The Caribbean is quite a diverse region made up of people of different races, ethnicities, cultures, and music. West Indians, as they are affectionately called have been very influential on the international stage in music, film, fashion and sports. This blog entry is dedicated to the Caribbean individuals who have made an indelible impact on the international stage in their respective fields.
Bob Marley was a legendary Jamaican Reggae musician. Marley is influential as he was a pioneer in helping to spread Reggae music and the Rastafari movement across the world. His music dealt with the social and political issues that deeply affected Jamaica (especially in the 70’s), as well as love and peace. His hits include: “No Woman No Cry”, “Redemption Song”, “Could You Be Loved”, “Three Little Birds” and “One Love” which was named by BBC as the song of the millennium. Bob Marley’s compilation album “Legend” which was released three years after his death in 1984 is the best selling Reggae album of all time, going Diamond in the US and selling 25 million copies worldwide. At Marley’s funeral on 21 May 1981, then Prime Minister of Jamaica Edward Seaga delivered the eulogy. He stated that :
“His voice was an omnipresent cry in our electronic world. His sharp features, majestic looks, and prancing style a vivid etching on the landscape of our minds. Bob Marley was never seen. He was an experience which left an indelible imprint with each encounter. Such a man cannot be erased from the mind. He is part of the collective consciousness of the nation”.
Gloria Estefan is a Cuban-born American singer-songwriter and actress. She is known as the “Queen of Latin Pop”. Estefan is considered to be the most successful crossover Latin artiste to date selling over a 100 million albums worldwide, 31.5 million of which was sold in the United States alone. Her biggest hits include: “Don’t Wanna Lose You”, “Conga(with the Miami Sound Machine)”, “Coming Out of the Dark” and “Anything for You”.
Grace Jones is a Jamaican singer, model and actress. She started her career as a model, appearing frequently in NYC’s nightclub Studio 54. Jones got record contract with Island records in 1977, which sparked numerous dance club hits. Her biggest hits include: “Pull Up to the Bumper”, “I’ve Seen That Face Before(Libertango)”, “Private Life”, “Slave to the Rhythm” and “I’m Not Perfect(But I’m Perfect for You)”. Grace Jones also appeared in numerous films such as “Conan the Destroyer” in 1984 alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1985 James Bond film, “A View to Kill” and 1992 “Boomerang” with Eddie Murphy. Her androgynous appearance, and personality influenced the cross-dressing movement of the 1980’s. She has been an inspiration for numerous other artistes, such Annie Lennox, Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
Naomi Campbell is a British born supermodel of Jamaican and Chinese parentage. She began her modelling career at age 15 and became the first Black model on the cover of British and French Vogue and also the first Black model on the cover of Time. She was one of six models of her time recognized as “supermodels” by the fashion industry. Naomi is known for her exotic legs, her signature walk and her featurings in high-profile advertising campaigns for fashion moguls such as Ralph Lauren, Francois Nars and Versace. She has also starred in music videos for Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, George Michael and Bob Marley.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty is a Bajan recording artiste. She began her music career in 2005 with her debut album, “Music of the Sun”. Since then she has been one of the biggest Pop superstars earning numerous accolades. Her achievements include: five Grammies, five American Music Awards and eighteen Billboard Music Awards and a total of 7 albums. Some of her biggest hits include: “Umbrella”, “Only Girl(In the World)”, “We Found Love” and “Diamonds”. Rihanna has sold more than 25 million albums and 60 million digital singles worldwide since she started her career in 2005, which makes her the best selling digital artiste of all time. Rihanna has a total of twelve number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the youngest solo artiste to do so. Billboard also named her the Digital Songs Artiste of the 2000’s decade, and ranked her as the seventeenth overall artiste of the same decade.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, is a Jamaican track and field sprinter. She came to prominence at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China when at age of 21, became the first Jamaican and by extension Caribbean woman to win 100m gold at the Olympics. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London,England she successfully defended her 100 m title, and became the third woman, and first non-American to win two consecutive 100m events at the Olympics.
Fraser-Pryce is also the 2009 World Champion,the second female sprinter to hold both World and Olympic 100m titles simultaneously, the first being Gail Devers. Shelly-Ann was given the name “pocket rocket” for her petite frame(standing at 5 ft tall) and her powerful starts. She ranks fourth on the list of the fastest 100m female sprinters in history, her personal best being 10.70 seconds, set in Kingston, Jamaica in 2012. On the 22 February 2010 she was named the UNICEF National Goodwill Ambassador for Jamaica.
Sir Sidney Poitier is a Bahamian actor, writer, director and diplomat. In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in “Lilies of the Field”. He went on to star in three successful films: “To Sir With Love”,”In the Heat of Night”, and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Poitier 22nd on the list of the 25 Greatest Male Stars of All Time. In 2002, Poitier received an Honorary Award presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It declared: “to Sidney Poitier in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being.”. Since 1997, he has been the Bahamian ambassador to Japan. On 12 August 2009, Sidney Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour of the United States of America. It was presented by President Barack Obama.
Usain St. Leo Bolt is a Jamaican sprinter known for being the fastest person ever. He is the first man to hold both the 100m and 200m world records since automatic time measurements became mandatory in 1977. Along with his team-mates, he also set the world record in the 4x100m relay. He is also the current Olympic champion in these three events, and the first man to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting and a five-time World champion. He was the first to win 100m and 200m titles at consecutive Olympics (2008 and 2012). In 2009 he broke his own record for 100m from 9.69 seconds to 9.58 seconds in Berlin, Germany.
His achievements in sprinting have earned him the nickname “Lightning Bolt”. His awards include: the IAAF World Athlete of the Year(2008-9, 2011-12), Track and Field Athlete of the Year (2008-9), Laureus World Sportsman of the Year (2009-10) and BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year (2008-9). He is the highest paid athlete ever in the history of track and field and he is considered to be one of, if not the greatest athlete ever.
Wyclef Jean is a Haitian-American rapper, record producer, and politician. He came to prominence as a member of the Hip Hop group the Fugees. On August 5, 2010, Jean applied to be a candidate in the Haitian election of that same year. His request was denied by the Electoral Commission which ruled him ineligible because he did not fulfil one of the requirements which was to be a resident in Haiti for the last five years.Jean raised numerous efforts for Haiti’s earthquake relief through his organization called “Yele Haiti”. It was supported by donations from his Twitter followers, views of the MTV telethon “Hope for Haiti” and other benefit concerts.