething phenom tells us.

DIVERSIFYING the résumé is the name of the game for Neisha-Yen Jones. She’s won acclaim on Broadway and in London’s West End, starring in shows like The Lion King and The Harder They Come. She’s lectured at the Edna Manley College’s School of Dance (she returns as a part-time instructor August 28). And local TV audiences have been getting to know her as a co-host of Daytime Live, a weekday gabfest on TV-J. This summer (while teaching musical theatre classes for Avant Academy), Jones is appearing in her first commercial production on the Jamaican stage, nabbing the female lead in David Tulloch’s explosive hit White Skin, Black Heart. Here, Miss Jones takes a moment to reflect on her journey: 

The Art of Performance 
“The best performance comes when it’s the truth; when it’s honest work you’re presenting. The purpose of art is to tell the stories of life, and so you have a responsibility to be honest.” 

“Women should always dream big. You should know that no pain lasts forever, no happiness lasts forever. You’re not as fat today as you thought (Laughs). You’re not as insecure as you feel and, as women, we’re more powerful than we know.” Success “It can only be measured by you. Don’t let anyone define your success for you. They have no right to put you in a box. I remember when I got to play Nala in The Lion King, and when it was over I was feeling empty because I was letting other people decide what that accomplishment meant. Now I see that the greatest success comes by just excelling in life and doing things I never thought I would do.” 

Being True to Yourself 
“I think that’s the most important thing. I think people too quickly get comfortable with where they are and what they’ve done. You have to keep searching deep within, take life in stages and don’t allow others to define you. I never knew I would be hosting a TV show or starring in a play, so you have to keep redefining you and do what you know makes you happy.” 

“It’s surprisingly wonderful (Laughs). I love my body more. I love knowing more and having something to give back like this musical theatre class I am teaching and choosing who I get to share that with. Now I know what I love. I know myself more.” 

> MORE NEISHA: Read our August 2016 piece on the stage star-turned-TV hostess

Thursday, 17 August 2017

YOU, ME & SHE: ‘Matey Chronicles’ whips up a combustible mix of sex, secrets and scandal

MAKE YOUR CHOICE: Things get pretty heated between Deer and Wilson.

The Matey Chronicles (Jambiz Productions) 
Director: Patrick Brown & Trevor Nairne 
Cast: Courtney Wilson, Sakina Deer, Sharee Elise and Glen Campbell 
Venue: Centrestage Theatre, New Kingston 

WHAT’s a prominent public figure to do when his sweetheart starts revealing intimate details of their affair on her blog, which quickly amasses an ardent following and becomes the hottest piece of gossip at the barber shop and the beauty salon? That’s the scandalous situation Isaiah Jakes (a commanding Wilson) finds himself in when Lola Stone (Deer, terrific) starts dishing about her mysterious “Mr. X” in cyberspace before a global audience. 

Lola, a gorgeous but needy girl, has no qualms about being the other woman (the ‘matey’ in Jamaican parlance), but it’s been two years of promises, promises and Isaiah sneaking to her apartment in the dead of night (disguised as her granny!) for hanky-panky. She feels she deserves more. For Lola, the time has come for him to put a ring on it. Never mind that Isaiah’s been married to the oblivious yet devoted Minerva (Elise, convincing as a Sunday-School-teacher type) for 22 years. Lola gives him an ultimatum: she’s tired of waiting and he must choose between her and the wife. 

Yes, sparks fly and tempers flare in Patrick Brown’s The Matey Chronicles, an edge-of-your-seat, popcorn-worthy comedy-drama that’s so juicy that by the time the plot is set, you’re dying to see how the action will climax and ultimately conclude. 

Brown’s storytelling prowess never ceases to amaze, and though the ending could have been a bit more imaginative, The Matey Chronicles comes off as a well-spun and thought-provoking piece of work, delving into matters of the heart, attitudes towards matrimony, choices and consequences. You alternately cheer and chastise these characters as they hurt each other, make up and begin the cycle all over again. 

Every the brilliantly versatile performer, Campbell is the fourth wheel this time around, appearing as Ras B, Isaiah’s long-serving gardener, personal chauffeur and a shoulder to cry on when the Lola mess hits the fan. Though the play echoes predecessors like The Baby Scam, Brown and Nairne manage to bring a freshness to the production that goes in hand in hand with its tabloid appeal – and the very natural acting style that the players (all Jambiz veterans) bring to the stage. 

A suitably functional set design and apt lighting make strong contributions to the show’s overall success. 

If nothing else, The Matey Chronicles is a bonafide conversation starter. For one thing, it’s bound to have the restless husbands in the audience weighing the pros and cons of embarking on extra-marital romps. At the same time, the mateys, too, have to take an honest appraisal of such relations – the betrayal, the heartache. As for the wives: it’s midnight, do you know where your man is? Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

NEWS FEED: Holness launches youth summer work programme + St. Thomas girl cops Farm Queen title + Quarrie lays down the law

WORK TO BE DONE: Over the course of the next four weeks, some 2300 youths across the island will be employed under the National Youth Service Employment Programme. The programme, launched by PM Andrew Holness at Jamaica College on August 10, will see the young workers engaged in the auditing of street lights, identifying vulnerable persons within communities who may require assistance during periods of natural disasters and other forms of emergency, and identifying streets for which signs are missing. “Some street lights are on but the lights are dim. We want to know which street lights are out, so that we can better provide the service for the communities,” Holness told the gathering. The youth work programme is being spearheaded by the local government ministry and will run from August 4 to September 8. Each worker will be paid a weekly $8000 stipend. 

WINNER TAKES ALL: One of the highlights of the annual Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon is the crowning of the National Farm Queen. This year’s winner is Trudiann Ashmead, a 25-year-old St. Thomas native currently pursuing gender and development studies at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). In addition to a handsome cash prize from title sponsors Nutramix, Ashmead won a scholarship to pursue studies of her choice at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) and will embark on a two-week exchange programme courtesy of Delaware State University. 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? What’s the way forward for Jamaica’s senior athletics programme in the wake of the disappointing results gleaned at the 16th IAAF World Championships in London – not to mention the shocking report of an altercation between two of the country’s female representatives at the championships? Taking stock and looking ahead, technical leader Donald Quarrie has laid down the law. “Guidelines are going to have to be set up and enforced, and athletes are going to have to understand that if you are not prepared to step up to the line, you can be replaced – even if it means we are not going to win,” Quarrie told The Gleaner’s André Lowe. “We have to start somewhere as it relates to certain disciplinary means of making sure our athletes realize that when it comes to the country – especially in the relays – the country comes first.”

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

TALK OF THE TOWN: J'can sprintng has "taken a pause," says Donald Quarrie

What are we to make of Team Jamaica's dismal showing at the just-concluded London World Championships? Some people feel it was an immense letdown, given our tendency to dominate the sprints and come away from these global championships with no less than eight medals. This time around, we bagged half of that amount (one gold and three bronzes). Is the high standard of our athletics gradually eroding? The best person to answer is Donald Quarrie, the contingent's technical leader, who says "we have taken a pause." But what does this mean exactly? "Things have not come through the way [we] planned, and that's part of track-and-field," he is quoted as saying. "Let's go back to the drawing board, maintain our name and standard in the sprints and build up the other areas. We have taken a pause, but we will be a force to reckon with very soon again." As they say, optimism should always win in the end... 

The JCDC has been winning all season long and deserve magnificent kudos for the excellent production value they brought to the Emancipendence/Jamaica 55 events inside the National Arena - from the Festival Queen coronation, Gospel Song Finals and World Reggae Dance to Mello Go Roun' and the lavish Grand Gala that people are still talking about. Does this mean the Stadium Complex has replaced the Ranny Williams Centre as the home base for the annual Emancipendence festivities? 

And speaking of winners, we have to give props to the original Dancehall Queen Carlene, who is still fit, fly and fabulous after all these years. Carlene was one of the judges for the World Reggae Dance Championships, and she was a sight for sore eyes. She's still got it! 

While 15 Usain Bolt Tracks & Records are set to spring up across the UK over the course of the next five years, it seems Fiction (its Marketplace neighbour) is on its way back to the top of the night-life food chain, having been refurbished, reconceptualized and 'reopened' for the word-hard, play harder VIPs, to the tune of US$1 million. "The room is completely new and we're not done yet," boasts smart businessman and big spender David 'Squeeze' Annakie


> Will you be tuning to The Rich & The Ruthless, a new soap opera produced by Victoria Rowell (The Young & The Restless), set to air on TV-J? 

> Is the upcoming Pride Jamaica Conference an invitation-only event or will it be open to the general public?

BEAUTY OF THE WEEK: Actress Lakeisha Ellison stays health-conscious amidst life-and-work challenges

RARE BIRD: "Things I know now I'm applying them. I'm honing my craft more," says the actress, pictured below with Frenemy costar Oliver Samuels.

"I don't worry. Things I know have no control over I don't let them bother me. I try to put myself at a better place at all times. That keeps me young. I focus on what's necessary," dishes Lakeisha Ellison, looking like a dime piece backstage at the Jamaican Shopping Club Theatre, where she is co-starring in her latest play, Frenemy, opposite Oliver Samuels, Dennis Titus and Volier Johnson. 

As she tells TALLAWAH, the production, which opened last month and runs for several more weeks before going on tour, is keeping her on her toes. In fact, it's made her realize some personal shortcomings. "It takes a lot out of you in rehearsals and in the show. It really gets in your brain," she says. "So I realized that I'm slacking up when it comes to exercising regularly and taking my vitamins and minerals." 

For this veteran actress and working mother of a teenage son, tending to her health and well-being is of paramount importance. It goes without saying. "Usually I'm the kind of person who will work out a bit in the morning, not a lot. I still do it, but I'm getting older. I like to stay healthy. I drink a lot of water because when I don't it shows on me," she explains. "I like the way I look. I love my body." 

With her curly diva tresses, hoop earrings and slender physique, Ellison is the very picture of secure womanhood. For her, being comfortable in her own skin has simply been a journey of self-acceptance, hard work and being principled. 

"I don't wear makeup unless I have a show. I don't party. I don't smoke. Staying away from those things helps you to keep your youth," notes the actress, who confesses that she's "not enjoying meat any more." "I love young people," she adds. "I have a lot of friends who I can depend on for support and I have a son, big man now, who has taught me to love unconditionally and never give up on your child." 

Ellison, who loves a good live performance (she enjoyed Spice's set at last month's Reggae Sumfest) has been having a solid run in local theatre, since emerging from the Area Youth Foundation and finding solo stardom. She's worked with everyone from Ellis International (He Said, She Said) to Jambiz Productions (Blind Spot) and is now doing a radio drama (Money Dirt on Roots FM) and gearing up to begin shooting a classic love story with a Jamaican twist for director Paul Bucknor and Firefly Films.

"I actually feel very good about my growth. Things I know now I'm applying them. I'm honing my craft more," says the soon-to-turn 40 Ellison. "I am comfortable with my career, but I know I have a long way to go."

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

CHAT 'BOUT: Phillips on modernizing agriculture, Chisholm on freedom of speech, Matalon on Tracks & Records' global expansion...

"For Jamaica I believe this signifies the first time a local, home-grown concept has evolved into becoming an international franchise. This confirms Brand Jamaica's potential and gives us widespread hope that we can export many other Jamaican brands through this business model." — FranJam's Gary Matalon confirming news that they've inked a deal with Casual Dining Restaurants Group (CDRG) to open 15 Usain Bolt Tracks & Records branches in the UK over the course of the next 15 years

"Over the last 30 years, we've had a tripling of the crime rate and the intake of cases into the system and the same number of courts. We are reaping the benefits of what we have sown because successive governments have treated the justice system like Cinderella without any hope of ever finding a prince." — DPP Paula Llewellyn speaking out on what she deems the decades of neglect of the judicial system by successive administrations resulting in an increased backlog of Home Circuit Court cases

"Too many of our farmers still operate within the support of marketing, which is available to other farmers in other countries. I say this not to blame anyone, but just to make the point that as we go forward into the next phase of our Independence, we must determine not only to feed ourselves but to feed ourselves by supporting a modern farming community." — Dr. Peter Phillips addressing attendees at last week's 65th anniversary staging of the Denbigh Agricultural show in Clarendon

"You definitely can't celebrate Prof. Brendan Bain's freedom of expression yet demonise others (like Bishop Howard Gregory and Garnett Roper) when they exercise their right to freedom of expression in a view with which you disagree." — Theologian Clinton Chisholm weighing in on responses to the Brendan Bain ruling and the renowned buggery-law debate

"The output from schools creates society. Students have so many rights these days you wonder what is wrong. People in the 40, 50, 60 age groups came up in the old school system and have a better sense of what's right and wrong. Now that that is removed, everyone is doing their thing because they have rights. And then you have these demands being placed on youngsters and the outcomes are unfortunate, as in this case." — Meadowbrook High School principal, Michael Peart, responding to the shooting death of promising 17-year-old student and Arnett Gardens resident Mickolle Moulton

FIRE & ICE: Tulloch delivers edge-of-your-seat thrills with latest hit, White Skin, Black Heart

THE WAY WE WERE: Rubie and Tulloch play ex-lovers who don't always see eye to eye.

White Skin, Black Heart (Probemaster Productions) 
Director: David Tulloch 
Cast: Neisha-Yen Jones, Kimberly Rubie, Gracie-Ann Watson and David Tulloch 
Venue: The Blue Room (Phoenix Theatre), New Kingston 

THE discerning theatergoer in the market for a well-spun, balanced and strongly acted play to take in this summer can hardly do any better than White Skin, Black Heart, the explosive new dramedy from writer-director David Tulloch. Tulloch scores again, leaving no stone unturned with this gut-punching exploration of relationship dynamics, mental health, trust and addiction, among other provocative issues. 

You’ll laugh, clap, cringe and get downright cross as you take in the antics of these folks caught up in bitter domestic disputes, messy breakups and the never-ending struggle to get it right or let go and walk away. In spite of its claustrophobic setting (a quibble for almost every play staged in The Blue Room) and one-note lighting, White Skin strikes powerful and authentic notes as it delves into matter of the heart. 

Neisha-Yen Jones gives a dynamite performance in the central role, playing Kerry, a good-natured woman who just lost her job in Kingston but has found love with a great man (Tulloch as smooth operator Nicholas), who has asked her to come share his MoBay apartment while she sorts things out. She gladly accepts. 

But, as Kerry soon discovers, some things are just too good to be true. Not only does Nicholas have an 11-year-old daughter (Nastassia Prendergast as Jillian), he has to share custody with the world’s craziest ex-wife – a snooty fair-lady-in-pearls named Madison (played to the hilt by newcomer Kimberly Rubie) – who makes it clear that she’ll make life difficult for her ex-husband’s new flame. Baggage, baggage, baggage.

But Kerry is no Mother Teresa, given the secrets she’s been harbouring from a past that Nicholas seems to know very little about. Meanwhile, Gracie-Ann Watson brings ample comic relief to Tension Central as Kerry’s ghetto-fabulous sistren Stacey, who preaches a powerful fight-for-your-man message. Shaun Drysdale rounds out the cast as her boo, Marcus. 

It’s a deeply felt and realistic show that brings the humour, soap opera drama and some erotic electricity and fireworks. 

Tulloch deserves kudos not just for a splendid script and assured direction but for a performance that’s both convincing and nuanced. Jones’ Broadway/West End experience comes in handy as she transforms Kerry into an embattled woman who owns her flaws and shortcomings and is willing to fight for her happy ending. And who can’t relate to that? Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Monday, 14 August 2017

NEWS & NOTES: Grace Jones biopic for TIFF premiere + First J’ca Pride Conference launched + FSC gets new Exec Director

PREMIERE: Grace Jones has had quite a life, so fans and film buffs are in for a captivating cinematic experience when they take in Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, the hotly anticipated biopic that gets it debut at next month’s Toronto International Film Festival in Canada. Directed by Sophie Fiennes, the film (which has a running time of 115 minutes) offers an unconventional, up-close-and-personal snapshot of Jones’ life, work and evolution, tracing her Jamaican roots (she was born in Spanish Town), personal trials and triumphs and the career highlights spanning the classic albums (including 1985’s Slave to the Rhythm) and big-screen roles (such as playing a Bond girl in A View to Kill). Speaking with the UK’s The Independent, the filmmaker noted that the project got off the ground because the famously private Jones was finally willing to let the world in. The biopic took five years to complete. “Grace had fiercely controlled her public image but made the bold decision to unmask,” Fiennes said in her interview. “The film is a deliberately present-tense experience.” The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is scheduled for September 7 to 17. Visit for details. 

CONFERENCE: Times they are a-changing. According to reports, the inaugural Pride Jamaica Conference was launched on Emancipation Day (August 1) at UWI Mona’s Faculty of Law, with presentations being made by stakeholders in the local LGBT community, including directors of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG). The conference, being planned for sometime later this year, has been dubbed a celebration of LGBT life, culture and issues in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the Diaspora. Andrew Campbell, one of the advocates championing the cause, says the conference represents a significant stepping-stone for the local gay community. Says Campbell, “[The conference is aimed at] creating a forum for LGBT persons, advocates and allies to come together to engage in meaningful dialogue.” 

APPOINTMENT: With his two-decades-plus experience in developing and leading successful economic and regulatory policy initiatives in the public sector, Everton McFarlane seems ideally cast in the role of the Financial Services Commission’s (FSC) new Executive Director. The appointment took effect August 2. As ED, McFarlane will lead the team’s mandate to deliver a balanced, consistent and effective regulatory programme “that will inspire confidence in Jamaica’s financial system.” A former Financial Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, McFarlane (above with finance minister Audley Shaw) has played key roles in driving the development of comprehensive frameworks on tax policy reform and financial services regulation. A UWI Mona graduate, he holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics.

Friday, 11 August 2017

GOOD NEWS: Denbigh 65 scores high marks + Starbucks Jamaica franchise in the works + Tracey cops 400M hurdles bronze in London

AGAINST ALL ODDS: Securing the bronze for Team Jamaica in the final of the Women’s 400M Hurdles at the IAAF World Championships in London on Thursday, fearless contender Ristananna Tracey clocked a lifetime best of 53.74 seconds, behind the American duo of Kori Carter (gold) and Dalilah Muhammad (silver). Speaking with IAAF Radio immediately after this career-defining moment, Tracey expressed mixed feelings about the outcome. “It was a great feeling; don’t know how to explain it. I expected a [personal best], and I chopped off a lot of time since I’ve been here, so I’m grateful and very happy,” she noted. The conditions in London since the start of the championships, she pointed out, have been wildly unpredictable. “The weather has been up and down, but once you go on the track, it makes you feel warm and want to do your best, and the crowd support has been great,” the 25-year-old told the interviewer. After London, she has a couple more races left in her season then the plan is “to go home and get some rest.” Tracey’s bronze brings to three, Jamaica’s medal tally, adding to the bronze won by Usain Bolt in the 100M and Omar McLeod’s gold in the 110M hurdles.

PRIDE OF A NATION: What made last weekend’s 65th staging of the Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon one of the most successful in recent years? Proper execution of a well-crafted plan. President and CEO of Jamaica Broilers, Christopher Levy, has nothing but high praises for the Norman Grant-led Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS). “The parish pavilions were very impressive and the level of organization, cleanliness and attention to detail really demonstrated that people care about what they are doing,” Levy noted in a letter to the Gleaner’s editor. The vastly improved agri-industrial show (coupled with the efforts of the participating farmers) gives hope, Levy says, that agriculture in Jamaica is making a return to the glory days. “The overall setting and general management of the grounds showed a marked improvement over last year. It was apparent that the pride in farming and the desire to be outstanding farmers is returning to Jamaica.”

ISLAND FLAVOUR: According to recent reports, coffee-on-the-go giants Starbucks will soon be establishing operations in Jamaica. Ian Dear, proprietor of Express Catering and one of the partners in the Starbucks Jamaica franchise, says they plan to open at least three Starbucks cafés at the Sangster International Airport, thanks to a joint venture with Caribbean Coffee Traders, which has secured the rights to develop the brand in Jamaica and a few other Caribbean islands. “We have every intention of making Jamaican coffee central to the Starbucks experience in Jamaica, [but] it will be a work in progress because of how [Starbucks] operates,” Dear explains. “Every single bean gets sent back to the roasting facility and then sent back to the [franchise] destination. It is a process, and it’s very controlled, so the quality is consistent everywhere you go.” Starbucks is an internationally renowned enterprise operating over 2500 coffee shows around the world under franchise arrangements.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

GETTING THEIR DUE: Theatre’s Patrick Brown, musician Rosina Moder to receive National Order of Distinction

CREATIVE SPIRITS: Moder and Brown are among those to be recognized for their work in the arts.

EACH successive year that the National Honours & Awards are handed out at King’s House, the arts community is usually well represented among the scores of honorees. This year is no different. 

Among those set to be conferred with honours are prolific playwright Patrick Brown, legendary actor Carl Bradshaw, musician and music educator Rosina Moder, entertainment industry icons Copeland Forbes, Clyde McKenzie and Lloyd Stanbury, and stage stalwart Joseph ‘Josey Wales’ Sterling – who will all receive the Order of Distinction (OD) in the Officer Class come National Heroes Day. 

In the rank of Commander, this year’s OD recipients include Phase 3 Productions’ Dr. Marcia Forbes, master blender Joy Spence, the art world’s Keith Anthony Morrison and Robert Russell, widely known for his involvement with the annual Reggae Sumfest festival, now in its 25th year. 

Meanwhile, five estimable movers-and-shakers will be officially made members of the Order of Jamaica (OJ): MVP Track Club’s Stephen Francis, philanthropist Philip Gore, businessman and humanitarian Anthony Keith Hart, UWI Mona principal Prof. Archibald McDonald and Ambassador Clifton George Stone. 

The rarefied Order of Merit (OM), whose past recipients include Bob Marley and Louise Bennett-Coverley, will be conferred on enduring reggae legend Bunny Wailer (né Neville O’Riley Livingston) for his outstanding and pioneering contribution to the field of popular music. 

> The More the Merrier: Additional Order of Distinction honorees 

Commander Class: 
Chris Gayle 
Don Wehby 
George Quallo 
Justice Bryan Sykes 
John Lynch 
Clifton Yap 
Paul Hoo 

Officer Class: 
Stafanie Taylor 
Maurice Wilson 
Simone Edwards 
Rev. Glen Samuels 
George HoSang 
Paul Pennicook 
Theodore Whitmore

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

WONDER WOMAN: Charlize Theron returns to sizzling form in inky action thriller Atomic Blonde

CALL HER LORRAINE: The Oscar winner defies the odds in her latest role.

CHARLIZE Theron, by all appearances, is carving out a niche for herself in the realm of action cinema. The Oscar winner stunned critics and audiences with her transformation and spot-on performance in 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road, and earlier this year she brought the heat (and some throwback braids) in Furious 8, opposite Vin Diesel and the gang.

This summer, she adopts a British accent and returns to butt-kicking form to star in Atomic Blonde as Lorraine Broughton, a tough-as-nails agent who gets sent to punk-rock Berlin on a top-secret assignment. It turns out to be the most challenging and perilous undertaking of her 'career' with one near-death experience after another.

But Theron's Lorraine (who teams up with a slippery contact played by James McAvoy) loves the adrenaline rush (and her vodka) and racks up a body count that only increases in the wake of some truly acrobatic stunts — including a high-flying escape through a way-above-ground window, using a cord hung around some poor bloke's neck. 

John Goodman and Toby Jones co-star in this inky, action-packed thriller, based on a graphic series adapted for the screen by writer Kurt Johnstad and directed by David Leitch, who pulls some captivating stuff out of his leading lady. 

We always knew Theron was cut out for these kinds of roles. The signs were there all along. And it has nothing to do with the fact that the South African actress has the statuesque built of an Amazonian warrior queen; she draws on craft and technique and rigorous training to make her death-defying work on-screen appear effortless. 

Aeon Flux was a huge flop (stylish though), but since then Theron has redeemed herself many times over. The primary highlight of her career, of course, is nabbing the Best Actress Oscar for inhabiting one of the most unglamorous roles in history: that of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003's Monster. A year later, she was back in the race for playing a beleaguered mine worker in North Country

These days, she's enjoying a change of pace. Those kinds of dramatic parts are in the rear-view mirror (for now, at least), as Miss Theron morphs into this era's queen of the (action) pack. Tyrone's Verdict: B

STORMING THE STAGE: St. Thomas-based Xclusive Dancers win 2017 World Reggae Dance Championships

WE THE BEST: After four tries, Xclusive Dancers (with Olivia 'Babsy' Grange) emerged winners of the annual dance competition.

"We are just creative people, and the talent is in the East," declares Acoy Francis, one of the members of Xclusive Dancers, this year's winner of the World Reggae Dance Championships. The six-member troupe hails from St. Thomas, a parish that has a rich, world-renowned cultural heritage that the new generation, especially the street dancers, seem intent on modernizing. "St. Thomas is known for kumina and those cultural [practices], and so we have that history and legacy to inspire us," Francis says, adding that other St. Thomas-based dance groups have entered the competition and done well. In fact, Endeavorous Dancers won the title a few years ago.

Comprised of Francis, Sidon Coke, Aston Broderick, Michael Foster, Lionel Foster and Hakeem Smith, the guys (all in their 20s and early 30s) started the group while attending Yallahs High more than a decade ago. They are all friends. But sticking together and perfecting their formula has been a journey fraught with challenges. "The journey has had lots of ups and downs, lots of obstacles to overcome. We have been doing this for so long that to finally win a competition like this is a great feeling," Francis reflects, while pointing out that 2017 marks their fourth time entering the WRD competition, and third time advancing to the final round.

 "It's a great achievement," adds Broderick, "to win something that's a part of the culture." For their irst-place win Xclusive Dancers took home $500,000 and other prizes. Among the sectional awards, they won Best Costumed Group.

This year's World Reggae Dance Championships culminated inside the National Arena with a sizzling grand finale last Friday night, featuring dance groups from as far as Poland (Tr888 Team), France (NSA Dancers) and Australia (Jungle City Dancers) competing against local-based groups for over one million dollars in cash and prizes. 

Second place went to Kingston's Straight Edge Dancers (who had their very own Donald Trump and Spider Man), while Street Team, also from the Corporate Area, came third. But the darling of Friday's finale was Tr888 Team, a Polish contingent made up of five hyper-energetic girls. They copped three sectional prizes — Most Disciplined, Most Popular on Social Media and Best International Group. "We appreciate your culture and we are happy to be here," the beaming girls dished backstage. "This is the best experience of our lives."

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

CHAT ’BOUT: Less ‘talk’ for Cabinet ministers; Did we fight for Independence?; Bolt the all-time champion…

“Unlike so many nations, we never had to fight for our Independence. We qualified for that Independence on the basis of our own economic, cultural and political development, the stability of our democracy and the distinction of our natural resources. Remaining a colony at a time when most former British, French, Belgian and Portuguese colonies were gaining Independence around the globe would have been a backward step.” – Political historian Troy Caine reflecting on Jamaica’s 55-year journey as an Independent West Indian nation 

“A board as critical as the FLA should not be subjected to political appointments as this places the country at risk of legally arming the wrong persons. We run the risk of turning a blind eye to the late 1970s when, as a nation we [were] plunged into a dungeon of political civil war led by the political powers of the time.” – Trelawney-based clergyman Devere Nugent weighing in on the recent controversy surrounding the Firearm Licensing Authority

“If there are any breaches above that [amount] then arrangements will have to be made by respective ministers to pay from their salaries or other arrangements. Based on our survey of rates and usage, we expect you would have voice charges, data charges, opportunities [to use] Wi-Fi, roaming charges, etc. Certainly $40,000 is a reasonable amount. Cabinet reviewed the proposal and we agreed on that.” – Information minister Ruel Reid announcing (at a recent post-Cabinet press briefing) that Government had approved a cap of $40,000 on the monthly mobile and closed user group bills of Cabinet ministers 

“There are so many things over the years that I have done, that I have made myself proud, and I am happy with my career. I think it went well. I wished I could have finished on a high, but it was one of those things… I think I put a little pressure on myself. I know if I didn’t get in the race early I would be in trouble, and I think I might have played that on my mind a little too much. I tried to get back in the race as quickly as possible, but it wasn’t enough.” – The World’s Fastest Man giving his post-race analysis of the Men’s 100M final at the London World Championships, where he took the bronze medal behind Americans Justin Gatlin (gold) and Christian Coleman (silver) 

“Usain has caused, and will continue to cause us, to walk with our heads held high as Jamaicans. In terms of his performance on the track, he’s had no equal and I’m very proud and grateful for all that he’s done. He will forever be our champion.” – Sports minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange heaping praise on legendary sprinter Usain Bolt, who is retiring from athletics after this season’s IAAF World Championships

ON THE SCENE: Queen Ifrica + Coleen Douglas + Tessanne Chin + Cortia Bingham + Earl Jarrett + Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange

EMBRACEABLE YOU: July 30, St. James. A favourite Government minister for countless Jamaicans, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange shares a warm embrace with a youngster after attending last Sunday’s National Church Service to mark the official start of the 2017 Emancipendence celebrations. The service was held at the Calvary Baptist Church in Montego Bay. (Photo: Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange) 

PIECE OF CAKE: July 27, Kingston. Recording artiste and new Sagicor brand champion Tessanne Chin oozes her trademark radiance while cozying up to a delectable gateau, following her signing at Sagicor head office last Thursday. (Photo: Sagicor) 

SPREADING THE WORD: July 24, Kingston. On the occasion of the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference, which drew a large attendance (over 1200 persons flew in), Jamaica National general manager and organizing committee chair, Earl Jarrett, spent time greeting delegates, many of whom hadn’t been back to Jamaica in years. (Photo: JN Bank)

LADIES WHO BRUNCH: July 23, Kingston. The increasingly popular ‘We Inspire Women’ movement has a long roster of events planned for the remainder of the year. As a warm-up, the ladies recently put on a ‘Be the Woman’ soiree, which drew support from the likes of communications pro Coleen Douglas (left), seen here sharing lens time with team leader Cortia Bingham. (Photo: Sleek) 

IN THE MOOD: July 22, St. James. Delivering one of the most talked-about performances of the festival, Queen Ifrica is captivated by the stirring music (selections from her popular catalogue) that had the supersized crowd singing along. (Photo: Sleek)

NEWS FEED: Former PM Edward Seaga specially honoured during #Jamaica55 Grand Gala

TRAIL BLAZER: For his pioneering efforts and contribution to national development, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga was specially honoured during Sunday’s Grand Gala on Independence Day, Sunday August 6, inside the National Stadium. According to a release from the culture ministry, Seaga, the country’s fifth prime minister, was recognized as the only living member of the committee that established the constitution of Independent Jamaica and the 1963 Jamaica Festival, when the Grand Gala was first held. Says culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, “As a nation, [we say] thank you to former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, the father of the Jamaica Festival, for this commemorative activity, which continues to assist the growth and development of our country.” 

BUILT FOR SPEED: When Usain Bolt graces the track inside the London Stadium this weekend to compete for his fourth 100M World Championship title, his feet will be clad in a pair of purple and gold running shoes dubbed the Bolt Legacy Spikes, designed by his longtime sponsors PUMA. They were unveiled during a press conference on Tuesday in London, where the sprint superstar’s parents, Wellesley and Jennifer, surprised him by appearing on stage to present him with the shoes. The colourful spikes were designed to show details from key moments of his journey. “The colour purple was my school colour, when I was in high school. That’s where it started,” Bolt reflected. “The gold is: I am the golden boy. Purple and gold – they are nice.” 

SHINING EXAMPLES: A fitting coda to Usain Bolt’s athletics career and sterling exploits for the country is the captaincy of Team Jamaica, which takes on global competitors in London, from August 4 to 13, at the 16th IAAF World Championships. The World’s Fastest Man and compatriot Novlene Williams-Mills have been appointed male and female captains respectively. Both Bolt, who has eight Olympic gold medals and 11 World Champs gold medals in his trophy case, and Williams-Mills, who led Jamaica to the 4X400M gold at the 2015 World Champs in Beijing, have announced that they will retire from the sport at the end of the London championships.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

IN HER OWN WORDS: Creative artist and doting mom Stephanie opens a bold new chapter in her evolving story

IT IS WRITTEN: "This moment means everything to me," shares the singer and first-time author.

LATE afternoon patrons are trickling into Suzie’s Bakery, off Constant Spring Road, to satisfy their sweet tooth, when Stephanie arrives for her interview accompanied by her precious baby girl Madison. It’s been another hectic day in the life of this hardworking single mom, songstress and superwoman who just left the studio and entered a long line of traffic to get here.

By now Stephanie is accustomed to life in the fast lane, as she navigates recording career, parenthood, family life and the latest addition to the ever-expanding résumé: first-time author. That’s why we’re here, braving the sweltering heat on Suzie’s deck, to talk about the project and this latest tangent on her evolutionary curve.

Diary of a Scorpion Lover, Stephanie’s self-published debut is a work of creative non-fiction born from a desire to piece together some of her life experiences and share them with readers. “The book was really inspired by my 20s. I wanted to relate some of the most dynamic and impactful experiences I’ve had because these are stories and conversations that I know will resonate with people; people who are dealing with issues related to love and heartbreak and chasing their dreams,” explains the 30-plus artiste, who feels the semi-autobiographical slant is a plus. 

After all, fans and a large percentage of the general book-buying public crave deeply personal narratives when it comes to the reading material they’ll give their time. “I wanted to do it in a very honest, bold and truthful way, capturing the joys and sorrows, the erotic and the enlightening, so people can see themselves in it,” says Stephanie, who also seized the opportunity to explore some of the relationships that have had meaningful impact on her life. That includes lessons from her mom and walking away from a marriage that was no longer fulfilling. But more on that later. 

In the end, she concedes, Diary of a Scorpion Lover (she’s a Scorpio by birth) is essentially about truth-telling and that lifelong quest to achieve physical and emotional balance. “I think I’ve achieved a very healthy balance with this first book,” says the author who enjoys reading Lisa Kaypas and Jackie Collins. “The sum total of us is balance and how that balance helps to shape our lives.” 


Since its release over a month ago, the book has garnered strong feedback, with reviews coming in from as far as Chile and Australia. Every copy from the first shipment has been sold (another shipment is due this month), and it’s available for tech-savvy readers via e-book and on Kindle. “The response has been overwhelming, especially on the social media pages,” Stephanie notes, as we sip glasses of lemonade. “My immediate inner circle has been really supportive.” 

Onlookers have always rooted for indie talents like Stephanie Wallace who seldom get the mainstream recognition they deserve but are unrelenting in the face of their hurdles and setbacks. In the span of five years, Stephanie has released two albums and an EP (including a Christmas set), launched her own record label (Havatio Records) and put together a band for overseas tour engagements. 

Now here she is with a brand new book she’s written all by herself. “This moment means everything to me. I’ve had so many things I’ve wanted to accomplish and I’ve been sitting on them, seeing other people fulfill their dreams. I had to decide that it was now or never,” she explains. “I had to fight and push through to be able to be in this position speaking my truth, which is the truth of so many. I’m feeling good.” 

Among the other career highlights of which she’s immensely proud: going on tour earlier this year with her good friend Peter Lloyd and releasing her Catharsis album in 2015. And it’s wholly important, she adds, that she keep her eyes on the prize. “My art is not just my voice but also the voice of others,” says the formerly self-managed singer and Ashé alumna, who is now signed with Blacklight Records, based in Montego Bay. “Being proactive is my motto, so that I can bring the rest of my goals and my dreams to fruition.” 


Becoming a mom was also a dream come for Stephanie whose daughters Sharlize and Madison are now 12 and six years old respectively. She calls them her little girlfriends. “I enjoy it so much; watching my kids grow up. [Sharlize, now in second form at Queen’s] is at that age where she’s able to do a lot on her own, without my supervision. She’s a smart and intelligent young lady. We’re more like sisters now,” the doting mommy tells us with a chuckle. “It’s so much fun. We share a lot of the same things. We’re girlfriends really.” 

Stephanie is no longer in a relationship with Stephen, the girls’ father to whom she was married for three years. It’s complicated. Irreconcilable differences eventually drew them apart. But they’ve vowed to remain in each other’s lives for the sake of their girls. Stephanie declines to go into detail about the split, but she does offer this: “That situation has given me more than it has taken away from me.” (Efforts to contact Stephen for a comment for this article proved futile.) 

In any case, Stephen’s continued support goes a long way in easing some of the pressure of single motherhood. “We coparent very well,” she says. “So the girls have a very good example of adults getting along.” 

Another good example she is determined to provide for her daughters has to do with her dating life. Stephanie is currently single and decidedly so. “Between being a full-time mom, doing my music and growing my brand, it’s a whole lot,” she confesses. “It’s important for me to lay back from the dating scene. I want my girls to see me navigate that aspect of my life in a very courageous way. I want them to see me being strong and independent in spite of the challenges.” 

These days, Stephanie’s plate is full to overflowing, but she would have it no other way. It’s the path she’s chosen – being a multifaceted queen wearing multiple hats. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far,” she says reflectively, “is that in doing all these things, I have to see them through to the end.” 

> BOOK LOVER: Stephanie shares 5 of her favourite titles