Monday, 4 September 2017

PUTTING IN WORK: Creative-preneur Donovan ‘JR’ Watkis devotes his time to equally fun and fulfilling projects

ME, MYSELF & I: The 32-year-old go-getter is known for his keen interest in multiple disciplines.

Making admirable strides as he builds his empire, businessman and proud dad Donovan Watkis Jr. is drawing on careful planning, skilful time management and lessons learned to guarantee success. TALLAWAH meets a real mogul-in-training.

SO what do you want to know about Donovan Watkis Jr? That he’s an author who recently published his second book (the essay collection Colouring Culture), a newspaper columnist whose incisive social commentary has graced the pages of The Gleaner, or that he’s a filmmaker, an artiste manager (Donald ‘Iceman’ Anderson), an award-winning actor, a divorcé, and a father of four young kids? 

Watkis (now 32), a sturdily built fellow and highly driven go-getter, doesn’t believe in squandering the hours. He takes action as soon as it becomes necessary, and the impressively varied results speak for themselves. So what’s his philosophy? “I’m not wasting time. The real achievers in the world start from early. Anything you want to do you have to start from early,” he tells us on a postcard-perfect afternoon on the balcony of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel that overlooks the glistening pool.

In person and in conversation, Watkis is the kind of man who commands and holds your attention. He’s deeply analytical, his words full of keen observations, insight and life lessons. “Never live your life to please people. It’s the quickest way to depression and sadness. Make sure you’re good first before you try to help other people,” he emphasizes. “You have to take care of yourself first before you even attempt to take care of anybody else.”

Yes, he has the smarts and uptown sophistication (he’s also spent in the States), but Donovan Watkis Jr. is a country boy at heart. He grew up in Buff Bay, Portland, and graduated from Titchfield High before moving on to the Edna Manley College, where he completed a Drama in Education degree. These days, his mom who raised him as a single parent and is still “pretty involved” in his life, resides in the States. His father, who lives in Canada, he met just two years ago.

Donovan won’t so much as refer to his dad as a deadbeat or a letdown, but there is no love lost between them. That’s why, now more than ever, he wants to be terrific father and consummate role model to his kids – the kind he never had growing up. “It was hard, you know, growing up with just my mom, but she raised me right. So I know I have to be a better dad than [my father] was to me,” he says. Evidently, he’s well on his way.

Nothing gives Donovan Watkis greater joy and satisfaction than watching his kids grow up and being able to provide for them. (He’s in the throes of writing another book called Dad to the Bone). He has three sons (Marquis-Jordan, 7; Zachary-Duke, 2 and Josiah, almost six months) and daughter Hannah-Grace, who is soon to turn one. In case you’re doing the math, you’re right. He got two kids in one year. (“The moms are incredible,” he says. Just so you know.)

But why the rush though? “I told you, I’m not wasting time,” he says, laughing mischievously. “My grandfather had eight kids, but four is my limit. I’m cool with the quartet. I’m done. They are amazingly beautiful children.” How has being a dad changed him for the better? “Fatherhood has taught me more about myself than anything else. I’m more focused now because I have to help shape their worldview,” he says. “Children need consistency, and whatever you give them as their base, that’s what they’ll use to build their self-esteem.”

When it comes to building his empire, Watkis (who was married for five years) has some serious mogul ambitions. In addition to writing and releasing more books, the reggae-dancehall and hip-hop superfan is immersing himself in music production (he produced Iceman’s upcoming nine-track EP) and he’s getting his feet wet in filmmaking. Along with his partner Debbie Bissoon, earlier this year he gathered a bunch of celebs for the “No Violence in Love” PSA, which they are planning to take into the schools this academic year via an awareness campaign tour.

For this self-proclaimed ‘creative-preneur’, trained actor and trained teacher, taking on so much while raising a family draws on skiful time management, careful planning and patient toil. (By the time he hits 40, he wants to be an internationally known motivational speaker.) “I read a lot, and when I see certain things happening I want to write about it. I write and plan projects that are important to me. Maybe it can help somebody,” says Watkis, who titled his inspirational first book, JR’s Hope. “Writing helps me to heal myself and not live a limiting life.”

And he’s all about giving hope to Jamaica’s youth and future generation. “Don’t make anybody small you up. If you feel you have something to do or express, do it to the best of your ability,” he advises. “Make choices for what’s rewarding and fun and worth it.”

> To hear much more from Donovan, check out his 10 Questions

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