THEY say behind every good man is a strong woman. Key words: they say. But I like to think that, in actuality, these strong women are standing directly besides, or sometimes, even in front of said good men.
This is not to question the strength and masculinity of men at all; it is simply to highlight the fact that in most cases, the management and guidance qualities of a woman are usually the wind in the sails of a steadily moving, happy and functioning (relation)ship.
This is, and has always been, the case with today’s WOTW, 29-year-old Soufriere native, Jonelle James.
Since her schooldays, James has found herself involved in numerous leadership roles, ranging from her involvement in Carnival, where even though she is not a massive fanatic, she ended up being the Deputy Band Leader for Mas Action, to a management role in NG Soca Stage where she helped the likes of Ninja Dan and Kayode Francois.
Today, she has come round full circle in the music business where she linked up with local R&B star, Sherwinn “Dupes” Brice, to form “Dupes Did It Music” four years ago.
James credits her upbringing in Sulphur City for her passion for community work and her leadership qualities.
She said: “A lot of my schoolmates would look up to me for assistance with certain things. I guess it came from the fact that my mom was a well-respected teacher and my dad was an entrepreneur. So I was always put in the forefront of any conversation or discussion or any representation that needed to happen. So those leadership skills sort of developed from then.”
From very early on, her parents always taught her to believe in herself and to develop herself and, as a result, she got into reading self-help and self-improvement books, which was very odd for a youngster her age.
James recounted a memory of her school days when she was asked to write an essay for a school competition. She was reluctant, as she was more interested in Mathematics, but she didn’t feel this was a strong point of hers as she knew of other students who excelled in the English department.
She was goaded into taking part and her essay resulted in her representing St. Lucia in the Dominican Republic at the Caribbean Tourism Conference (CTC), as not only had she won the school competition but had gotten the top mark on the island! This, she said, was a practical example of believing in yourself.
“As positive as I was, I was so bent on the other people around me who were achieving and celebrating their success that I didn’t see a need to be a part of it — only to be a part of it and emerge at the top,” she said.
She continued: “It also put me in a position to step out for leadership again because there I was at the CTC with my name in big letters, walking the stage for St. Lucia, having just entered secondary school, and having to speak on behalf of St. Lucia in front of all of these delegates representing the Caribbean.”
It also helped that she attended St. Joseph’s Convent which, she said, focuses on developing leadership skills.
While James is indeed a SuperShero in her own right, it would be remiss of anyone to think that all the leadership and management is not taxing.
When asked about her support system, James said she was taught by her grandmother that the one person everyone should have as their best friend is their mother. She is beyond glad that she took heed of her Gran’s word because to date, her mother is her solid rock.
James said of her mother: “She is one person that has been able to keep me grounded, no matter what. She is one person who knows how to agree and disagree with me and get the right message that I need to get across.”
She said she is also fortunate to have a group of other close/best friends and that because her friendship with Brice, she is able to have a great business partnership with him.
She said: “When he was dabbling with the music and I was having my own challenges with different projects I was working on, I always knew that if I wanted constructive criticism that I could pick up the phone and run it by him. He always knew that if he wanted to have someone check something out before sending it out to other artistes or producers and he sent it to me, I would tell him the truth and guide him on how to perfect it.”
One of the mantras of Team Dupes, James said, that is all about team work. Hence, T.E.A.M. Dupes, which really stands for Together Everyone Achieves More.
James said the lack of proper leadership as well as team ethics are perhaps some of the biggest hurdles holding local artisans back because they need a lot of support and also need to have the right people in their corner.
She said: “You find our artistes here in St. Lucia have to juggle so much and be so much of a one-man production that we are not seeing the best of them. What should really be coming from them now might take them another 10 years because they are not really in the position to focus on that masterpiece. So teamwork matters.”
When we came to my favourite part of my WOTW interviews, James definitely did not disappoint as she once again showed that you can never come close to figuring human beings out and that everyone is so amazingly unique and interesting in their own right.
She said: “I am an avid collector and user of adult colouring books. Not the pornographic kind but the kind that is simply too complex for young children. I think it helps you clear your mind and set your focus. I don’t get overly carried away but I spend at least one or two hours per week with my books.”
She also had a bonus secret (which made us kindred spirits) — she has never seen a single episode of the grossly-popular “Game Of Thrones” series. There, we both said it!