It was an absolute honour for me to connect with Kamila McDonald-Alcock, learn about her personal history, her academic journey, and how she successfully manages her goals and career, all while staying grounded and family-oriented.
In an age of reality TV, underserving idols, staged publicity scenes, contrived personas, and 15 minutes of fame for empty spirits and bad role models...it is rare that you discover someone who is worthy of emulating, celebrating, or acknowledging with a genuine level of respect. Kamila is a woman in the public eye who represents the heart and soul of womanhood: intelligence, humility, health and beauty, talent and grace, and still manages to put family first.
Known to many for her participation in the Miss Jamaica World pageant in 2009, last August Kamila married Jamaican recording artist Siccature "Jah Cure" Alcock. And while those two descriptors alone may be reason enough to pay attention to the work of Kamila, it is actually only the beginning of a number of successes, traits, and elements of her character worth recognizing.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, the 28-year-old mother to Kailani Belle is an example of a young woman living out her dreams, constantly working to improve and excel, and still maintaining a marriage and motherhood without compromising her goals. "Ever since February 19, the night of Kailani's birth, I realized something I never thought was possible--my priorities immediately shifted and all the things I thought were so 'very important' before her birth immediately took a back seat," Kamila said.
Kamila's parents, lead singers of an international reggae band, set the foundation for her life of music, the arts, and entertainment. Having been exposed to the piano, guitar, steel pan, and drums from as early as age 4, Kamila noted that music has always had an important role in her life. "Music provides an incomparable release for me," she said. "Music is simply a way of life for my family and I. It's not just what we do, but it's intricately woven into who we are."
Along with the influence of her parents, Kamila notes that her favourite recording artists are all a part of her family. Her sister Kelissa and brother Keznamdi are what she describes as "music genuinses," while her father Chakula and mother Goldilocks are both "hardcore reggae musicians, whose conscious lyrics ane melodies take me back home...both to my childhood and my spiritual home of Africa and Rastafari." She said the music of her family speaks to her various physical, emotional, cultural, and spiritual needs, and provide her with a musical healing.
That being said, the music of Jah Cure, along with countless others, ranks at the top of her preferences as well. "My husband's music of course makes my heart sing," she said. And of her siblings: "I cannot wait for the world to be exposed to the sweet sound of her voice and the inspirations of his lyrical messages."
She noted that music is woven into who they are as individuals, and that her family creates music when they are sad, happy, excited, nervous, and balanced. Quoting multi-billionnaire Warren Buffett, Kamila reiterated how important it was to make what you love not only your hobby, but also your business. While her family and husband have mastered the art of music, Kamila has also taken an interest in the communication and dissemination of music, and entertainment, and how it can reflect and assist society.
With reporter roles on the Jamaican Reggae Entertainment Television, and most recently the CVM entertainment program "OnStage," Kamila is a well-known journalist on the island who is dedicated to sharing stories, and celebrating her culture through the media. Journalism is not only a hobby for her, but it is also a trade that she has studied and excelled in. Her mother, a PhD graduate from Harvard University, enforced the importance of education in Kamila's life.
"...Education symbolizes the opportunity to maximize one's potential. Many have succeeded in life without higher education, but those who are educated unlock a powerful force," she said. Kamila's educational journey was a rich one: at the age of 18, she received a full scholarship to study in Norway where she received her International Baccalaureate (IB) degree. Kamila received another scholarship to study Communications, French, and Spanish at Stanford University in California where she received an honours BA. Along with her formal studies, she also immersed herself in Kiswahili while living in Tanzania, and studied Spanish while residing in Chile.
In May of this year, Kamila received her Master's degree in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, with a concentration in television and multimedia. "After gaining the experience of living in five countries on four different continents, acquiring multi-lingual skills and a diverse exposure to the media industry, I was well equipped to delve into the more technical and professional aspects of media production," said Kamila. "Graduate study created a strong foundation for a life-long career in journalism, and the confidence to apply my professional skills for the development of disenfranchised populations: facilitating communities to record their stories, amplify their voices, and use this for advocacy to stimulate social action and change."
While she has travelled the world, and honed her media skills to perfection, Kamila remains passionate about life in Jamaica. "I've traveled to some beautiful places, but 'nuttin like yard,'" Kamila said proudly. "My travels have highlighted the power and strength of brand Jamaica, and that there is so much more we can be doing as a country to take full advantage of that brand. Traveling always reminds me how very proud I am to be Jamaican--we are known, recognized, and loved from every corner of the earth!"
Naturally, thinking of the beauty of Jamaica immediately brings the Jah Cure song "Jamaica" to mind. Looking for a place to have a perfect vacation / Or even a honeymoon / I know the place to make the perfect reservation / Come let me take you there soon... One of the most recognizable and goosebump-inducing voices in reggae music, Kamila's husband is already a legend of his time, and a key contributor to the culture and music of the island.
We were first introduced to Jah Cure around 1997, and now his classic songs like "Love Is," "Longing For," or "Reflections" are staples in the reggae industry. This year, with the release of his single "That Girl," Jah Cure began his own music lable, Iyah Cure. Now almost 34 years old, he is half of the Jamaican power couple, and a great influence to Kamila in her daily life. "The support of a loving husband plays a crucial role in my endeavours," said Kamila. "Being an active career woman and new mom is not easy. But when the person you love believes in your dreams, or is simply there to support you on your journey, it provides an extremely comforting and safe feeling that propels the vision forward each and every day."
The Alcocks are connected not only in spirit and music, but also by their Rastafarian faith. "The almighty is the foundation of all my endeavours, big or small," said Kamila. "There is a huge difference when something is God-ordained and man-ordained and one of the beautiful things about becoming an adult is being able to differentiate between the two." She credits Jah for successfully taking her through the challenge of juggling a newborn Kailani while completing graduate school, and says that her strength, courage and perseverance during this time is reassurance that anything is possible--both personally and professionally--with Jah by her side. "Give thanks and praises to the most high, every time," she said.
Along with her faith, Kamila believes that each journey you set out on will have an end, and "how you handle that journey will determine your reaction to the end result." While she did not walk away with the Miss Jamaica World title in 2009, she did win the title of Miss Beach. A certified personal trainer, her love for fitness has allowed her to combine many of her passions into a successful business.
Having completed her master's degree, Kamila now has the opportunity to fully focus on JamRock Fitness, her company that allows her to provide a "culturally and economically appropriate solution for some of Jamaica's biggest health issues as a country: obesity, diabetes, and hypertension."
The journey to creating JamRock Fitness for the Rastafarian beauty queen was described as a deeply personal one. "In 2002 I became overweight and struggled with weight issues for a number of years after that," she said. "I began to explore the multiplicity of factors that influence weight gain and weight loss and became quite knowledgeable about nutrition, exercise, and the human mind from personal research and development."
Her weight-loss journey began in preparation for the 2009 pageant, which inspired her to promote health and physical fitness for others who were going through similar struggles. She has now "personalized and culturalized" weight loss for Jamaicans. "Exercise should be fun, and people need strong, excited, driven mentors to help them reach their goals. I absolutely love doing what I do and see JamRock fitness reaching all Jamaicans who struggle with weight in a friendly, affordable way."
To say she is well-rounded would be an understatement, however, Kamila does present an authentic image of what can be accomplished with hard work, with ongoing committment to self-improvement, and with the power of a strong faith and family support. While she could have easily relied on her looks to achieve fame, status, and marry one of Jamaica's hottest commodities...instead Kamila can give credit to her mind, her aptitude for learning, her dedication to family, her love for Jah, her willingness to serve the Jamaican people, and her entreprenuerial spirit for her successes thus far.
"I have always been the ambitious 'go-getter' type who sometimes becomes totally consumed in several projects, easily getting lost in the 'gotta get it done now!' world. That incessant drive to go after what I want in life embodies the core of who I am, and has always been an important personal characteristic."
She is a brilliant example of a strong Jamaican woman, and an international representative of how education, experience, and faith can be an important element of your journey. This is a message--that through Kamila's presence alone--will automatically resonate with those who have the ability to learn from her positive example.
Just like Jah Cure sings, Kamila McDonald-Alcock is definitely THAT GIRL. That girl who has the drive to strive for her wildest ambitions, and yet the humility to give thanks for her opportunities, and credit to those around her who keep her spirit strong. "I hope to instil in Kailani the importance of being an empowered woman," said Kamila. "One who will go after her dreams, but still uphold the selflessness of a good mother, just as my mother continues to, and what I have learnt to apply in my own life."
Photos provided by Kamila McDonald-Alcock. Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.