Mon | Apr 24, 2017

My Flair Lady - Jean Lowrie-Chin

Published:Monday | October 6, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Lowrie-Chin browsing through the first issue of Flair.
Jean Lowrie-Chin, the first editor of the Flair Magazine, shares a toast with Lifestyle Editor Nashauna Drummond as they celebrate Flair 30. Winston Sill/Photographer
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Nashauna Drummond, Lifestyle Editor

Her effervescent personality is infectious and her positivity transforming. So you can understand why I was rushing out of the office trying not to be late for our evening meeting in New Kingston.

As Flair's 30th anniversary approached, I was meeting with the woman who started it all - my 'Flair lady', Jean Lowrie Chin. I also had a surprise for her - the very first issue of the Flair Magazine, which she produced three decades ago. Lowrie-Chin's excitement was palpable as we browsed through the paper together, over a couple of martinis.

"This was something I wanted to do. I'm an unapologetic feminist in that I believe that women and men should be given equal opportunity. Flair was about adding sparkle to your life. We all want a little sparkle in our life, and highlighting people who did that," she said.

At the time, Hector Wynter was The Gleaner's editor-in-chief, and computers were still new to the process of producing the paper. It was a challenging time, she said, with the team constantly having to check and double check to ensure everything was saved on five-inch floppy discs.

Lowrie-Chin said that at the time, she had three babies - a young company, her daughter Anita, and Flair. She was also working towards her master's degree at the University of the West Indies. "The maternity law had come in and women were thinking, 'I can have my baby and I can work'. They were empowered. It was a perfect time in Jamaica's history. Women were feeling empowered, men were feeling happy. It was a liberating time for men and women."

Uncharted territory

Lowrie-Chin said that she and her team ventured into an uncharted territory and began speaking to women about things that mattered to them, such as sexual harassment, showing them it was OK to speak up.

As we reminisced, she talked about some of the articles that stand out in her memory. Along with 'Women at Work', which gave her a chance to share with other working mothers, she fondly recalls an interview with former governor general Sir Florizel Glasspole, and his wife. "It showed their spirit. They were joking about how they met on the train and teasing each other."

Fashion was then, and continues to be a big part of the publication. "Jamaicans are just naturally fashionable. If we don't celebrate our appearance and fine dining, how will the boutiques survive? How will waiters have a a job? We are providing employment!" she said.

Thirty years after she started the magazine, Lowrie-Chin is still an avid Flair reader. "I get a little charge when, on Monday mornings, I hear people say, 'Where is the Flair?', 'Pass me the Flair'. I love the mix it now has, and the layout has grown up. It has become a brand," she said.

As the magazine has grown, so has the woman who started it all. Four years ago she launched the CCRP - Caribbean Council for Retired Persons. The group now has close to 1,000 members, and Sagicor recently signed on with the organisation to provide health coverage for persons up to the age of 90. She is a life member of Women's Media Watch; a member of the Women's Leadership Initiative, International Women's Forum; chairman of the Stella Maris Foundation; trustee of the St George's College Endowment Fund, The Rose Leon Memorial Trust for the Women's Political Caucus and the Grant's Pen Foundation. She serves on the board of Food For The Poor Jamaica, and she has taken over the leadership of the Digicel Foundation. "I am so honoured," she said of this latest appointment. "Digicel has done so much and since ProComm (founded and run by her) has been their public relations company from the very beginning, it is an honour. It is such a strong board, and the team is so passionate about Jamaica."

Lowrie-Chin also recently started ProCommDev (ProComm Development), which has already completed a commercial complex on Phoenix Avenue, and is advanced in plans to build an apartment complex.

How does she do it all? "When you conceive of yourself and recognise that your ability goes beyond your human frame, and realise that your body is just a skateboard for your brilliant soul, and stay connected to God trying to live out his command, there is nothing you cannot do. God don't like lazy!" However, she pressed the need for humility. "Do it in humility. Be confident, because God has your back, but you better be humble because it's all through the grace of God."

Lowrie-Chin also advised:

(1) Try to establish a strong spiritual centre that gives you courage. Courage is the shoulder on which all other virtues rest.

(2) Become a list-maker since time is precious

(3) Learn to delegate because you can't do everything

nashauna.drummond@gleanerjm.com