Lovee: Hello Curmiah, thank you for the distinct honor of interviewing you. I can candidly remember the first time I saw your video “Lucian Pride” for Saint Lucia’s independence and instantly became a fan. It’s an absolute joy to watch you evolve and blossom into the person you are meant to be. Usually when I see such captivating young people so daringly taking life by the horns, I feel compelled to reach out and share their story with others, so thank you for the opportunity…
A Saint Lucian Gem-Curmiah Lisette
Curmiah: No thank YOU! The admiration is mutual. I remember watching your “A Girl Like Me” video clip on YouTube a couple years back and feeling inspired to share more of my talent and to continue to seek and establish my voice in this world and to explore! I always seek to surround myself with people who inspire and/or educate me, and seeing your travels, even something as small as your uplifting Facebook statuses…your energy travels a long way and I appreciate that!
Lovee: My pleasure. Life is about shared experiences and inspirations, so it’s important we are aware of the energy we put into the universe, because it’s often what we get back. On another note, it seems that you are on a high right now. The world often gets to see others at the height of their glory, but there is always a fascinating story behind it. I know you now live in the United Kingdom, but what was it like growing up in Saint Lucia?
Curmiah: Well I’m definitely not at the height of my glory as yet. I still have so much more in me…I’m still waiting to peak. I say this, but knowing myself, I’ll peak and still believe I can do better/be better…which, of course, I always can. (smiling)
Lovee: I love that! As long as you’re working on being your best self, you will continue to reach your potential and keep soaring…
Curmiah: Thank you. Also, you will be interested to know though, that I spent my years “growing up” in the UK. I left home when I was 9 going on 10 (I like to say 10 because it makes me feel I’ve been away from home less time). I’m always defending myself from the “You not a Lucian” jokes. (laughing out loud) My move away from home took me completely by surprise. I left on vacation but never made it back home…impromptu family move. I had my books and uniform at home all ready to start primary school. You can imagine how upset I was.
Regardless, the memories I have of my life home have always served as fuel to keep me going, keep me rooted to St Lucia. During my years growing here, before my first return visit home when I was 16, I definitely held onto memories of my community – Micoud; my school, friends, playing Chinese skip and singing “my mother send me to school” in break and lunch times (Laughing out loud), sports days, report cards, that journey from south to north, hearing rain on a galvanized roof (still a favorite)…it was all vivid.
One thing I must say is that my start in the schooling system home propelled me to continue along the journey of achieving and aiming high…being my best.
Lovee: Ahhhhh…those childhood games and traditions. How blessed we are to have them. I wholeheartedly support your statement on how the emphasis on hard work and education growing up contributed to our desire to persevere and be our best. At my primary school in Saint Lucia, our motto was; “Pray Hard, Work Hard, Play Hard.” It’s still my mantra for life. (Smiling) How was the transition from Saint Lucia to the Uk? Was it difficult for you to adapt to your new environment?
Curmiah: The transition was painful!! I had been to the UK before, but for summer vacations, and I always saw it as just that. I would have summer fun with my cousins over here and then return to the wonderful life I had home. So knowing that I wasn’t returning, and with no idea when I would return…I think I can honestly say I experienced heartbreak at aged 9. It was difficult adjusting; my classmates found it difficult to understand me when I spoke. I went through the ‘changing voice’ phase…battled with that for the longest. I always had my mom on my back telling me to ‘speak properly’, meaning stop trying to sound British. Naturally, spending most of my life here, it’s something I did pick up, but also always held on tight to my St Lucian accent. Journeys home from school with my friends were always amusing when my phone would ring, and the Lucian would come out strong; the look on their faces was always comical. Overall growing here wasn’t the easiest, but not the worst; it shaped me into who I am now. (smiling)
Lovee: Adjusting to the differences in cultures can often be a great challenge, especially for children. But, it’s admirable that you’ve maintained your sense of identity and culture, despite being away for many years. How has both countries contributed to your creativity and talents?
Curmiah: I’ve developed a voice that merges countries…transatlantic you could say, both literally and figuratively. For some reason (probably the influence of my mother) I’ve never identified myself as being British. I suspect had I not had that grounding I would’ve succumbed to my battle with conformity. Thankful for that grounding! Having that is what enabled me to accept and embrace change without fearing it. I think of it like the growth of a plant/tree; knowing that there are no limits to my growth or how far I branch, but I’m still rooted. I guess, because of this it felt so right when I finally decided to share my work with the worldwide web proclaiming just how proud I am to be a Saint Lucian. You always find the underlying themes of identity/belonging in much of my poetry.
The years I spent from primary into secondary schooling here were the years I recall really starting to write. I wrote to express myself, to vent, find my voice. Both home and here, I’ve always been active in the arts – steel pans, dance, choir…I was always participating in programs/clubs/productions. I studied English with Performing Arts both at A-level and degree level, and continue to train to hone my crafts.
Lovee: I think this is what I appreciate the most about you and your work; your love and passion for your homeland. You are extremely talented. A poet, singer, dancer, model, writer, and who knows what else…(laughing out loud)… and you seem to excel in each area. As a child, did you display such talents?
Curmiah: (laughing out loud) And actor…I sang a lot when I was younger, not so much anymore. My father is a musician, uncle a singer; I come from a very musical family. There was even a family band way back. When I moved here, my cousin and I would spend afternoons writing songs and putting on mini concerts for the family. (laughing out loud) Our songs always seemed to have content that related to global/social issues; we were aged 10, writing songs about giving to the homeless. I also took part in my first pageant when I was about five, a pre-school pageant.
Before leaving secondary school we did “Most Likely To…” class predictions. My classmates predicted me most likely to release a hit single and become a supermodel. (laughing out loud)
Lovee: From their lips to Gods ears! (Smiling)Anyone who is involved or work in the creative fields knows that as rewarding as it is, it can be very challenging. It is not your traditional bread and butter, predictable field, and if one lacks passion or motivation, it can easily be placed on the back burner. What are some of the challenges/obstacles you face as an artist/performer?
Curmiah: Oh WOW! I am going through this as we speak…constantly! The struggle of making your passion your living! I’m at a disadvantage in terms of the fact that I don’t have a product that I sell. So falling under the ‘entertainment’ sector makes it harder to get paid. The biggest challenge I face every day is reality. It keeps biting me…reminding that there’s something to pay, or money needed to actually LIVE.
I’m a qualified English & Drama teacher so during the periods where my creativity isn’t bringing in the funds which I need, I work as a supply teacher. I’m also using this as a way to fund projects I want to do. Certainly isn’t the worst thing I could be doing. I enjoy it, however whenever I’m encouraging a student to be their best and go after their dreams, I remember that I’m still fighting the good fight and should continue working towards mine.
Lovee: One really does have to find creative ways to keep doing what they love as an artist. It’s really a balancing act. It’s good that you have an open mind and keep pressing on. How do you stay motivated on the days where everything is saying, “GIVE UP!”?
Curmiah: I pray, speak to the universe, set smaller/more manageable goals and/or seek support or motivation from those close to me. Lately however, on those particularly days, I’ve seemed to receive some sort of message of encouragement from either a stranger or someone outside my immediate circle telling me to keep on. You’ve messaged me at one of those times, and your words of encouragement have made all the difference! I feed off energy a lot, so it’s not so much the words, but I receive the energy! Certainly!
Lovee: Warms my heart to know that I did that for you. Creative people tend to feed off positive energies, hence optimism/positive people to us is like breath. We have to keep each other up, you know? I understand that life is a struggle for all of us, and we all go through the motions, no matter who we are. A simple act of kindness can do so much for someone at any given moment. We never know what someone else is going through. I try to be a light in the paths of others. Your love and passion for Saint Lucia and its people is evident. Where do you think such patriotism stems from?
Curmiah: If you think about it as a relationship, and the circumstances in which I left home, to me, it’s almost like having that one true love that somehow slipped away from you. I’m forever in love with my island, always longing to return. I’m sure there’s some psychology behind it, but I feel like I’m constantly trying to reclaim or get a sense of the life I might’ve had growing up home. I honestly can’t describe how right it feels when I am home. I do know that whenever I get on that flight to leave home and return to London, it always hurts, and I always feel like I’m going on a mission. I am here to get things done.
Just last week I was speaking about the warmth and charisma of Caribbean people and how we really are like no other. That’s one of my favorite things about being home; greeting folk and getting warmth in return!
Lovee: Ahhh,.. our wonderful heritage. Thank God for it! We must hold on to it and pass it on to our children. That’s what I’m trying to do with my writing. What does being “Saint Lucian” mean to you?
Curmiah Lisette with Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister
Hon. Kenny Anthony and former West Indies Captain Darren Sammy
at High Commission Gala in the United Kingdom.
Curmiah: Being warm, fun, talented, charismatic, open to new experiences and seeing nothing as beyond my reach. For a small island we have a huge amount of talent, personality and heart! We are a passionate people.
Lovee: Indeed we are a talented and passionate people! We have so much to be proud of. Through your work, there seems to be a constant theme-Nationality and unity. You continue to foster National pride and encourage Saint Lucians to embrace their culture and uniqueness. And it’s not just done with words; your actions support this also. I applaud you for that. What is the inspiration behind your work?
Curmiah: I am so pleased I can reach people in that way. My life and my experiences serves as inspiration, as well as things I see, read etc. I am a ‘re-creator’. I like to take old/existing material and spin it anew, give it a new angle. Pride is something us Lucians have always had, I think what Lucian Pride did was just remind folks of that.
Being from such a wondrous place, there’s no way one wouldn’t be proud and reflect it in spirit. So I think no matter what I do, that sense of nationality will always come through. I sometimes joke that even if I were to get amnesia, I would still remember I am Lucian. Lol!
Lovee: Haha! I love that! I am a big fan of your poetry. And your delivery is impeccable! Are you the writer of all your work?
Curmiah: Yes! I write all my material (Smiling) Sometimes the piece may be re-creative i.e. inspired by another story I have read/heard, but the words are my own. Then again, I believe all art is re-creative; we build on experience, something lived; something sensory that manifests in variant forms.
Lovee: Ditto! Great work! I must also applaud you for working and supporting other Saint Lucian artists as well. It’s important that we help build each other up. The world is evolved enough to accommodate all of us and our dreams/goals/ambitions, so continue to be a nation builder, for when we lift others up, we are also doing the same for ourselves. Do you encounter a lot of collaboration or competition when attempting to work with others?
Curmiah: Thank you. I definitely agree! There is no limit to success. We can all have our portion. No competition at all; with spoken word/poetry it’s a niche, and people generally look forward to hearing something different. On the creative front, I foresee, and hope for more collaborations with other talented creative people. With the other parts that contribute to my creative body, modelling, acting, I try my utmost not to see myself as being in competition with anyone. If anything I am in competition with myself, hence I continue to train/exercise my crafts to continuously be better than I was previously.
Lovee: With an attitude like that, you can only keep rising! You recently took part in Saint Lucia’s new signature fashion show, “HOT COUTURE.” How was the experience?
Curmiah: HOT HOT HOT!! One of the best of my modelling career thus far. There’s nothing like being home doing what you love, and I can really see that in the images. I was loving every millisecond of it!
Lovee: (laughing out loud) It seemed like a great success and it is evolving into something great for Saint Lucia and the Caribbean. You also seem to be dominating the UK market. Recently you competed in “Top Model UK” and “Top Model Of Colour”. How was that experience for you?
Curmiah: They were both great experience and skill builders. I got what I needed from each of them. More than anything, they enforced self-belief in my abilities.
Lovee: Every opportunity is truly a stepping stone and leads to a greater understanding of yourself and others. Embrace them all. Who are some of your greatest inspirations professionally and personally?
Curmiah: Gosh…I draw inspiration from so many phenomenal people. More so those close to me, within my reach. I’m mostly inspired by people who are either going along their journeys simultaneously with me, whereby I can see their setbacks, triumphs, but most of all their will to get through and overcome.
The late Maya Angelou was also; as I’m sure she is for many, a huge inspiration. I’m also inspired by the work of writers such as Langston Hughes, Wole Soyinka, Whitman, Emerson….WOW… I have a list of great inspirational artists which spans across time.
Lovee: A very impressive list. They really did raise the bar for us all. What advice would you give to any young person who wants to pursue a career in the creative arts and feeling discouraged?
Curmiah: Persevere!!! Start and keep going. Keep growing. Never be scared of public growth. If you know you have something powerful to share, don’t wait forever trying to perfect your craft or doubting that what you have to share isn’t enough. Success, achievement, the best way to measure those is to look back at where you started and feel GOOD about your journey. And always, always, always listen to your heart, your intuition. Never give up on the thing which puts the twinkle in your eye.
Lovee: Great advice! So we know you love the creative arts, but what are some of your other hobbies?
Curmiah: (laughing out loud) this feels like a trick question…probably the hardest to answer so far. I think in some way or another I’m doing everything I love to do. Does eating count as a hobby? (laughing out loud) I love a good meal and a movie…and travelling! I’m always itching to jet off and discover.
Lovee: Eating? Where does all that food go? (laughing out loud) So, what’s next for Saint Lucia’s Next Top Model?
Curmiah: (laughing out loud) Just continue along my journey. Short term goals include my first poetry compilation; I’m currently working on that to share with the world!
Lovee: I’m looking forward to it! The best is still yet to come for “A Girl Like you!” I believe that from the core of my being. I will keep looking on the sidelines cheering you on and lifting you up in spirit. Keep up the great work and keep making your country proud!
Curmiah: Thank you Lovee! (Smiling)
Lovee: You’re welcome. For more information on Curmiah Lisette, like her page on Facebook and check out her videos on YouTube.