Maco with Naysha Sooden
Neysha Soodeen could have easily held her own as a model on the runways of high fashion. A trained criminologist, she could have also charted a career rehabilitating prisoners.
But neither of those options interested her. But nearly two years ago, Soodeen, on a whim, started MACO*, a lifestyle magazine which was launched February 13 in Kingston.
The magazine is expertly crafted with 183 pages of glossy colour photography featuring the very best that the region’s lifestyle has to offer. From the traditional to the contemporary, MACO unearths architectural treasures in every nook and cranny, highlighting what people are doing with their homes.
“The beauty, style, collector’s items of the homes we feature give others ideas of what they can do with their own homes, and that’s what makes the magazine different,” Soodeen told All Woman.
The entertainment section focuses heavily on food; and food editor, Judy Bastyra, knows exactly how to serve up different menus using ethnic foods. “The idea is not to introduce new foods, but to give ideas on how to use the local foods and condiments we love in a more creative way,” she said.
With three issues behind her, Soodeen is still improving her product; she recently added a destination section to the magazine. MACO is geared at island travellers who prefer to hide away in quiet, cozy locales, rather than vacationing in the big hotels.
Presently, the publication is enjoying success in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, England, Canada and Florida.
The next issue will feature some of the island’s best eating and getaway spots, including Strawberry Hill, Norma’s on the Terrace, Devon House, and, of course, tasty jerk cuisine.
But how did she get started- Returning to Barbados after years of study in Canada she pondered a job working in the prisons. “My speciality was prison rehabilitation, so I was really hoping to work with inmates preparing them for parole,” Soodeen told All Woman. “The Minister of Justice however, took one look at me and decided that there was no way he was prepared to have me, so young, working in the prisons. I dared him to judge me on the basis of my age, but I did not get the job,” she recalled.
So, she went off to Milan and onto the catwalk. While in Ottawa, she modelled for a local agency, and later joined up with some elite scouts from Milan who encouraged her to consider taking up modelling as a second career.
Describing the experience as “totally exciting”, Soodeen did all of the runway shows, working with top designers including Versace and Armani. “It’s every girl’s dream, and I learnt so much,” she said.
“At that time, ethnic girls were becoming popular in Europe. Naomi Campbell was a hit, and agents were looking around for other ethnic beauties. Of course, there weren’t too many Indians around who would walk on stage in their underwear, so I appeared on the scene and fit the bill.”
But, at 24, competing with 16-and 18-year-old nymphets proved too stressful. She packed her bags and headed home.
“I was back with mom and dad, carefree and scatter-brained. I was having fun, partying and enjoying life,” she recalled. “Then, I discovered a lump in my throat. I didn’t think much of it then, but nevertheless went to Canada, where my doctors were, for diagnosis. It was thyroid cancer, very rare, but one you would rather have if you had to have cancer since it was easily treated,” Soodeen shared.
Despite successful treatment, her illness kept her grounded in the Caribbean. Bored, Soodeen faced her biggest challenge yet – what to do with her life.
While in Canada studying, and whenever she was going home for holidays her parents often asked her to take home architectural magazines. They had a love for architecture and their interest in the subject sparked hers as well.
Acting as a courier of literature eventually triggered Soodeen’s interest in the magazine industry. The idea of a Caribbean magazine slowly emerged; she wanted her own magazine, one that would appeal to the Caribbean, take a peek into people’s homes in a sophisticated way. “Looking around, I could not find one single magazine that showcased Caribbean architecture and lifestyle,” she said. “Apart from the in-flight magazines, there was not one, so I decided to fill this gap.”
She had no capital base and very little support, and there were doubts about such a magazine getting off the ground. “People in the Caribbean do not buy magazines, they come but never survive,” was the ominous advice she got from friends and potential investors in her homeland, Barbados and Jamaica where she hoped to find her biggest markets. “I said to myself, this cannot be, if I can produce a good magazine, people will buy it, and I did not give up,” said Soodeen.
With a modest overdraft from the bank, a small office with two staff members, Soodeen got her first issue off the press little over one year ago. Apart from MACO Soodeen says she has plans to put out other magazines, among them one which will focus on the Jamaican business sector.
“I am seriously thinking of doing another magazine specifically for Jamaica. It’s a business magazine, which will be a calling card for potential investors. The island has so much to offer, and I think a promotional magazine is the way forward right now,” she surmised.
At age 29, with a craft to be perfected, a new magazine on the horizon and endless destinations to visit, Soodeen has little time for a serious relationship.
“I would love to start a family, all my friends are married with children, so I need to catch up, but I am so very busy,” she said. “I am off to Cuba on business, and then it’s back here before going home. It’s hard to keep a date, I travel too much.”
*Maco is French Patios and means “exclusive peeping”
or minding other people’s business.