by Latoya Burnham
They had hoped it would all come together. Despite the fact that they went into the Spirit of the Nation Show leading, St. Joseph Ambassadors Kimberley Knight and Rommell Marshall knew that lead was tenuous at best.
For one thing, St. Peter was close on their heels with only about three points separating them, so they knew everything was on point.
Sitting now together, their wacky personas ever evident, with their attendant, Caroline Woodroffe-Holder beside them, Kimberley and Rommell are still buzzing from their win as Most Outstanding Parish Ambassadors. What makes this victory so sweet is not only that it is the first time St. Joseph has won the distinction, but that in addition to the coveted best parish accolade, they also won Parish Project of the Year, Attendant of the Year, Parish Independence Committee of the Year and placed third in the parish projects presentations on the night.
The buzz is in the light almost side splitting banter before the interview begins and throughout the approximately half-hour we sit chatting about everything from Caroline’s phenomenal skills in the kitchen, to the new demands on Rommell’s artistic and creative skills, to Kim’s short dress. It takes quite a bit to keep up with the banter, because the topic can shift from serious to spirited in all of a few seconds.
But perhaps that’s what makes this duo so loveable.
“We went in leading, yes, but our lead was not such that we didn’t have to worry at all. So we could have been beaten the night of the Spirit of the Nation if we didn’t get our act together,” says Kimberley in a moment of seriousness.
“Together our act worked,” Rommell rejoins.
And with Caroline in the wings making sure everything was running as smooth as it could be, the two felt like they could indeed make history.
“I kept telling them to stay focussed. I started preparing the night before, packing and making sure they had every little thing they needed. Alcohol, plaster, I had everything, but it wasn’t needed because we were organised.”
Despite that organisation, Rommell notes that it was no foregone conclusion.
“The way I had it figured was that if they give Attendant to Caroline, there is no way we gine win. When we heard St. Peter won formal, we were like,” he sucks in a breath and both he and Kimberley scrunch up their faces in a look of pain. We were like dude… Then we got on stage and found we got third in presentation, we were like, third is great but if St. Peter beat us here, we gone through de eddoes.”
“Straight,” Kimberley says, mouth set and then breaks into a belly laugh.
“So we hear St. Michael and we like we cool. Then we hear St. George and we like yes, we still got a chance.”
When the penultimate announcement came and St. Peter was first runner up, Rommell grits his teeth as he relates: “So check we trying to smile, wid Kimberley whispering Rommell we got it, we got it.”
And then the announcement, Kimberley throws up her hands now, and Rommell punches the air laughing almost crazily, and I wonder for a minute what those around the caf? where we sit for this chat are thinking.
But Kimberley and Rommell explain that it was not just their win, it was a culmination of years of hard work from the numerous PICs that had gone before.
“I think our chemistry and the fact that we didn’t panic, we just stayed calm,” says Rommell glancing at his partner, seemingly for confirmation.
Kimberley picks up: “I think we were psyching out people from the beginning. They just didn’t understand why we were so calm about everything and why we were laughing. Even Caroline was backstage dancing and laughing and having a ball. Some of the others were having these mini-meltdowns.”
“Yeah, I even had one myself, and Caroline was like, look, that segment over, it’s done, focus on the next, stay focused.”
The two says this year as well they thought they had tough competition and a great set of ambassadors, so they were able to gel like a unit, and even during the show were able to have a group pep talk/huddle to keep the momentum and the positivity among them going.
The sense of hard work is something Caroline says she also saw among the attendants during the past few months, and in fact believed there was at least one other male ambassador that possibly could have beaten her for Attendant of the Year.
It’s a statement that elicits another round to chatter and laughter as they all comment on Caroline’s expression when she was announced winner.
With the top prizes in the bag and a parish of people constantly congratulating them each time they leave home, the parish ambassadors say they believe the bulk of the work is now beginning.
“All the hard work has just begun,” the three say in unison, then laugh when they realise what’s been said.
Apart from their duties which will come in the year ahead, Rommell will continue his plans for becoming a professional dancer; Kimberley is on a trajectory for a law degree to add to her international trade plans; and Caroline, well as a mother of two and wife of a political candidate, it’s more or less a case of picking up where she left off. [email protected]