Carolyn Cooper | Another milestone on KC’s journey
In the age of metric measurement and satellite navigation, milestones are a thing of the past. Those old-fashioned markers on the road telling travellers the distance to their destination have been overtaken by Siri, Alexa and the rest of those virtual guides. But symbolic milestones still have the power to mark our accomplishments and give us a sense of just how much ground we have covered on the journey of life.
My brother, Kingsley Cooper, celebrates a major milestone today. He's 65. He almost didn't make it this far. One Sunday afternoon, when he was about three years old, he went for a walk with his babysitter. She carelessly put him on her left side, next to the road. He was knocked down by a mechanic test-driving a car. Splattered with blood, Kingsley was rushed to the Kingston Public Hospital. Miraculously, his only injury was a big cut to his forehead, which was sewn up.
Several weeks later, Kingsley complained to our grandmother, "Baby head hurt." Grandma took him to the doctor who found fragments of glass in his forehead. When I have disagreements with Kingsley, usually provoked by what I consider to be his unreasonable position, I remind myself about the glass in his forehead.
The elegant invitation to Kingsley's birthday party last night is a collector's item. It's a collage of images and words that eloquently tells his life story. Not chronologically, but all the high points are covered. The pages are tied together with a purple ribbon. That's the other KC, Kingston College, where Kingsley excelled, becoming head boy.
The first words on the invitation mark a major accomplishment: "Kingsley Cooper, CD, requests the pleasure of your company." In 2007, Kingsley was awarded a national honour for conceiving Jamaica's modelling industry and developing local talent that has shone brilliantly on the world stage. The Pulse Modelling Agency was launched in 1980. Kingsley created the brands Caribbean Model Search (CMS), Caribbean Fashionweek (CFW), CMS TV and CFW TV.
Tammy Chin, performing at Caribbean Fashionweek in 2009, paused to address Kingsley: "You've definitely changed so many girls' lives; and you've changed the way people even look at themselves and what we thought beautiful was." In Jamaica, the dominant models of beauty have been "out of many, one". Brown! Pulse's modelling aesthetic has, undoubtedly, challenged the norms of old-fashioned beauty contests. Caribbean Fashionweek is a stage on which black models can confidently strut their stuff, affirming the beauty of the black body in full adornment.
Several generations of Pulse models have graced the covers of international magazines such as Essence, Vogue, L'Officiel Suisse, Esquire, i-D and GQ. The October 2015 issue of Vogue magazine highlighted "5 Jamaican Top Models Who Changed the Face of Fashion": Grace Jones, Stacey McKenzie, Nadine Willis, Robyn Mackintosh and Jeneil Williams. Two of these, Nadine and Jeneil, are Pulse models. In November 2015, CNN hailed Nadine Willis' Gucci campaign as one of the 15 fashion ads that shook society and changed the world.
Kingsley has been a long-time event promoter. As a law student at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Kingsley hosted many parties. An early apprenticeship in the creative industries! Back in Jamaica, he set up his Soul Construction disco in Norman Gardens where we lived. Then he created Reggae Superjam, a brand new concept in stage shows.
Instead of having nuff, nuff artistes on the bill - and many more - Kingsley showcased three acts each night over three days. It was simply brilliant: the best of the best. And Kingsley set an industry standard, starting shows on time. One year, a journalist complained in print that the 8 p.m. show started late at 8:05! He must have meant it as a compliment.
My all-time favourite Reggae Superjam was in December 1983. Beres Hammond, Steel Pulse and Dennis Brown were on the first night. Next came Leroy Sibbles, Chalice and Black Uhuru. The final night was Skatalites, Gregory Isaacs and Peter Tosh. What a lineup! After touring from August, in support of his album Mama Africa, Peter Tosh gave the performance of a lifetime at home.
That Superjam show inspired Kingsley to create a museum in honour of Peter Tosh. In collaboration with the Peter Tosh Estate and Tosh's widow, Marlene Brown, Kingsley has again turned vision into reality. The gem of a museum at the Pulse Complex celebrates Tosh's fiery legacy in fine style.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Kingsley's birthday invitation isn't all about his professional accomplishments. He celebrates his family and friends who have been essential companions on his journey: His partner, Romae; his daughter, Safia; his son, Cole; his long-time friend and business partner, Hilary; his sister, Donnette; and, of course, me, his big sister.
My favourite picture in the invitation is of Kingsley, me and my dolly. Mischievous people have commented on the white dolly. What did they expect in the 1950s? My dolly is perched on my hip, supported by my left hand. And my right hand, on my baby brother's shoulder, protectively holds him close.