The Spartan legacy - Beauty queens praise club for contribution to beauty and fitness
A visit to the ‘About Us’ section on the website for the Spartan Health Club gives a brief synopsis of the facility that has birthed many a fitness enthusiast throughout its four decades long history. But, for those who have come to know the legacy of Spartan, the overview doesn’t do justice to the club that was the training ground for countless sporting teams, and the place where countless Miss Jamaica World pageant contestants were groomed for the world stage. Not only has the facility produced numerous world- class athletes and champion bodybuilders, but it has been the home of three of Jamaica’s four Miss World winners. Therefore, after 44 years in operation, news of its closure has left many saddened. To those who benefited directly from its services, the facility was more than a gym, to them it was home.
When speaking to The Sunday Gleaner about the contributions of the Spartan Health Club, Cindy Breakspeare, Miss World 1976, went down a nostalgic road as she remembered her pageantry days and the jumpstart she was afforded by Spartan. Breakspeare was one of the club’s first gym instructors who, in the first six months of Spartan’s operations, went on to win Miss Jamaica Body Beautiful, Miss Universe Bikini and Miss World pageant. “Mickey (Haughton-James, managing director of Spartan) had a vision. He came and took me out of a job and said ‘listen come, let’s do this together. I believe in you and I think you have the potential to go all the way. At that time, we had no Miss Jamaica and so I got there (Miss World) through Miss Jamaica Body Beautiful and then Miss Universe Bikini, all with Mickey’s support,” she said. “We didn’t have all the monumental support that later emerged, but it was just perfect timing for Mickey and myself to work together. He would come and pick me up at 5 o’clock in the morning and we would go running and spend the whole day at the gym working out, so that I would be in peak condition. It (Spartan) was like a second home for me.”
Breakspeare said she was washed with a sense of loss when it was announced that the facility would be closing its doors at the end of September. “I couldn’t believe it at first when I heard the news, and I posted something about it (on Wednesday) on Instagram. It was a throwback picture of me and Serge Nubret from Guadeloupe who won the Mr Universe the same night I won Miss Universe Bikini and, while I was putting the post together, I found myself weeping,” she said. “Spartan has been such a big part of my life for all those 44 years that, for me, it felt like the end of an era. I don’t think that we will ever be able to measure the contributions of Mr Haughton James to physical and beauty culture in this country.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Miss Jamaica World 2018 winner, Khadijah Robinson. Robinson, who went on to claim the crown of Miss World Caribbean at the global competition that same year, said the facility is an embedded part of Jamaican culture. She expressed the view that it is hard to have a conversation about pageantry in Jamaica without making mention of Spartan. “I have no idea how things will look going forward without a Spartan, because every conversation involving pageantry in Jamaica, Spartan has been a part of it. It is a part of our legacy and we just have to see where the future leads us to now. I owe a lot of who I am to Spartan and so do many of the queens that have been groomed there,” she said. “It really became such a huge part of us that, even after many of us won our competition, we still went back there. I remember the staff always being so helpful and friendly that it really did feel like home. It was the place where many of us networked. Many friendships have been formed at Spartan, and so it was definitely more than a gym.”
Soyini Phillips, franchise holder of Miss Universe Jamaica Central pageant and 2016 contestant in the Miss Jamaica World pageant, told The Sunday Gleaner that there must now be some way to honour the contributions of Spartan. She expressed the view that, with the club having to close its doors, Jamaica must do something to ensure its legacy is secure. “The Spartan legacy is phenomenal. That place has moulded so many women into becoming better versions of themselves. It’s unbelievable. It was not just a training ground, it was a monumental club and it should be treated as such. I think one of the ways that Jamaica can do this is to reward Sir James himself,” she said. “I think Spartan wouldn’t be what it is without Mr Haughton-James. He put his heart and soul into this facility, and so giving him the recognition would be a great way to honour the club’s legacy. To keep the history of Spartan alive, we have to reward the person who kept it alive for so many years.”
Breakspeare agreed. “I know that Mickey has been honoured at a national level. I’m not sure what he got, but I think that, as a thank you, the Government could take that to the next level. I think he would be more than deserving. I think Mickey should be really proud of himself, and Jamaica owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude. Likkle Jamaica with four Miss World, you know what that is?” she questioned. “And Mickey didn’t have anything to do with Carole Joan Crawford, but three out of four is not a bad batting average; and so we need to just applaud him and let him know how much we appreciate him.”