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Rae Williams: Ready for her close up

Published:Sunday | January 10, 2016 | 1:00 AMLeighton Levy

Raecine Williams is the 26-year-old new host of popular Friday night television programme Entertainment Report (ER). Called 'Rae' by the show's creator and producer Anthony Miller, she, two months ago, replaced former hosts Kiki and Denise Hunt. But Williams is more than just a replacement. There is great depth behind her big brown eyes.

Williams is the daughter of four-time Olympian Cathy Rattray Samuel and Major Noel Williams. She holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. She achieved this after she had already pursued a double major in film and creative writing at the University of Miami. She is a 2015 CBC-UNC Diversity Fellow at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, and has won a White House News Photographers Association award for best student-narrated package. She is also a two-time student Emmy Award winner from the NATAS Capital Chapter.

 

BIG PLANS

Currently an associate producer for Television Jamaica's (TVJ) flagship morning show - 'Smile Jamaica' - this god-daughter of Olympic silver-medallist Grace Jackson has plans to pursue a doctoral degree; is writing a novel; and wants to improve the way journalism is carried out in Jamaica.

Williams migrated to the United States after attending Campion College, but unlike many Jamaicans who study abroad, she chose to return home, or more accurately, home chose her.

"I did not mean to move back," she readily admitted to Outlook. She said a series of events got her and has kept her here.

"A friend and I decided to do a trip around Europe. I came back for a month or two to take a break, and then I realised I didn't want to go back," she said.

Back in 2008, during a visit, Rae had worked with TVJ producing a children's show called 'Watch and Win'. When she arrived on the island from her European jaunt in July last year, she contacted the station wanting to do something useful to pass the time. By October, she was employed as a producer on 'Smile Jamaica'.

 

TWIST OF FATE

Hosting ER was the farthest thing from her mind. But all that changed in an instant. It was about this time that Miller had begun his search to replace Hunt who had returned to Texas where she has been living for more than a year. He admitted that it had become an almost futile endeavour, and he had resorted to hosting a few episodes himself.

Soon, the two came face to face. "Anthony burst into the room and said, 'do you want to audition for ER for me?' and I was like, suuure," Williams recalled. "So I actually went to what I thought was the audition, which actually aired the next day."

Miller recalled the encounter. "I had resigned myself to dispensing with a host and a return to a top-to-bottom voice-over format, when a rather pretty young lady walked into production and was receptive when I asked her to try out," he said. "I told her she had to have a pretty tough hide to absorb my impatience and irritability, and thus far, she's held up very well - no mean feat."

So far, in Anthony-Miller speak, she has impressed. "(She is) engaging, speaks well, looks good on TV; aiming for more expressiveness and natural body language, but Rae's a work in progress," he said.

Williams confessed that she likes working with Miller, who many people think is rather caustic, especially those who see him only in his capacity as judge on Digicel's Rising Stars. He is brutally honest.

Williams, though, is able to see past the tough exterior. "He has a reputation of being a bit difficult. If you can get past the fact that some of the stuff he says is offensive, there is a lot of brilliance behind it," she said, revealing that his criticisms of her are always on point and she has grown because of them. "There are a lot of things that he says that I learn from."

Besides learning from Miller, there are many other advantages to being home working in media. She believes she can develop much faster in Jamaica's relatively small market than she would have been able to in the extremely competitive media landscape in the United States, where hundreds of stations and thousands of journalists compete for a shot at the spotlight.

"In the states, the job I would have been going back to would be as a reporter. I probably would have been a night-side reporter. So, basically, I'd be working all day because even if you're doing the 10 o'clock news, you'd still have to be up at six in the morning and you're not going home until midnight," she said.

"Here, I can walk into the editing suite at TVJ and say to the editor, 'teach me this'; I can say to the cameraman, let me look at your shots. Up there, you are stuck in your position and there is not a lot of room to move up."

Being at home gives her time to grow and between her work as a producer and hosting ER, she is finding fulfilment in preparing her for the next step in her career. She wants to build a production empire by creating local content that she believes will only enhance the local industry.

"I have a show in the works that I will be doing the pilot for soon. That would be the first of what I want to be almost like a mini-empire of shows that I produce, because I do believe that Jamaica needs fresh content.

"I have never understood media and TV here, because I feel that we have so much talent and I feel that what we don't even come close to what we can do. So, my aim would be to keep producing shows and developing shows."

The productions she is planning will lay the groundwork for the doctorate in journalism she plans to pursue. She has already done the research and applied.

The focus of her thesis would be the role of journalism in developing countries like Jamaica.

"I want to see what the impact of journalism at an early age can do for test scores and stuff like that," she said, adding: "Even if you don't want to be a journalist, I think you can't go wrong with the things you learn in journalism - writing skills, communication skills, speaking skills and analytical skills, and how to question and how to talk to people."