Living legends, bold newcomers, amazing success stories in full flight – our round-up of the noted personalities who most fascinated us this year is replete with proof that Jamaicans are people of excellence who push the boundaries and own their power. These terrific twelve gave us much to talk about, inspiring and intriguing us in equal measure. Here they are in random order.
QUEEN IFRICA: Think Queen Ifrica is off pouting somewhere because she didn’t score a Best Reggae Album Grammy nod for Climb? The artist-activist is gearing up for January’s milestone renewal of Rebel Salute and lending her time and star power to worthy causes, like the fight against gender-based violence and child abuse. People are still talking about her electrifying performances at the Peter Tosh Music Festival and Reggae Sumfest 25 this past summer. And after multiple hit singles and solid albums, we are convinced that this queen’s best is still yet to come.
THE SUNSHINE GIRLS: If there’s one thing we learned from the world of sports this year it’s that you can never count out Jamaica’s senior netball squad. In the wake of much-publicized Netball Jamaica controversy, saying farewell to yet another coach and enduring harsh criticism about the team’s level of readiness to take on the best in the world, the Sasher Gaye Henry-coached team got the last word with their sensational performances at the Melbourne-hosted Fast 5 Champs in October, bringing home some shiny silverware and restoring our faith in the national programme.
RENEE McDONALD: The Renée McDonald evolution is in full effect and we are so happy to have a front-row seat. Earlier this year, the incredibly talented dancer-choreographer (who honed her craft at Tony Wilson’s Company Dance Theatre) took her skills to the international stage (choreographing a piece for the Alvin Ailey troupe and brought the people to their feet.) Back home, she pulled off similar successes with brand new works for CDT and Xaymaca. And did we mention that she’s now a lawyer-in-training at UWI? A terrific role model for young people, McDonald (now 24) is the ultimate all-Jamaican girl.
CHRIS GAYLE: Heat seems to follow Chris Gayle, the star Jamaican and West Indies batsman who’s been weathering one storm after another with admirable finesse and professionalism. First, there was ‘Blushgate’ in 2016, and this year brought that infamous accusation from a white female masseuse that had us all wondering, ‘Did he really?’ Stoutly defending his reputation and his character, Gayle has denied any wrongdoing and has refocused his energies on bringing the heat to the cricket pitch.
USAIN BOLT: Where do we even begin? The active retirement that had him criss-crossing the globe, The Gleaner’s release of the coffee-table volume Legend, the stadium-rocking exploits in London, the larger-than-life Basil Watson-designed statue mounted in his honour at the National Stadium…? The 31-year-old sprint legend stayed on course for yet another eventful year, full of triumphs and trials and, in true Bolt fashion, big surprises.
SHENSEEA: Who’s that girl? That’s what everyone wanted to know after hearing Shenseea put the music world on notice, opposite dancehall rebel Vybz Kartel, on “Loodi.” Full of sass, super-confidence, and ample sugar and spice, the pint-sized princess is busy making a name for herself in the male-dominated dancehall space, paying her dues and earning respect. Having already graced the cover of Buzzz and lit up the Pepsi Ginger commercial, her star is certainly on the rise.
> HONOURABLE MENTION: Miguel Coley & the Jamaica College football team, Dr. Chris Tufton, Wayne Booth, Stephen Francis and Davina Bennett.
>> PART I