A love affair - Kiki and the camera
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
With career ambitions of one day emulating the iconic Oprah Winfrey, Kerie-Ann 'Kiki' Lewis - whose story of triumph over tribulation may one day see her sitting on Oprah's couch - has over the past decade developed into one of the more enduring figures in Jamaican media.
The 28-year-old mother of two, who for the past four years has been married to disc jockey Denvo Thombs, is currently one of the hosts of Monday Night Football, bringing colour, beauty and energy to the CVM Television programme.
"Kiki adds personality and a personal touch," was how producer Delano Forbes described her input to the broadcast. One could argue that it is for that same reason that Kiki has had such an impact on the Jamaican audience.
Her story is a compelling tale of growth, evolution and overcoming adversity.
Jailed at 18 for smuggling drugs into the United States, Kiki could have, like many others before her, gone right back into the trade and ended up back in jail, or even worse, dead.
Instead, she became a media personality, who has won the love and support of the Jamaican public. Her relationship with media did not happen by design but she took the opportunity and ran with it anyway.
"Media was a complete 'buck up' for me," she said.
"My first big stint with media was with FAME and from there to Television Jamaica and then on to other media houses."
As she suggests, it was more the career choosing her rather than the other way around, but she has come to reluctantly embrace it because the profession has embraced her.
"I don't think I ever actually decided (to make it a career). It just kind of came. It comes naturally to me, which made it that much easier for me," she said.
"It is an industry that is very captivating. Once you get bitten by the bug, it gets hard for you to pull away."
Between 2003 and 2007, Kiki was host of The Perfect End and she worked the graveyard shift on The Other Side of Midnight. She re-emerged, this time in front of the camera in the Chill Room of Digicel Rising Stars, appeared in Basil Dawkins' No Disrespect, in the movie Glory to Gloriana and for a brief period spent time on the long-running Jamaican soap opera Royal Palm Estate.
Then just months ago, she shot commercials for Red Stripe's 'bear' campaign.
Still, with all that experience under her belt, she is reluctant to embrace who she has become.
"It's so weird when you say media personality; the title comes with what I do, but it's still weird to me because it's not something that I completely embrace a hundred per cent," she said.
"I guess it's because it comes naturally to me - that element of Kerie actually comes to life on screen, so even if the 'persona' might be Kiki, Kiki is always fine and a little cutting edge in terms of style and stuff, but my delivery and what you see is pretty close to who I am."
Driven by curiosity
As the journey continues for her, she acknowledges that her curiosity drives her continued development within the industry.
"What I take away from my experiences is just learning, that's the greatest thing. If I am on a set, for example, once I get the chance, I want to see how it works. I am going to want to know what your job is as a cameraman, as the producer what is your job; what is the director doing back there? So not only does it benefit me as a presenter, knowing how all things work together, it does help to build new strengths."
Those strengths have opened doors for her in ways that not even she expected. She cites her role working on Monday Night Football and the Red Stripe Bear Campaign as those among the unexpected but for which she is grateful.
"If I tell you how those roles came about, I'd be lying," she said.
"It's not like we had been in dialogue all along. What I can tell you is that Red Stripe has always been very supportive. I did my documentary (about her time in prison) a few years ago and it could have gone way worse in terms of feedback and response from corporate Jamaica, but Red Stripe was one of those companies and one of those brands that did not even think twice. They knew what I brought to the table and they did not even think twice, and that for me means a lot."
She said that between Red Stripe and Phase 3 Productions, the stars were aligned, and now she is back in front of the camera.