Beyond Beauty - Christlike Christal-Ann
Natalia Oh, Contributor
When Perlina Jamieson was six months pregnant, she fell down a flight of make-shift stairs. Fearing she would lose her unborn child, she made a promise to God that if the child survived she would raise her Christlike.
A month later, she gave birth to a baby girl she named Christal-Ann, Christal from the root word Christ, and Ann from a very spirited woman she worked with who insisted she call her by her first name - Ann instead of 'Maam'. She even paid her 10 cents every time she called her Ann.
Today, 27-year-old Christal-Ann Thompson-Richards, who was born in Manchester, but raised in Westmoreland, has defied the odds, becoming everything her mother wished and dreamed for her.
Being raised by a single mother in a family of four, Thompson-Richards told Outlook, "One day, my mother looked at me and said, 'It is up to us, you and me' and that stuck with me." While her mother was at work, she handled all the major responsibilities in the home - she disciplined her siblings, cooked, and even cut the grass in the yard. Growing up poor meant anything the children did not have would have to be made - clothes, baked goods, and even toys. During the dry season, she would walk miles carrying five-gallon buckets of water on her head. With a chuckle, she told Outlook, "Sometimes the school bus (full of students) would pass me on the way to school and they would see me wet and hustling."
But that did not deter Thompson-Richards. She was granted a scholarship from the Darliston SDA Church to attend the Savanna-la-Mar SDA High School. During lunchtime while her schoolmates played, she was busy selling sweets, cheese, and snacks to generate an income. This allowed her to buy dinner for her younger siblings. This was the start of her entrepreneurial ventures. Despite her financial struggles, Thompson excelled, she was a star student, elected class monitor, prefect, head girl and subsequently, valedictorian.
After high school, she received a partial scholarship to Northern Caribbean University (NCU) - in December, she will receive her Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Science - and to subsidise her other fees, she took advantage of the university's study and work programme. She worked at the university as a custodian, pastry chef, sous chef, and also a student assistant. It was during university that Thompson learned to paint through her mentors, Zawdie Reece and the late Gerald Wray.
This provided her with additional income and some level of national notoriety from galleries and art collectors. Today, she holds the title of artist, song writer, producer, fashion designer, baker, photographer and many more. But the most revered title for Thompson is that of wife to her best friend Damion Richards.
A firm believer in the Pay-It-Forward philosophy, Thompson-Richards tries to live her life with humility and shares all that she can. She has painted murals for schools for free, is a frequent visitor to children's homes, assisting in organising health fairs and helps anyone she can.
How do you spend your weekends?
If I'm not riding my husband's bicycle to visit my sister, I'm probably painting, baking, cooking, or out on location taking photographs.
Where is your favourite vacation spot in Jamaica?
Rick's Café in Negril, where I have enjoyed basking in the sun while drinking an ice-cold jelly coconut and then enjoying the awesome sunset on the horizon.
Where is your dream international vacation spot and why?
Since I've never left the island, let's go big- I would want to go to Dubai. The culture and the economic growth, are just amazing. I can just imagine the wealth of ideas that would flow from my head to my hand to the canvas. Also, I would be overjoyed to experience it with my husband.
Who is favourite author?
Ben Carson. He was raised by a single mother who could not read, and struggled through financial challenges to become the first African-American neurosurgeon. Carson's book was the first my mother gave me and I was truly inspired. I remember sitting under my favourite banana tree, reading his book from start to finish knowing that one day I would be able to help my mother and siblings through our financial difficulties.
What is the best advice that you have ever received?
After sharing one of my many ideas with Patricia Hakmat she told me, "Everybody can dream, it's what you do with your dream that matters." Also, Sally-Anne Corrodus said "You don't always have to work hard, but always work smart."
What is the charity that means the most to you?
Westhaven Children's Home. My friend, Sandra, introduced me to this charity, it was my second time being at a home for disabled children. But this time was different, instead of just singing and giving away snacks, as I had done at previous homes, here, I helped to comb the girls' hair and feed them. That memory will forever linger in my heart, as it showed me how everyday activities can show love and mean the world to another who can't experience them. We really don't all need to be doing very big things, just do something.
The administrator for the programme is Gloria Viera and she can be contacted at 956-4919.
Clothing Provided By:
Fashion Statement Boutique
17 Caledonia Road, Mandeville
H-Blue cotton maxi dress worn under a distressed denim vest and paired with a studded ivory fringed satchel.