MONTEGO BAY, St James — Thirty-odd years ago when then New York college student Gwen Nicks arrived with friends and relatives in the resort town of Ocho Rios for a vacation, she immediately fell in love with the beautiful Caribbean island of Jamaica.
Today, that love affair has blossomed and has grown leaps and bounds, producing three Jamaican husbands, hundreds of friends, relatives, business associates and several business entities in the western section of Jamaica.
"From the moment I stepped foot in Jamaica it was love at first sight. I fell instantly in love with the atmosphere, the people and the culture," said the businesswoman and philanthropist, who last year tied the knot with Jamaica Constabulary Force Police Sergeant Michael James in the resort city of Montego Bay, after two previous marriages went on the rocks.
The proprietor of the beautiful Dream Castle Villa, Anayas Fashion Jewellery, Fresh Look Boutique, and Dream Castle Restaurant -- all in Ironshore, St James -- directly employing about 12 Jamaicans, 'Lady Gwen', as she is affectionately called, has not regretted one bit investing millions in the island.
"I have been investing in Jamaica because of the many opportunities that are there and from which Jamaicans can significantly benefit," said Nicks James, who also has businesses in New York.
"I enjoy giving back to my community and lending a helping hand. It brings me joy knowing that my efforts will greatly help to provide resources and opportunities to someone in need."
But although always keeping her eyes open for new business endeavours, Nicks James told the Jamaica Observer that for right now, her main focus is to get a scholarship foundation established, in a bid to provide more assistance to children entering a number of primary schools in Jamaica.
"As a stepping stone, my plan is to select some Jamaican youth and enrol them in school to have a primary and high school education which will propel them further in life," she emphasised, adding that "Jamaica has great opportunities available for those who really want to achieve greatness."
She lamented that many Jamaicans who have become wealthy forget where they've come from and don't give back to their community.
"But I want my fellow Jamaicans to know that there is someone fighting and working hard to provide them with opportunities and resources that can make their future brighter," she explained.
It is expected that the planned scholarship programme will complement several other charitable events, including back-to-school treats for scores of students across western Jamaica and donations to several child-care facilities.
Community Relations Officer at the Consulate General of Jamaica in New York, Christopher Castriota, said Nicks James quietly contributes to many persons and organisations, both in Jamaica and the United States.
"She has provided hundreds of book bags with school supplies to children in St James and adjoining parishes," he noted, adding that in the USA she is very active through her annual pageant and other activities.
The Consulate General of Jamaica in New York has also benefited from her benevolence.
"The Consulate is very thankful, as she contributes to several of the annual events hosted by the Consulate General of Jamaica, New York, including our Flag Raising Ceremony and the Consul General's Heritage Awards Ceremony in October. I am also aware of other associations, including the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies (AFUWI), to which she provides event sponsorship. I must say that it has been a real pleasure working with Mrs James, as she helps to improve the lives of others," said Castriota.
Meanwhile, Nicks James told the Sunday Observer that come next year she would be scouting the island for persons who wish to enter the Miss Dream Castle Pageant, which is staged in New York annually.
Having a strong fascination for beauty pageants, Nicks James recalled that in 2007 when she was asked to host and coordinate a beauty pageant at her tropical Dream Castle Villa, she gladly accepted.
"Girls came from faraway places such as Trinidad and Barbados and I took great pride and pleasure in making sure everything went off without a hitch. The very next year a friend in Jamaica asked for assistance with his beauty pageant and I gladly assisted, too," she noted.
The rest is history. She now has been the driving force behind the very successful annual 'Miss Dream Castle' pageant.
Contestants are chosen with great care and given the golden opportunity to shine.
Nicks James takes them under her wing and works tirelessly with them day in and day out to teach them everything that is important to being a beauty queen, as well as the secrets to grace and sophistication.