Sacha Walters-Gregory, Staff Reporter
Kemesha Kelly's mother was absent when she was crowned Festival Queen 2012. This was not because she was ill or overseas, but because once her daughter hits a stage, she is so overwhelmed with nerves she can't stay in the room.
"My mother has never been to a show I've been a part of," chuckled Kelly, "Even if it's a debate competition (in high school)," explains the 23-year-old, who has a very close relationship with her mother, Eva, a former janitor and now household helper. "Wherever I am, my mother and I speak every single day," said the jovial queen.
"From I was six years old, my mother used to buy The Gleaner and she'd put me on the veranda and say come now, read like you're reading news," she said reminiscing. "So when I can speak like this, it is because of that experience," she said referring to the unmistakable ease with which she articulates.
While she credits her mother with teaching her respect, she credits her father, John, a taxi driver and farmer, with teaching her kindness. In the Seville Heights community of St Ann where she was raised, they call her Mr Daniel's daughter, a reference to his nickname.
"He is a very kind person. He is always giving of himself to people, many times freely, which sometimes would annoy my mother because he's giving away so much free labour. But I think it's just paying it forward because I have reaped a lot from what they have sown," she said.
Kelly who has had a passion for youth since she was at St Hilda's High School and her sixth form tenure at St Jago High School, intends to incorporate a youth project in her reign, which will help unattached youth zone in on their skills.
Before she took up the crown, her job also centred around youth.
"Right now I serve as youth empowerment officer for the parish of St Ann. I'm employed by the National Centre for Youth Development and that is the youth arm of the Ministry of Youth and Culture. It's about developing and maintaining programmes for young people, especially unattached youth," explains Kelly, who majored in international relations and minored in social policy and administration at the University of the West Indies. She ultimately wants to become a lawyer. Her next step is to pursue a Master of Laws degree in international human rights and practice.
Kelly says people are calling her the Jamaica 50 queen and she is honoured for the title, but she believes the contestants were of the highest quality.
"I was a part of a group of excellent girls; every parish sent out their best this year. Even though I came out the winner, I must see myself as among equals because all the girls are equally talented and equally poised," said Kelly with a smile.
Kelly says she is looking forward to getting behind the wheel of her car, a part of her pageant prize, but first she has to pass the driver's test.