Style Observer

#SMS 2019... Panel Discussion

Sunday, October 20, 2019

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The bi-annual Sagicor Motivational Seminar this year was themed Next Level. Each year world renowned speakers and panelists are selected from academia and various industries for our main platform sessions. The 'fireside chat' on stage titled “My Journey to the Top” featured:

Chef Wenford Simpson – International Celebrity Chef

Novia McDonald-Whyte – Senior Lifestyle Editor at the Jamaica Observer and the doyenne of style in Jamaica

Odetta Rockhead-Kerr – former country head of Sutherland Global

Wayne Thorpe – Underwriter, Sagicor Life Jamaica and two-time Employee of the Year

Panellists were chosen for their demonstrated levels of success in their chosen field. Also, specific emphasis was placed on including persons who have sought to assist others in achieving similar success... Alysia Moulton-White, assistant vice-president & head of marketing Group Marketing

Alysia Moulton-White — “Many people when they hear the word 'homeless', they think it's because you're not working and you don't have a job, but you were a chef at Sandals and when persons would ask you 'you not going home' you would just fake overtime and that kind of thing...”

Wenford Simpson — “How I became homeless was, my sister and I were living with my stepfather, the stepfather did not like us living there. It was a little one-bedroom with the curtain that separates the rooms... he told my mom 'You and yu pickney dem, get out of my house.' I told my sister, you guys stay, I'll leave. At that time I was working at Sandals so I went to my supervisor and said 'can I have double shifts'...So I would work my double shifts... and at the end of night, about 12/1 o'clock, I'm like, okay, where do I go? I would walk around on the hotel property, pretend like I'm leaving, and wherever I see is dark or a closed room...I would go and sleep...I think I did that for about two months until I was caught by security...”

“The other day I went back to the same hotel, because I was going to an event, and I was staying in the executive suite. I broke down, because you know what, one of the things I looked at was, here I am in the executive suite and I'm looking down at those dark corners where I once slept (while homeless). Now I can say I've cooked for two presidents and for over 400 top celebrities in the US...” — Wenford Simpson

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Alysia Moulton-White — “You have created something in Jamaica that is amazing, in terms of lifestyle...where did that vision come from for you?”

Novia McDonald-Whyte — “I was given the opportunity — and I think I need to start there — preparation and opportunity lead to, one of these days, success. I was afforded the opportunity to start with a newspaper that was growing, and I really think that gave me the opportunity to do a lot of things...At the time what was happening in lifestyle was, you had to wait until Sunday to read what had happened during the course of the week. We needed a competitive advantage — enter Page 2. It was a daily dose of what was happening.”

“I was watching the Oscars one night and I thought that we really ought to have an Oscar night in food: the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards. Then I was minding my own business in New York and saw Fashion's Night Out. No, actually Lois Samuels was showing her collection in New York and had invited me... I saw these signs saying 'Fashion's Night Out' and I exprienced it and I just thought it would work in Jamaica with a little tweaking... and then we did that...”

Alysia Moulton-White — “You've done quite a bit but before you got there, you did other things, you didn't just land at the Jamaica Observer...”

Novia McDonald-Whyte — “...My first job was at St Hugh's High School. I taught French there. In fact...they had just moved from O'Levels to CXCs so I had the first cohort of CXC French...I was given the mandate by Ms Thomas to ensure that every single person in my class passed. They did! That was my first job.”

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“When I was a child I was inspired by someone who was bold enough to share their story, because before you meet that person that looks like you, who is from similar roots as you, you have absolutely no idea that it is possible for you to do it, as well. And if one person could have inspired my life in that kind of way, I want to light a lamp and give hope to as many as I can, and I think the best way to do that is to share my story and ensure that everybody understands that regardless of where you're coming from, it has absolutely no impact on where you're going.” — Odetta Rockhead-Kerr

“Before I was 17, I was pregnant twice, one from sexual molestation. I was homeless...of course I was born into a poor family but as a result of that I ended up in situations where I was missing for a while. My father was a notorious criminal, wanted by the police 'til his death. He died when I was six. I had situations in my life where we could not figure out where our next meal would come from...” — Odetta Rockhead-Kerr

“My mistakes (that's what most people call them) are actually lessons that I have been able to learn from and that I have been able to get myself to a place where I'm hoping others can learn from them as well.” — Odetta Rockhead-Kerr

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“My maternal grandmother was the community matriarch; she took care of everyone. She ran a business and she also took care of other people's business. I saw her doing that and I think I wanted to be like her, and so everything that I pursue I try to pursue with the same vim and vigour that she did.” — Wayne Thorpe

On 'sending the elevator back down'...

“I opened a culinary school...it's my way of giving back. I try to make it where tuition is not too expensive for them...it's a place where they can come and learn but we also get them job placement and learn the in's and outs of the restaurant business...” — Wenford Simpson

“Once you're given a platform you have to ensure continuity...so you send the elevator back down by explaining to the next generation that excellence is in the details...you send the elevator back down, as well, by explaining to women the need to be more supportive of each other. If you wake up with an uninterrupted view of Kingston and the harbour and you're the only woman enjoying the view you're doing other women a disservice, you've got to crack the door and bring others to the table...” — Novia McDonald-Whyte

“Everything that I have done has impacted my country, I want to start impacting continents, not countries. This company that I have established is callled 'GOFFAH'...the acronym means Gift of Financial Freedom and Hope, for the first time we'll be able to offer the persons — who doesn't have the CXC qualifications, who can't leave home, whether it's because of a disability or because they are stay-at-home moms, who are retired but still able to function mentally — the ability to earn a lucrative income...” — Odetta Rockhead-Kerr

“I send the elevator back down with every interaction ...I always say doing two or three is good, and that's why I continue to do the community service...because it is refreshing for me, it's invigorating to see a smile on someone's face...I have no problem helping each and every person I interact with...” — Wayne Thorpe


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