Roxene Nickle: The woman at the mic

Roxene Nickle: The woman at the mic


Monday, March 23, 2020

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DESPITE being blessed to have had the nursing trifecta of her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother around while growing up, Roxene Nickle was a defiant, rambunctious tomboy. Her mother would often murmur, after finding her high up in a tree flying kites with the boys in the community, that she knew she left the hospital with a girl, but was less sure with each passing day. Not even the trinity of demure, well-groomed nurses could tame this racehorse trainer's daughter. Roxene was already out of the gate, and today she is still on the run.

“But my love for literature and reading was nurtured by these three women,” Nickle, who has distinguished herself as a media practitioner with a career spanning decades, told All Woman. “Initially, because all three of them are nurses, I decided I wanted to be a doctor. But I found that I was not good with the sciences and I realised that the arts — literature, culture, history — were more 'me'. And I asked questions...”

Halfway through high school Nickle reined in her doctoral ambitions and turned her blinders to the arts. She was not yet sure what career she wanted to pursue, but she remembered watching the likes of Fae Ellington and Helene Coley-Nicholson and thinking, 'I wish I could read like that'.

Then, on a whim, the tomboy with the polished vernacular strut her way into a national pageant, which led to her galloping into the media landscape.

“I entered Miss Jamaica World and I made it to the top 10,” she grinned. “I didn't make it any further but it was an awesome experience.”

But as her lucky horseshoe would have it, Jamaican hotelier and businessman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart was scouting for staff for his new hotel — Sandals Dunn's River — that very night, and Nickle was offered a spot as one of the resort's first playmakers (entertainment coordinators), which she gladly took up.

“I was at Sandals for a number of years and I excelled on the mic; I was always the one to emcee events,” she smiled. “One night I emceed an event that was attended by heads of state and other influential persons and Fae Ellington walked up to me and said, 'You should be in media'. At first I didn't think she was talking to me, but I resigned three months later and came to Kingston to pursue a career in media.”

The plan was to move immediately into yet another new business at the time — CVM TV, but Nickle managed to land a spot at Power 106 as one of Jamaica's first female technical editors until CVM started broadcasting.

“I did everything at CVM,” she recalled. “I learned directing first. I would direct the morning show, I would direct news. Being a tomboy I was into all sports, so I would direct sports. I also learned to edit — I could edit the commercials and some programmes, then I moved to master control. I would do satellite room, the works.”

Nickle howled with laughter as she remembered an instance when the entire newsroom was on strike, and she ended up having to cover a story in a volatile area.

“I was lying on the ground with bullets flying over my head doing a story and that was exciting!” she said.

After working at CVM for over a decade, the media mare got restless in that stable and decided that she wanted to run with a new wind.

“Lotto was a new thing in Jamaica. Supreme Ventures just came on and they said they wanted somebody technical on the team and I came on as their director,” she shared. “I was helping one of the young ladies who presented the draws, and then CEO, Brian George, saw me and said, 'You should be one of our girls'.”

So Nickle became one of the first women to read the lottery draws on air and did it with pride for 13 years. While doing that, she worked at Kool 97 FM as a presenter, producer, and eventually even a deejay.

“I learnt so much,” she said gratefully. “In between that I did some modelling. I entered several pageants because I felt like I needed the experience, because I was very shy. Also, being a tomboy, I wasn't accustomed to being girly, but I liked it.”

While she steadily trod the furlongs and gained experience, Nickle kept training to remain in form. While her diploma in mass communication and training from the Creative Production & Training Centre were enough to keep her in the race, she recently completed a degree in integrated marketing communication at the Caribbean School of Media and Communication.

Today Nickle is making hay at yet another new venture — The Edge 105 FM — where she is a producer and presenter. She smiled as she mused at how she has come full circle, working at another company owned by 'Butch' Stewart.

“I feel blessed,” the Gemini said as she looks forward to her 50th birthday. “I would often question myself when tasked with something new, or things didn't go as planned, but no matter how challenging I still kept going because I felt like there was a purpose. What I've done is learn from them and I've grown.”

Nickle used her ongoing battle with endometriosis as a timely example of things that have made her stronger. She found out she suffered from the condition about 10 years ago when she got married and was trying to have a baby but it was not happening. After undergoing surgery to remove some of the scar tissue she conceived twice, but unfortunately none of the babies made it to term.

“When I was driving home from the hospital after the second pregnancy ended at five months, I was at the stoplight at Devon House and I said, 'God, why would you do this to me? You made me see this and feel this, and just took it away?' And I just felt this hug. I felt this sense of peace, and from that day to today I've been OK,” she nodded.

Between working with charitable groups such as the Mustard Seed Communities and B.A.S.E (local endometriosis foundation) and travelling to different parts of the world for work and leisure, Nickle is using each stride to find new pathways and guide as many new foals as she can.

“I am motivated just to see what's next,” she smiled. “I always try to improve and learn something everyday. I want everyone I interact with on a personal level to say, 'She made me smile' or 'she made some sort of impact in my life' or 'she made me look at things differently'.”

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