FAMOUS & OUTSTANDING CARIBBEAN WOMEN – 4/2014

MICHELE HENDERSON-DELSOL

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michele_creole-1When rhythm, melody and prose unite, there’s magic.  A song can soothe the angry heart, bring joy to the saddest of souls and inspire a generation to succeed.  The magicians who create these phenomena, are to be celebrated and loved. Singer, Songwriter and Performer extraordinaire, Michele Henderson has enjoyed a successful career as an artiste for over 20 years. Born in Grand Bay, Commonwealth of Dominica, Michele has thrilled audiences with her live performances in and outside the Region, with major performances at the World Creole Music Festival, Dominica; Grenada Spice Jazz Festival; St. Lucia Jazz Festival; Roskilde Festival in Denmark; Jazz Artists on the Green in Trinidad and Tobago; among several other performances in the USA, Europe, Martinique and Guadeloupe.   From the tender age of two she was already honing her craft, singing at church, where her father played the guitar.  Michele grew up in a musical family and was nurtured in the art of singing and song writing by her parents Marguerite-rose and Lambert Henderson.  She was enrolled at the Kairi School of music where she learned to play recorder and flute while landing leading roles in the school’s choir productions on account of her strong voice and remarkable stage presence.   Her music teacher, Ms Pearle Christian, described her as “a sprite of a girl” who at age nine showed signs of great promise.

Michele continued on to join the jazz band “impact!” at age 15 where she served as lead singer and flutist.  The band enjoyed a brief stint at the top of the local music scene, releasing one album before breaking up in 1997. During that time, Michele also became involved with the calypso scene, arranging and recording background vocals on several albums for local calypsonians.  She was also featured on an album of one of Dominica’s most famous bands, the WCK.  She went on to play a pivotal role in the release of three albums commemorating the annual World Creole Music Festival held in Dominica during its independence season.

Michele-Henderson (5  Michele rose to prominence as a singer songwriter in those years and began to seek new challenges.  Roland Delsol Jr, former bass player of “impact!” whom Michele later married, took on the task of producing her first solo album self titled, Michele Henderson.  The album received glowing reviews and earned Michele her first international live performances.  She was featured at the Grenada Spice Jazz Festival alongside Nestor Torres and Third World and the St. Lucia Jazz Festival.  From then on, the calls came in from around the region and Europe for Michele to perform live at various festivals.  She continued to record albums and make videos which gained her popularity in the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique and had a number one hit on the Zouk charts in France.  She has shared the billing with international stars like Green Day and The Foo Fighters at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, headlined the Jazz Artists on the Green and Jazz on the Hill festivals in Trinidad and Virgin Gorda respectively and contributed to charity worldwide by performing at fund raising events in London, New York and Hollywood.  Michele has recorded 6 albums and one DVD to date with the latest project, “Home”, being published by extended release.  She has shared the stage with a wide range of artists the likes of Taylor  Dayne, Chick Corea and Doug E. Fresh.

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With so much international experience under her belt, she has become a seasoned artist whose live performances leave audiences astounded at her level of talent and prowess.  Michele also writes successfully for other artists some of whom have participated in and won local talent competitions.

michele henderson  e  bio1In all of this, Michele has found time to have a family and engage in local activities on her island.  She is the mother of two, director of two local businesses, board member of Crime stoppers Dominica, spokesperson for the Home at Heart Foundation and an officially appointed Goodwill Ambassador to Dominica.  She continues to record and perform getting better with time.  Michele is of the opinion that “the best is yet to come” in her career.  For her, there is still more magic to be made!!!

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 1 Tower Isles

CYNTHIA A. “Mother” PRATT

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Hon. Cynthia A. “Mother” Pratt (born 1945) is the former Deputy Prime Minister of the Bahamas. She attained the office when the Progressive Liberal Party came to power in the national elections of 2002.

Appointed Acting Prime Minister when the incumbent suffered a minor stroke and stepped aside from his duties, but she has acted on a number of occasions before, when he was abroad. She is also known as “Mother” Pratt. As Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Security 2002-07 she was  in charge of the Defense Force and Police. She was Opposition Whip Circa 1992-2000 and from circa 2000 Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Leader of the Progressive Liberal Democratic Part. A former nurse, she is mother of 6 children.

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In April 2011 Cynthia ‘Mother’ Pratt, was honored  in North Carolina when she was inducted into the Sister Delany Honor Society by St Augustine’s College in Raleigh.

The award is given by the University to salute the excellence of alumnae who have made significant contributions to the College and within their local communities. Each inductee was awarded the Delany cup and saucer.

Mrs Pratt received her Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in health and education with a minor in sociology from St Augustine’s in 1983. In February, 1995, she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the University.

cynthia pratt. 1Mrs. Pratt is a Protestant minister.

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DEBORAH ANDOLLO

debora 3 Deborah Andollo (born in Havana in 1967) is a Cuban free-diving athlete who held several world records in different disciplines. Her nicknames “Neptune’s Girlfriend”, “Queen of the Caribbean” or “Mermaid of the Deep” associate her with the sea and her passion for the environment, as well as a sustainable relationship between man and nature

She is more mermaid than woman: in addition to her handsome figure and charming face, she has award-winning diving abilities and talent. At 45, Andollo is one of the most distinguished athletes on the island, despite the fact that she has devoted a large part of her career to a discipline that is not part of the Olympic Games and that is not very well known internationally: apnea diving, or breath hold diving.

She holds 16 world records in four different divisions of apnea diving; she also won the 1996 Marine Oscar and was voted World’s Best Diver in 1997.

This modest blonde woman began swimming at the age of 4. When she was 11, she got started in synchronized swimming, which she practiced for more than a decade.

A year after captaining the national synchronized swim team that won a bronze medal in the 1991 Pan-American Games in Havana, Andollo decided to leave that discipline and became an underwater photography model. However, the woman also known as the “Mermaid of the Deep” was not satisfied; she began diving deeper, and eventually reached the heights of fame.

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She threw herself completely into deep diving, a very risky activity that only a few hundred very select people in the world are capable of practicing successfully.

Andollo, who is also known as “Neptune’s Bride,” says she feels a very close connection to the ocean — it seduces her.

“I was born to live with the ocean and its deepest secrets. I’m Cuban, and like any good Cuban, I have spent the best moments of my life in the ocean. The fact that I’m from Havana brings me even closer. From a very young age, I was immensely attracted to that world fully of mystery and goodness.”

In a little over a decade, she became the woman who could dive into the depths using with nothing but a deep breath; her exceptional lung capacity of six liters (!) allowed her to hold her breath for more than four minutes at a time, and she set an absolute record (for women and men). In addition, she practiced yoga, which gave her the mental endurance needed for remaining calm at the bottom of the ocean.

Andollo, who was born in the Cuban capital on May 9, 1967, says that practicing deep diving/apnea was the only way to be in the ocean every day, learning about the different species that inhabit it and the wonderful phenomena that characterize it.

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“My first immersions had a big impact on me. I was fascinated by so many fish, so much silence, tranquility and majesty. The perfection of the ocean makes us feel small and vulnerable,” she explains.

In May 1992, she began the long road down to the depths, diving 50 meters in the modality of free diving, in which the descent and ascent is carried out purely with the apnea diver’s muscular strength and a strong dose of courage.

“Apnea is an activity that cannot be accompanied by fear. I’m not afraid of sharks; I respect them. They are adorable animals, very important for the ecosystem and marine biodiversity, although it is very wise to respect them. But there are tons of dangers in the ocean besides sharks; for example, there are the currents, the depths, darkness, loneliness.”

In 2001, Deborah decided to enter the world of scuba diving, and she did so spectacularly: she dove deeper than anybody ever had without a mask or fins: 74 meters, in the modality known as free diving. Not even the most famous male divers had reached that depth.

Andollo, who is also nicknamed “Queen of the Caribbean,” is president of the Cuban Federation of Subaquatic Activities (FCAS), and she passionately defends the environment and the sustainable coexistence of human beings and nature.

“For me, commitment to the ocean is important. I am always fighting to protect it and to raise awareness about protecting it from human voracity. In that sense, I think that there is still a lot to be done in Cuba regarding marine parks and protected areas, even though there is a great deal of political will.”

Andollo has two children — a 13-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl — and says she has always pursued happiness without limits. “Cuba is my land and my sea.”

Proudly, she says that her oldest child, Ernesto, has become a wonderful apnea diver, and can now dive 13 meters deep.

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Currently, Andollo lives in Isla Cozumel, Mexico, but that does not stop her from feeling very passionately about the island where she was born and achieved her great triumphs.

“Cuba is where my parents and my best, true friends live, and where the ocean is more tranquil than anyplace else. It is a meeting point for the most intense encounters of affection. It’s where I was born and where my children were born, so, it will always be where we are from. Thank you, Cuba!”

In Mexico, she is making one of her dearest dreams come true: the Academia Blue Yemayá, an academy that teaches free diving. Andollo and her husband, Eric Testi of France, are its co-presidents and administrators.

“We work in the diving area of the marine park on the island of Cozumel, which has the second largest coral reef in the world.”

Deborah is a modest, unassuming woman who is familiar with the positive and negative aspects of fame.

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Twice included on the list of the country’s top 10 athletes (1996 and 1997) and chosen as one of the 100 Best Cuban Athletes of the 20th Century, Andollo received the Platinum Pro5000 Diver Award in November 2011, a prize that is granted to outstanding divers who have completed more than 5,000 dives.

Deborah, fascinated by the ocean and gifted with supernatural talents, says there are many things she would still like to do, and that free diving is a fascinating activity, a passion that she enjoys sharing with others.

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SIMONE OVIDE DUVALIER

Dr. and Mrs. Francois Duvalier WaitingSimone Duvalier (c. 1913 – 1997) was the wife of Haitian dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier (1907–1971).

She was born Simone Ovide in about 1913 near the Haitian town of Léogâne, the daughter of a mulatto merchant and writer, Jules Faine, and Célie Ovide, one of the maids in his household. At an early age her mother gave her up, and she spent much of her childhood in an orphanage in Pétionville, an exclusive suburb in the hills above Port-au-Prince. The orphans were encouraged to acquire vocational skills and Simone Ovide was trained as a nurse’s aide. While working as a nurse she met a young doctor named François Duvalier. The couple was married on December 27, 1939, and had four children: Marie Denise, Nicole, Simone, and Jean-Claude, their only son.

After their marriage, François Duvalier became minister of public health and labor in 1949 and won election to the presidency in 1957. Throughout his 14 years in office, his wife guarded access to her husband and developed and promoted her own palace favorites.

Because of her acquired status and her imperious bearing, Haitians referred to her as “Mama Doc”. She was, like her husband, reported to be a Vodou expert. She cultivated the image of a benefactor; dispensing charity to inhabitants of “Cite Simone”, a planned settlement named for her that is known today as Cité Soleil, one of the most miserable slums in Latin America.

Jean-Claude Duvalier with His Mother

Madame Duvalier’s influence reached its peak after the death of her husband in 1971, when her nineteen-year-old son Jean-Claude Duvalier succeeded his father as Haiti’s “president for life”. She relished the title of first lady and the power it conferred, and was said by associates to deeply resent having to relinquish that role after Jean-Claude Duvalier married in 1980 and she was demoted to “Guardian of the Duvalierist Revolution”.

When her son was ousted from power in February 1986, Simone Duvalier joined him and his wife, Michèle Bennett, in exile in France. She was rarely seen in public. After her son’s bitter divorce from his wife, Madame Duvalier lived with her son in relative poverty in the suburbs of Paris.   She died in 1997.

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