Thursday, June 26, 2008

The lovely ladies of Lewis Hamilton

Ever since hot Formula One racer and part-Grenadian islandisto Lewis Hamilton broke up with his long-time girlfriend a year ago he has been seen out with a slew of gorgeous women - as well we would expect from a young man who has ... well, everything! Good looks, tons of money (apparently made 10 million GBP last year), an exploding career, good looks...

Interestingly enough, Lewis is quite close to his Grenadian family and visits the island often to see his grandfather who returned to his native island after moving to Britain in the 1950s like many other West Indians. Perhaps this close connection to the islands influenced his choice of partner as he has been seen out with various islandistas.

First he turned heads with Miss Grenada World 2007, Vivian Burkhardt who accompanied him to no less an event than the premiere of Indiana Jones at the Cannes Film Festival last month. Burkhardt is a student at St. Georges University in Grenada.


 (photo credit: Reuters and Big Pictures Photo via Daily )

He was also seen out and about with our favourite "brings a whole new meaning to fierce" supermodel islandista Naomi a few months ago and caught up with her again recently at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday party in London a few days ago.

 The most recent woman on his arm though, has been Pussycat Dolls lead singer (and Pacific Ocean islandista) Nicole Scherzinger who was the one who actually accompanied him to Mandela's birthday do.  

 (photo credit: WENN, Marsland/Hogan/Wireimage via

It would have been nice though if she actually wore a whole shirt to a dignified event honouring the 90th birthday of a living legend ... a little broughtupcy would be nice... I think he should have stuck to Miss Grenada whose Cannes outfit was great. As people say in cricket, class is class, form is only temporary!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Notes on the BET Awards 08 - Islandistas on the red carpet

 Trini-descended islandista Nia Long was absolutely working this plum-coloured dress. I loved everything about it - the rich colour, the daring back with just the two suspender-like straps down to the waist, the draped pockets at the sides, the plunging neckline - it was a winner from every direction. And of course, Nia herself is just fabulous - she really harkens back to the late 90s, early 'noughties' heyday of black romantic cinema featuring all those fabulous buppies - Love Jones, The Best Man, Soul Food ... what happened to those movies anyhow? There was a good run there in the late 90s.

Another islandista by descent, the half-Nevisian Mel B aka Scary Spice was also at the awards and showed off her fabulous body in this close-fitting champagne-coloured dress. As opposed to Nia's dress with its complex structure, this dress is deceptively simple but the gorgeous colour and Mel's great shape is all it needs.

Half-Jamaican and sometime dancehall songstress islandista Alicia Keys had three outfit changes on the night. First was her fuschia dress with the slight origami-like folds on the bodice that she rocked on the red carpet. Didn't so much like how the skirt of this fell - it wasn't quite a bubble shape, not quite straight... hmm. But the colour was definitely pretty.

Next was her performance outfit.

And... well!

Ms. Keys was never rail thin or anything but laaaaaawd gaad ... she a tek fowl pill or what? Since when she had all that bumper? I know her skinny jeans had to be struggling!

And third was her post-performance, acceptance dress - a beige number that would have been blah-ish were it not for the dramatic silver and gold embellishment running across the bodice and along the shoulder. Not everyone's cup of tea but I liked it. I like artistes to wear something a little daring and different. 

I wasn't sure whether to include this last one but I'm feeling generous. Islandista-by-marriage (though maybe not for much longer what with all the scandal facing her hubby, Turks and Caicos Premier Michael Misick) LisaRaye McCoy-Misick wore a great short metallic dress. Quite daring for a red carpet but allowable I think for a music show. And for a woman that is 40-pushing-41, she looks great!

(photo credits:

Islandistas in Italian Vogue's all-black issue

(photo credit: New York magazine)

So every fashionista worth a damn has been buzzing about Italian Vogue's all-black issue which came out this week.

We all know how hard it is to find women of colour in the fashion industry - whether on the runways or in the editorials. And there has been a lot of debate and hand-wringing about it in recent times. Everyone agrees it's terrible but no-one quite seems to know where to point the finger... perhaps because they are trying to make sure it's not aimed at them. Is it the editors? Is it the designers? Is it the advertisers? Is it the readers?

Anyhow, Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani and photographer Steven Meisel got together and decided now was the perfect time to make a real statement about this. Sozanni was fascinated by the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama (can we claim him as an islandisto since he was born in Hawaii? :) I mean it's not the Caribbean but still...) and Meisel had long been frustrated with running up against brick walls when he would push black models for shoots.

So they did the damn thing with several islandistas making the cut. Naomi Campbell (of Jamaican parentage) of course led the charge, as one of four models on the fold-out front cover. Fellow Brit and suspected islandista by extraction (I am so sure this girl is of Caribbean parentage or grand parentage - black, British, with an Anglo last name? Sounds like a West Indian to me but being that she's relatively new on the scene I have not found any confirmation as yet) Jourdan Dunn is also featured on the cover.

Jamaican model Jeneil Williams (of Caribbean fashion powerhouse Pulse) is on the inside.

Personally, I think the editors of American, British and French Vogue in particular should HANG THEIR HEADS in shame that the editor of Italian Vogue beat them to this. After all, Italy has a black population of less than 1% whereas the USA, the UK and France all have significant black populations. Why should Italian Vogue have been the first one to confront this ugly issue when these editions all have much larger black populations?

Notes on the BET Awards 08 - Mellow yellow

The colour on the red carpet at last night's BET Awards 2008 was definitely yellow - the perfect colour for summer and a big trend for Summer 08.

It's actually my favourite colour choice out of the neon brights that are so in for this season.  Hence I've been pouncing on cute yellow items whenever I get the chance - already snagged a gorgeous strappy yellow sundress and a thin sweater top. Plus, yellow just pops against dark skin.

 (photo credit:

Islandista Rihanna looked gorgeous in her tiered, frill-edged long yellow dress. Even though Rihanna is pretty light-skinned and yellow can sometimes be dodgy for people that are well ... kinda yella, it still worked well for her, especially because it was offset by the darker makeup. Also, it was a paler, kind of lemony yellow rather than a strong, sharp yellow which might have played up the yellow tones in her skin.

Since she's so young, the brightness of the dress and the tiers prevented her from looking too old which can be the downfall of a lot of young starlets trying to look sophisticated at formal occasions. Bright yellow is just a lovely young looking colour that made the long dress more age-appropriate for a hot young thang like Ri-Ri.

Rapper Trina and singer Keyshia Cole also wore beautiful lemony yellow dresses. Keyshia and Trina carried the summery theme to its hilt with short, flirty dresses. This is probably one of the nicest looks I have ever seen on Trina - for once she does not look too fussy or overdone (aside from the big ole over-curly weave but let us be positive). The simplicity of the dress is really heartening and with such a lovely colour who needs to be too fancy?

Keyshia's bubble dress meanwhile was accented with a great contrasting black sash. Paired with her new jet-black hair it was very sharp - nice Keyshia!

More notes on the BET Awards later...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Islandista 'It' Girls

Maybe it's just a coincidence or how the stars are aligned right now but I have noticed that an increasing number of the 'It' girls making waves over and away these days are also islandistas - or at least islandistas by descent.

Now what do I mean by an 'it girl' ? After all, it's still debated whether the term is a compliment - indicating a young woman at the peak of her fame and celebrity who is praised and copied for her style and personality or whether it's a bit derogatory - an aimless, narcissistic party girl/socialiate who can't let any dog fight miss her and is always angling to get in front of the cameras. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are described as 'it girls' (shudder) but then again so are genuine talents with actual careers such as Keira Knightley.

For my one - it's a young woman who is a bit of both - she definitely has to have an innate sense of style and be imitated - fashion is probably the biggest element of true 'it girl-dom'.

She is someone who not only goes to but is invited to all the hottest events. And especially in this day and age she is definitely someone who occupies that voracious and rapidly-growing world of media celebrity - the blogs can't get enough of her,  the fashion magazines are in her thrall and her personal life and style are breathlessly tracked. Perhaps it is too hard to define. Let us leave it to the French who put it so beautifully. Simply put an it girl is a young woman that has that certain 'je-ne-sais-quoi'.  

And it so happens, some of the hottest it girls on the scene right now are straight from the islands or at least of islandista extraction.  







The most obvious islandista it girl on the scene right now is Rihanna.

(photo credit:

The Bajan songstress is beloved by both black blogs and mainstream fashion mags for her edgy, 80s influenced sense of style, particularly since the release of 'Good Girl Gone Bad' which catapulted her above the many other RnB popstresses such as Ciara and Christina Milian into a different dimension. Her asymetrical cropped do spawned a million imitators in the last year or so and now that they have all caught up, she has gone and changed it up again, with a throwback short, bowl cut a la Halle Berry in the 90s - but with a funky twist.

I'm not so sure about those open-toed Balenciaga gladiator boots in the pic to the right but she is pushing that envelope as ever.
Another islandista it girl is model, Victoria's Secret 'angel' and former Nick Cannon fiancee (dodge a bullet dey girl!) Selita Ebanks from the Cayman Islands. In an interview with Sports Illustrated she made it clear she is a real-real island girl, talking up her love of fried snapper, calypso and dominoes and reminiscing about her childhood home with the zinc roof.

She is another islandista it girl that is firmly in the mainstream consciousness, as evidenced by the fact that she was listed in the 2008 edition Maxim magazine's (in?)famous list of Top 100 sexiest women. Not to mention she is at every event and live-blogged the New York Fashion Week for New York magazine.

Another, more controversial one is islandista-by-extraction (yes, I'm coming to like that term) the mysterious Genevieve Jones.

The allegedly half-Trinidadian Ms. Jones was tipping dangerously into that 'it girl for no reason with no job' area but she's got a line of jewellery now (whew!) which was featured in a recent edition of Vogue. Genevieve ... well she parties. And she dresses really well and knows all the right people. And even though she's not wealthy - apparently hailing from middle-clas roots in Louisiana, she's a socialite.

There was a rather scathing piece about her in the Wall Street Journal of all places (yuh reach girl!) in late 2006, that really set the blogosphere buzzing and tongues wagging, with folks questioning where she got the money to live in the style that she does. There was more than a hint of thinly-veiled racism and condescension in the piece with statements like:
Unlike many of her friends, Ms. Jones isn't an heiress and she lacks the Ivy League credentials and social pedigree of Manhattan's largely white society set. An African-American, she grew up in Baton Rouge, La., and didn't go to college.

The accusations that flew were not much nicer. Frankly, I love that this is madding them people.  No-one puts that level of scrutiny on the white party girls and socialites so why is it so very passing strange when a chocolate-coloured socialite sets the place alight?


Oh Naomi...

(photo credit: Daily


Oh Naomi ... sigh.

Why black women just won't leave weave alone, nuh?

It is bad enough that you have pleaded guilty yet again to pelting hand (and apparently foot and spit too for good measure) in someone. As an islandista-by-extraction you are making it bad for us and let us not even start to talk about how you live down to the 'violent yardies' stereotype. I swear you were a garrison don in another life.

But this here hair is truly a crime Ms. Campbell. It nuh mek it.

What have all the years of weave done to your hairline? It seems like it has picked up, packed up and abandoned you. It is truly painful to see.

Truth be told - I never got the appeal of weave, even before I went natural and grew dreads. I used to love me some braids, but weave on the other hand seemed a step too far - like you were trying to make out that this was your real hair.  Hence all the destructive extra effort at bonding and blending it into one's own hair - the glue, the stitching etc.  Before anyone asks ... I saw braids kind of like make-up - obviously not real and obviously there for adornment. I don't think someone could anymore mistake my old school 'Patra' braids for being my real hair than they could think my lips are fire-engine red.

Weave on the other hand! Not only did it seem phony but it seemed to damage hair so much more quickly.

My grouse with so many of us sisters (not just islandistas - black women the world over are guilty of this) is that so often the weave looks patently, painfully fake and 'weavy'. Even famous women who could and should be able to afford better seem to fall into this trap. Beyonce, raise yuh hand ... you too Serena!

Let's not even get into the chicks on the street who have a set of gel and black dye down their foreheads so as to help the big, thick weave track in the middle of their head 'blend' in better. Really ... why? It just doesn't look cute.

But back to the world's baddest (in so many ways) black supermodel and her dearly departed hairline - also known as traction alopecia. I find this is so common among islandistas and other sisters and not just older women who have had a lifetime of mashing up their hair. I see young women, girls in secondary school, whose hairlines are crying out to 'give us us free' from the abuse.

And truth be told, there are a lot of wild, untrained people running about the place calling themselves hairdressers. Women who will yank your hair so hard that the roots will be popping up around the edges (that actually happened to me once - not me and she again!) and who will fry and dye your hair into oblivion even as there are fewer and fewer scraps to torture. Even us naturalistas cannot escape. I see plenty people with locks whose hairlines are receding from locticians who put too much pressure on it when palm-rolling it or who interloc it too tight - and it happens to men and women. I talk about Naomi but has anyone noticed the horror that is Beenie Man's hairline? No? Take a look ...

(photo credit:

But a true that patch could be male pattern baldness or maybe D'Angel pull out some locks in a fight or something ...

Anyhow, it is not  a cute look. Hopefully Naomi can still do something about it. She certainly has enough money to consult with a quality trichologist and save her scalp.

And if any of you islandistas out there are suffering ... check out one of the trained professionals from the Caribbean Association of Professional Trichologists (CAPT). Founded in Barbados in 2001 by Guyanese-born Carole Williams, there are members all over the region. No official website but here are some links to guide you in the way you should go.

Kyk-over-Al: Trichologist at Large

Trinidad Guardian - Making her Vision a Reality

Trinidad Guardian - Cosmetologist Patricia Neptune Promotes Healthy Haircare

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No, no a thousand times no...

(photo credit:

Oh dear...

Ri-ri, tell us your stylist made you do it.

Because we have seen you evolve from a teenybopper into a fashionista and trendsetter par excellence and as islandistas, we have been proud of you. You have been a great standard-bearer for all true islandistas, killing it with your fashion choices and got the Yankee girls seething with envy.

So wha de ... (all kinda claat) is dis? WHA UM IS?

The pleather ... ok, ok leather cos we know you can afford it ... pants are one thing.

The hugely ruffled shirt that seems about to devour you is another.

But the cop hat? That is something that we don't even want to know about.

Is there some kinky sub-text here we're missing? I mean ... we did see where you said you like to take some of your stage costumes home and you know ... we cheered! 'Yeah girl! Get in dey!' ... that's something we would do you know. But you know ... at home. Not on the red carpet.

This look ... is not on Ms. Fenty. It is not on at all.

However, considering your previous stellar track record, we'll let it slide - but just once. Don't let it happen again, yuh hear?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Take my money, damn it!

Update #1: July 4, 2008 - More than two weeks later... I STILL ain't got the card. Hmph!

I am a rather pissed off islandista right about now. For the past SEVEN WEEKS now I have been trying to apply for a credit card.

Yes, seven weeks. Am I credit risk you may ask? Do I have a crippling addiction or bad credit or a poor job record or a low salary or a conviction for identity theft?

Nay - far from it. I have a great credit rating, I have a good job, making good money and since I finished my first degree 5 years ago I have been out of work a grand total of 2 months. The first was after I finished my first degree - within a month after finishing uni, I had 3 job offers. The second was after finishing my graduate degree - I already had a job offer which I came home for (and had left another job for), I had a part-time job and I was just waiting for the HR at my new job to sort out the details of my contract and send them so I could get going.

Yet... YET! I realise I have to jump through all kinds of hoops to get credit because banks and lending agencies in this region seem to be so damn conservative.

Take my credit card experience. I have finally... finally decided to get into the 21st century (20th really) and get a credit card because it has become aggravating (and a bit embarassing) having to beg my mum to use her credit card every time I want to buy something online. Which is often in this day and age - everything is bought online now - books, clothing, my computer, airline tickets, carnival costumes. If I could do it all with my debit card, I so would because I am not hype about the idea of credit cards, truth be told. I don't like the idea of spending money I technically do not have. Anyhoo ... I am a pretty good manager of my money (some might even say thrifty) so I figured that I should put my fears to rest and get a card.

Because I had only been in my present job for 10 months when I applied for the card instead of the magic number of 12 months I had to get a guarantor, in the form of my mother. How mortifying! Especially since I had been continually employed for the last 18 months before I applied - and I had not been fired, I quit one job to take up a better paying job. This, I thought was a wise move - the kind of thing that makes lenders salivate at the prospect of putting you in their debt.

Moreover I had been employed by the same place for 2 straight years before that with the year break being for study. So in all I had been gainfully and continually employed for three and a half years before I applied for the card.

Yet ... hoops. Because I had not reached the magic number.

So I found out about the need for a guarantor about 2 weeks after I had applied - when I thought my application was merrily winging its way to the card centre.

So I skipped through that hoop, dragged my poor mother to the bank, made her late for work and got the guarantor sign formed with all the pomp and circumstance as if it were a $50 000 student loan I was getting rather than a credit card with the minimum possible balance. stupppppsssssssssse...

Another two weeks elapsed. I called to check on the progress of the card  only to find out it had "only just been approved" (brr?) and 'sent back down' to the initial officer I dealt with and sent to the far away card centre "just yesterday" (wha?!). This time, a month and some has gone. The clothes I had squirrelled away in virtual baskets from Forever 21 and Old Navy and ASOS are probably not even in style anymore!

Yet I wait. And today I get a call. The card centre has my application (ah good!) but they need more stuff (wtf?). An ID card and stamp duty.

I mean ... yuh couldn't tell me that beforehand? I got to go in town again? Y'all feel this is really how I want to spend my lunch hour?

But this is not the first time I have had to jump through hoops. I am in the process of getting a car right now and when I went to get my financial clearance, the nice accountant man cautioned me that since I had not been shackled to one employer for at least 3 years I might need to pay a higher deposit ... like twice as much (all kinda claat).

For a CAR you know. Tangible collateral that you could take back if tings get funny. THREE YEARS you know. What person in their mid-20s has worked at the same place for 3 years straight? Moreover, in this globalised day and age, with so much competition for talent and a global talent shortage (and we in the Caribbean have an even more serious talent shortage than the rich northern countries bitching about it - cos they are the ones scooping up our people) who really stays loyal to one employer for a long time? All that does is make them complacent.

One good thing though - the Caribbean could never have a credit crisis like in the US. Bankers and lenders frighten to put people in debt - they does have to think long, long and hard, hard about it. Silly me, I thought was the whole meaning of their existence.

It's ridiculous. They should be begging to get me in debt. I'm young, well educated, childless for now, making good money - I ent got a ting to spend my money on. You would feel they would be delighted that I approach them for something that will make them money.

But no, we have to have a dozen hoops for people to hop through first.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Artistry vs. sexy - the mas dilemma

Beautiful ... but artistic?

(photo credit: Baje International)

It is getting close to the summer Carnival season in the Caribbean and its diaspora. In the next few months, St. Vincent, St.Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, Grenada, Toronto, London and New York will all hold carnivals (whew!)

Which brings the modern reveller to the eternal dilemma - do they choose artistry - the band leaders that will actually try to depict a theme and take time over creating costumes that will represent that theme?

Or do they choose sexiness - the band leaders of the most popular, thousands-strong bands who will glam up their bikinis with the most gorgeous and expensive beads, appliques and feathers but whose dedication to a theme extends only as far as to come up with some kind of name to go with the different sections that are defined almost solely by their colour.

To be honest, I cannot remember the theme that was depicted in the last several carnivals I jumped in - not in Barbados, nor in Trinidad. I remember the colours of each costume but not the theme the colours were supposedly depicting.

Take for instance, Barbados' Cable & Wireless Contact - one of the first major bands to launch in that island for the Crop-Over festival. The costumes are gorgeous and the entertainment on the road is going to be fantastic - Machel and Krosfyah. But what do the costumes with vague names like Radiance and Sensuous and Sassy and Virtuous really mean? What is the connection to the particular colour choices and so on?

As someone who appreciates West Indian culture and the specific artistry of the Carnival tradition it's bothering to me that I'm part of the bikinis and beads brigade that may well be stifling the life out of the true mas.

For this reason, some designers like Trinidad's Brian McFarlane have turned away from the bikinis and beads trend in recent years and gone in for more dramatic depictions like his 2005 Carnival presentation 'The Washing' (pictured below).

But ... the thing about costumes that are artistic is that they are often... well, a lot of cloth. Who wants to be covered up on Carnival/Crop-Over/Caribana/Labour Day? It's about freeing up and 'playing yuhself' as  Trinis would like to say.

When I see McFarlane's costumes on the road when I was playing mas in Trinidad I am awestruck - this I thought, was true 'high mas'. But in the boiling humidity, I was glad to be just be observing such costumes, not wearing them. Besides, my bikinis and beads were sexy!

I keep thinking there must be some happy medium. There must be out there costumes that satisfy my artistic conscience and my desire to be sexy and have minimal cloth to carry around on the road.

There are some bands that I find have done so in recent years, though none yet in my homeland unfortunately - it seems to be a straight toss-up between true artistry and sexiness here. You get either or, but not both.

However, one band I find has been pretty good with this has been Trinidad's Carnival Tribe. Their 2007 presentation 'Ole Time Someting Come Back Again' was great in my estimation. The outfits were sexy yet they had a true voice and you could see what they were depicting. Yet it was not over the top or cheesy with the depictions of old time mas characters like the Red Indian, Pierrot Grenade, Fancy Sailor and the  Midnight Robber.

Take a look.

I thought it was a pretty heartening sign. I was kind of disappointed when the next year they went back to gorgeous costumes that didn't really mean anything or attempt to depict anything. Like this one from their 2008 presentation Myths and Magic, which was called Mystique.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking modern day bandleaders for what they do ... or at least, I'm trying not to knock them too hard. It would be hypocritical of me because I do jump in their bands every year and I know it's just business. I have spoken with them and they get it - many of them came up in the carnival tradition, used to be active members of bands where they would actually help make their own costumes, enjyoing the camraderie and the smell of hot glue in the mas camps. But they are also businessmen and women and Carnival is a huge business nowadays.

I just wish that more bandleaders would find that happy medium that Tribe found in 07. I think it can be done. What says you islandistas?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The extra-fly future First Lady Obama

So Barack Obama finally won the Democratic presidential nomination last night - and I'm thrilled! Like many others in the Caribbean, this is one US presidential race I have been following avidly and I think we all feel a bit invested in his historic campaign and proud of what he has accomplished and what it symbolises, especially for us on this side of the Atlantic Ocean who are haunted by the legacy of slavery.

But can we focus for just a second... on the fly, fabulous and fierce Mrs. Michelle Obama? She has always been striking, graceful and elegant but she outdid herself with the nomination dress last night.

Michelle Obama

A vibrant royal purple shift with a slightly edgy studded (? I think) black patent leather belt, it complemented Michelle perfectly. It showed off her great trim shape (apparently she gets up at 4:30 several mornings a week to exercise ... I feel like such a slob) and fantastic arms.

Someone on a Caribbean message board even commented that the dress was symbolic, since Barack often speaks of there being "no red states and blue states but the United States". Red and blue makes purple ... hey it's not my theory, I'm just reporting what was said!

Apparently Mrs. Obama's style go-to woman is Chicago designer Maria Pinto who must be getting a fair bit of interest these days, judging by the responses of many other commentors I've seen online. 

More pics of the dress below with close-ups so you can see the detail on the belt.

(photo credit:Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America)

(photo credit:AP Photo/Chris Carlson)