Admirably ambitious, financially focused, and buzzworthy, they commanded our attention with their intellect, power moves, or simply, the almost indefinable glow of celebrity. We present the movers and shakers, the beauty and brains, the people who are hot right now... the ones to watch in 2012.
Portia Simpson Miller
Sworn in as The Rock's Prime Minister Thursday last, Portia Simpson Miller is The One to watch this year, with her People's National Party giving the Jamaica Labour Party a literal thrashing at the polls. We're eager to see those whom Madam PM will select to make up her cabinet and just how she will captain the ship during her second stint.
Holness inadvertently fulfilled Portia Simpson Miller's declaration that (second only to Donald Sangster), he would be the shortest-serving PM. As the JLP try to wrap their heads around the 42 to 21 trouncing, the 39-year-old leader will have to prove his mettle as a strategic opposition leader.
She left naysayers mightily impressed with her appearance at the National Debates last month. Brains perfectly balanced with beauty, indeed. Now, we wait to see just how she'll manage her ministry in this new administration.
With a scrap metal investigation looming, we're eager to see what's next for the man who just last November resigned as Commissioner of Customs and renounced his United States citizenship to enter politics. Walker ran against a formidable opponent in Peter Bunting for the Central Manchester constituency in the recent general elections, which he lost.
It was a race too close to call and a narrow win for Bunting, who kept his electoral record unblemished by edging former commissioner of customs Danville Walker for the Central Manchester seat in the recent general elections. The PNP general secretary's position in the new Prime Minister's cabinet is our main focus, but we'll also be watching keenly to see who will capture his heart.
Though he says he's more focused on winning and not so on much breaking records, can the world's fastest man break his two world records in London at this summer's Olympic games? It's a wait-and-see game.
It obviously wasn't a fluke when Yohan Blake copped gold in the 100 metres at last year's World Championship in Daegu, South Korea. The 22-year-old sprinter later ran the world-leading time of 19.26 in the men's 200 metres, taking first place at the final Diamond League meeting in Brussels, Belgium. We really cannot wait to see the fire he'll ignite on the track at this summer's Olympic games.
There's the White Witch of Rose Hall movie in the works and the possibility of a Jamaican-themed adventure film. And yes, let's not forget that awards are still rolling in from the international film festival circuit for Better Mus' Come.
Sean Paul and Jodi Stewart
A super-busy year is on tap (think overseas tours and promo appearances) for the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling Sean Paul with the release of his fifth album Tomahawk Technique. But it's the pending nuptials to longtime belle Jodi Stewart we're most excited about.
With the 2011 release of Reggae's Gone Country, which Virgo is featured on, the lovers' rock crooner found himself on a bigger stage, performing with country music greats Larry and the Gatlin Brothers, recipients of Academy of Country Music's Stone Pioneer Award last September. We're expecting big things from the young star, who is still completing his bachelor's degree in performance at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
The charismatic Burton was the breakout star of last summer's local hit movie Ghett'A Life. The Northern Caribbean University student is getting his toes wet in the theatre, making his stage debut in Dahlia Harris's current play Back A Yaad.
Model. Actress. Singer. The multi-talented Nicole Grey scored favourable notices for her co-starring debut in Better Mus' Come, leading to a well-reviewed role in the American independent film Restless City. She has her eyes set on a recording year in 2012 and is logging studio time in Miami and London. There is also a follow-up movie by Restless City director Andrew Dosunmu in the cards for Grey.
With a string of hits under his belt from 2011 and a new record deal with DJ Khaled's New York-based We The Best Music Group, there is no doubt Mavado has left other entertainers to play 'ketchup' while he peppers his way into 2012.
Kevin-Sean Hamilton, better known as DJ Powa, burst on to the entertainment scene in May of last year when he released on the social network, YouTube, a re-fix video titled People What Are Deading, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens incursion. The humorous aspect of the video found favour among the masses. DJ Powa later released Nobody Canna Cross It, which was an even bigger hit than his first. What will his next re-fix be, we wonder?
Hanna represents the new age of cosmopolitan self-published writers. Her series of New York-based e-books are delicious page-turners that demonstrate the sophisticated edge of The Rock's writing talent.
Melanie Schwapp's second novel Dew Angels is not only scoring a thumbs-up from readers, word is it's getting major attention for a likely trip to the big screen. Our ears are firmly planted to the ground.
The former model-turned-TV-host-turned-reality-show-creator makes our cut for thinking global. Eying the potential of the Dream Entertainment all-inclusive parties, McGann smartly created a reality show, Dream, to showcase The Rock's party scene, and is looking to shop it around to foreign TV markets.
Much as we had high hopes from the start, Ayoung-Chee's crowning triumph on last season's Project Runway still had us reeling in welcome surprise (and naturally, glee). The designer du jour has the American fashion industry's attention and we're already counting the days until her collection makes it to New York Fashion Week.
With a Diet Coke ad campaign shot by Karl Lagerfeld no less, making the covers of i-D and Italian Vogue, and fashion editorials in high fashion mags, 2011 was a banner year for Jeneil. We're predicting even bigger things for her in the next 12 months.
Teenaged photog Luca Khouri made the cut among the world's top 20 amateur lensmen in an international photography competition last year. A huge fan of the work of professional luminaries Annie Leibovitz and Mario Testino, the intuitive Khouri, who has more than a passing fancy for lensing gorgeous models, looks to have a pretty bright future.
Oraine Barrett has solidified his status as the Caribbean's most successful male model with his exclusive contract with Ralph Lauren RLX brand. In 2011, Barrett's image has been splashed across billboards and featured prominently in high-end magazines. Barrett also upped his profile by co-starring in Rihanna's controversial Man Down video.
The cameras are now rolling on season number two of the reality show, Mission Catwalk, following its wildly successful debut last year. The upcoming season not only gives fashion-designing hopefuls a shot at the big-time, the show has syndication rights to air in other islands in the region and has attracted design hopefuls from Belize, Barbados and Trinidad.
She's a go-to model for Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs, a regular face in fashion glossies, and was the most visible model from The Rock on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week shows last September. Is it any wonder the leggy teenaged Shena looks to have a VERY promising career ahead?
Entrepreneur Bernard Henry is revolutionising the communications industry with the introduction of RedBk — a cellular telephone directory for small and medium business enterprises. Henry, who also fronts FiMi Wireless, will expand RedBk's listings to include all mobile and fixed users.
Matthew Chinn is not yet 30, but he has already established himself as a budding entrepreneur. By day he manages Falken Motors and at night pulls bar duty along with the co-managing director, his dad Rory, at one of Kingston's budding night spots — The Macau Bar, which is expected to expand to include a gaming lounge this summer.
Group executive chairman of the Barbadian low-cost carrier airline REDjet has the track record of an astute businessman. After initially being denied permission to operate on The Rock, Burns's persistence paid off and the airline began their operation locally last May. REDjet now has seven confirmed destinations in the Caribbean and we can't wait to see what else Burns and his team have in store for the new year.
Golden Krust CEO Lowell Hawthorne walked off with the coveted title of the Jamaica Observer's Business Leader of the Year last November. The account of Lowell's rise from humble beginnings to helming the largest Caribbean-based, family-owned food franchise spurred the gathering in the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel to a standing ovation. The new year should bring an even wider expansion of the franchise across other states in the US.
Self-branding is the name of the game in 2012 for well-regarded realtor Mayne. He's launched GM Realty Limited and is setting his sights on being a major player on the local real estate landscape.
After selling his multi-million dollar stake in e-Services, the always dapperly attired Patrick Casserly has staked a claim in lifestyle — think locally manufactured Sea Island Cotton and the 145-year-old Spoerry 1866. The A-lister has also acquired the bar and eatery at Doctor's Cave beach. These are but a few of his plans for 2012.
After opening his first outlet in 2010, Morgan — who copped the 2011 Jamaica Observer Food Awards winners for Best New Food Innovation — opened his second Wing King outlet last August and later divulged that the company is planning to launch other Wing King outlets across the island.
Marcus & Monique Simmonds
Finalists at the Jamaica Observer Business Leader 2010 Awards, Marcus Simmonds and wife Monique Hamaty-Simmonds have successfully made family-owned Tortuga Rum Cake into a global brand. Plus, the recent acquisition of Tortuga International Holdings by Jamaica Producers Group, which now owns 62 per cent of the rum cake company, has seen Marcus Simmonds given the post of chief executive officer and Monique Hamaty-Simmonds, chief marketing officer. The merger aims to maximise annual profits of Tortuga International Holdings which at the moment stand at US$10 million.
Gary and Tina Matalon, Kevin Bourke, David & Stephen Shirley
The Fab Five, who operate the KLE Group and run the three-year old uber-chic Fiction Lounge and popular Usain Bolt's Tracks and Records eatery, are venturing into a franchise mode this year for the latter enterprise. Possible Tracks and Records outlets are expected on the north coast and negotiations are underway to extend the brand to Europe and the United Kingdom. To top it all off, there is also an IPO listing on the Junior Stock Exchange on the way.
Twenty-five-year-old Laura Marley is moving on up in the year ahead. There is serious talk of franchising her Barbican Business Centre-based Mantra eatery in Ocho Rios or Montego Bay. There is also an expanded menu in the making and more focus on themed evenings at the establishment frequented by the trendsetters.
Beverly Anderson Manley & DK Duncan
Decades-old sweethearts Beverly Anderson-Manley and re-elected Member of Parliament DK Duncan will tie the knot on January 21 at a location that's very dear to our hearts at SO. We wish them all the best.
Andrew Desnoes and David McConnell
Andrew Desnoes and David McConnell left their substantive positions at J Wray & Nephew behind to form their own company — Select Brands — last year. Look out for the two to stake a claim for significant market share in 2012.
Grand Palladium general manager Dimitri Kosvogannis is a regular bon vivant on the social circuit, whether it be the Capital City or the Second City. He has recently acquired the Miss Jamaica Universe franchise and is looking to revamp the pageant in spectacular fashion.
Tamika West & Trishauna Kirlew
Vibrant, intelligent and personable, West and Kirlew are the faces of Caribbean Producers of Jamaica on the social scene. Between the Patron, Grey Goose and other wines and spirits brands they represent, one can always anticipate premium sips and engaging company. We expect no less in 2012.
We're sorry that she's left our shores, but pleased that the company she left us for has requested her return and that she's flying the Jamaican flag high at Sun Trust in Atlanta, Georgia, where she holds the post of HR director.
She may have false-started at last year's Miss Jamaica World pageant and dashed the nation's hopes of a possible crowning moment in London. However, Gordon redeemed herself by securing the third place spot in the Miss Intercontinental pageant in Spain... got engaged (and perhaps disengaged) and is forging ahead with nursing studies.
Tom Tavares-Finson & Christian Tavares-Finson
Last year was a big one for Tom Tavares-Finson when he achieved grandpa status, not once but twice. It was later revealed that both he and son Christian would represent controversial entertainer Vybz Kartel. The legal duo weren't able to spring the Worl' Boss from lock-up in 2011; let's see if they can in 2012.
Kazumi Taka Utoguchi
Foodies craving a gourmet taste of the Orient head to East Japanese at Marketplace or the très chic Majestic Grill in Old Stony Hill — Kazumi Taka Utoguchi runs both eateries. Dining at one of Taka's restaurants can put you in good social stead as it's a veritable magnet for the city's A-listers.
Lisa McMaster & Clifford Phipps
The couple's fab new eatery, Isiaa's (designed with rustic Jamaican flourishes by go-to architect Evan Williams), is helping recast Barbican as a social-spotting destination.
Fresh-faced and cute as a button, the delightful Elizabeth Swaby has been gracing the social circuit on a regular basis. We're looking forward to even more fashionable sightings of young Liz in 2012.
Internet-surfers know that one of the must-view social media sites is Stush, co-owned by entrepreneurial social butterfly Tamia Carey.
We have it on good authority that J Wray and Nephew's master blender Joy Spence is nosing a special blend for 2012.
His is the first Caribbean restaurant to be bestowed with the AA Rosette Award for excellence, so it's no surprise that Rock-born-United Kingdom-based Chef Collin Brown (who runs the eponymously titled restaurant in the Docklands) is on our radar. Brown is in discussions to franchise the restaurant in Europe and is also toying with the idea of a reality show to give Jamaican chefs the opportunity to work at his UK eatery.
World citizen and certified fashionista Alessandra Bell is headed to Qatar in the Middle East any minute now. Why? She's taking a prized public relations and marketing post at the five-star luxe hotel chain Movenpick. Talk about big moves!
There's no denying the passion Nicola Melhado and her team have for The American International School of Kingston (AISK). In charge of special projects at the institution, Melhado has been pivotal in the organisation and execution of a number of projects undertaken by the institution. It was her vision for an 'one-on-one' laptop programme that saw each student at AISK trading in their textbooks for ibooks. Since then, scholarships are now available and the curriculum further tweaked. Boarding is now available in digs that would make company executives green with envy. Melhado is positively brimming with options for 2012 like the expansion of on-campus technology by providing dozens of I-pads for elementary school students coupled with the existing 1-to-1 laptop programme for middle and high scholers. The school will continue to reach out to the nation by hosting SportsFeva, Jamaica's grandest high school sports event that includes schools from across the Caribbean. In March AISK will host another national-level event "Jamaica Now Student Summit," a student-driven conference. It will include a student representative from each parish debating 21st Century Education, and at the end of the debate the students will present their consensus stating their collective position as it relates to Jamaica which will then be published nationally.
Seen here at a recent charity dinner at The Bishopthorpe Palace with the Archbishop of York.
Jamaican-born UK-based businesswoman and philanthropist Theresa Roberts, who we're sure had much to do with the Archbishop of York's slated visit to The Rock come January 22, has had quite an eventful year. Last October, she launched the Black Circle Gallery in London, which is aimed at promoting artists from countries which are under-represented in Europe — eager to expose the talent that Jamaica possesses. She is known for spearheading a number of charity projects in the UK with the well-being of blacks and her parent country in mind. It was, many conclude, a result of her lobbying that Shaun Bailey — Tory politician from London with Jamaican heritage — was appointed as special advisor on black affairs, to British Prime Minister David Cameron. There is also the forming of a Conservative friends of Jamaica group in the UK, in support of the Conservative party.
Bianca Bartley, the creative genius behind Peace-is-of Bianca, is without a doubt on the watch list for 2012. Since successfully enrolling in a mentorship programme at the Branson Centre in Montego Bay, Bartley has exhibited at the launch of Sir Richard Branson's latest book, Screw Business as Usual, at Miss Lily's in New York City. Her exquisite handcrafted jewellery line has been purchased by several NYC socialites, Sir Richard Branson, Miss Universe 2010 Yendi Phillipps, and The Jamaica Observer Style Woman of the Year Award recipient Ann Marie Vaz.
Bartley is currently preparing to exhibit her collections at Spring Fair International at the NEC Convention Centre, Birmingham, UK, slated for February 5-11, as part of a joint effort between JAMPRO and the Commonwealth Secretariat, which selected nine female entrepreneurs from 60 across the Commonwealth to participate. The trip will expose the brand to over 75,000 buyers from across the globe.
The Peace-Is 2012 collection will, come February, be available at Rockhouse Hotel and Villas in Negril.
Dr Patricia Yap
Dermatologist Patricia Yap is determined to close the knowledge gap between persons who have acne and the professionals who know how to treat acne. Expect expansion of the Apex Acne Club formed last year at Regal Plaza, Crossroads as well as Apex Skin Institute which will train persons who already have some experience in maintaining good skin. Are we hearing Jobs! Jobs! Jobs? Seems we are, for what Dr Yap refers to as skin therapists.
Rock-raised Maya Deer who now calls Columbia, South Carolina home with hubby Major Taj Troy, is one to continue to watch as she sets about fulfilling her dream of owning a boutique in the first quarter of 2012. MayaKoba will be an online boutique, importing and retailing resort wear from Jamaica. Deer has already negotiated agreements with local designers Drenna Luna, TNT Fashions, Barry Moncrieffe and Julan. "Resort wear," shares Deer "is trending now not only as a specialised clothing style or "cruise wear" but also as year-round fashion. I believe the clothing will have a competitive advantage in the North American market primarily because of the prints, colours, vibrancy, authenticity and the way they capture the soul, rhythm and spirit of Jamaica". Naturally we concur.
There's more...Deer has been selected to participate in Columbia Style Week (South Carolina, USA) - June 5-9, as the events coordinator. Way to go, girl!
Yaneek Page Introduces The Innovators
It's fair to deduce that many Jamaicans are hoping to make more money and achieve greater financial success in 2012. The timing could not be better for The Innovators, an exciting new TV series that will help a number of persons to do just that: make more money and chart their way to a bright financial future. The brainchild of entrepreneur Yaneek Page, The Innovators will involve real-life before-and-after transformations of 12 existing/aspiring entrepreneurs, professionals, and others, who learn from expert panellists Yaneek Page, Gary Matalon, and other experts, how to use their skills/talents/business ideas to make more money and the essentials of running a successful enterprise.
The series is scheduled to air on TVJ in early February, and is expected to provide hope and inspiration to many Jamaicans that they can create a better future for themselves, notwithstanding the challenging economic environment.