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My experience as the Face of the Festival for Toronto Carnival 2019

    I  have been attending Caribbean carnivals since a child, and each and every experience is unique and special in its own way. From Trinidad to Jamaica, and Atlanta to Washington, each carnival has its own flavour, its own style, and its own vibe. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, I can’t help but have an appreciation for our carnival and feel a personal responsibility for its execution and the enjoyment of everyone. Whether through volunteering, participating, or helping administrators and costume makers along the way I have always tried to have my hand in the production of Toronto’s carnival. This year, as the Face of the Festival (along with Joel “The Connector” Davis), I was blessed with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to officially represent the carnival in public and in mass media, and the honour was everything I could have asked for, as a support of our hometown festival.

It all began with my application for the Face of the Festival competition, where I expressed my passion for Carnival in a written essay along with a photographic history of my participation in international carnival events. It was a position I had always admired, because the Face had the opportunity not only to attend each of the carefully coordinated carnival events, but also because that role allowed the representative to speak from the heart about what the carnival meant to them personally, and they were in a position to share this joy and experience with a new audience. A wide audience.

To have access to share the messages of Caribbean culture, euphoria, music, design, and encourage participation was something that I would have done with or without the title. Of course, having the title and sharing it with Joel Davis just made it more exciting, more impactful, and it amplified my dedication to this celebration.

Here are a few of the scheduled moments as the Face of Toronto carnival 2019 that resonated with me:

JUNE 25 – The Festival Management Committed announced the festival, the Faces, the sponsors, and the highlights of the upcoming carnival season. At a formal press conference held at theThe Boulevard Club, I had my first opportunity to speak on behalf of the Carnival, and was much as my nerves were high, I was also filled with anticipation and excitement for the weeks ahead.

JULY 3 – The Junior Carnival Media Launch at the Malvern Town Centre was a lot of fun. These is nothing sweeter than witnessing the young people of our city learning and growing in the Caribbean culture. It’s wonderful to see them dance, parade around in their costumes, and the smiles on their faces is always priceless.

JULY 7 – I had the pleasure of joining the Toronto Revellers on Breakfast Television, joined by bandleader Jamaal Magloire of the Toronto Raptors, a range of costumed masqueraders of all ages, and we got to dance and share our music with Dina Pugliese and Devo Brown.

JULY 9 – The Official launch of the Toronto Carnival took place at Nathan Phillips Square, which was another highlight of the Carnival pre-season. To share a stage with Toronto Mayor John Tory, representatives from the FMC, members of parliament, Police Services, and other dignitaries really reminded me of just how much Toronto loves carnival. While other cities may host Caribbean Carnivals, it is rare to see such formality and honour given to each of the masquerade bands, the participants, musicians, and administrators of the carnival. This was a great opportunity to stand before the city and be a part of the ceremony.

JULY 14 – The Junior King and Queen competition is a definite treat. Taking place in the Malvern Town Centre grounds, I had the opportunity to see the various constructions from the competing mas bands, and watch the young performers move and present their creative masterpieces. This is such an important part of the carnival festivities, and each year it’s amazing to see the designs get more intricate, and the constructions more beautiful.

JULY 20 – Needless to say, the road march for Junior Carnival, through the streets of Malvern and culminating at Neilson Park is also a true highlight of the season. The temperature seems to always been extremely hot on Junior Carnival day, but the children always have a great time. To see the young folks cross the stage is simply wonderful. Joyous. Full of energy and love for culture. It’s great to see the community come out to cheer on the masqueraders. It’s great to see the parents and family members marching alongside the parade route. It’s all just a great display of unity and love for culture, and a day the is enjoyed by all.

JULY 26 - The Toronto Police Caribbean Carnival kick off at police headquarters.Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, police services board member and members of the festival's management committee attended this event. Toronto Revellers, Cajuca Mas Arts and SugaCayne Designs showcased the different elements of Mas.

JULY 26 – The Beyond the Mas function at the Riviera Events Centre in Vaughan was a fantastic addition to the carnival schedule. Usually the Carnival Ball would take place around this time, but this year Beyond the Mas was a truly entertaining night of music, costume, prizes, and camaraderie. I had the pleasure of interacting with so many individuals from the carnival community, legends in our city’s Caribbean family, and those who have dedicated their lives to creating and celebrating mas.

JULY 27 - Toronto FC hosted the Toronto Caribbean Carnival and the Jamaican Canadian Association to Kick Off the Toronto Caribbean Carnival in style at a pre-kick off carnival style party inside BMO Field prior to the game against FC Cincinnati. The event was held in a reserved pitch side space behind the north goal inside BMO Field. With a private bar, steel drummers, and Caribbean carnival models the event was a great evening of family fun!

AUGUST 1 – The King & Queen Showcase at Lamport Stadium never ceases to impress me and having an up-close-and-personal seat to witness the beauty and creative genius presented by the competing bands was awesome. During the event the cast of the Real Housewives of Atlanta were present, bringing additional spotlight to our Canadian celebration, and I had the pleasure of meeting them the next day. Carnival Thursday is always filled with electricity, anticipation, and spectacle, and this year didn’t disappoint.

AUGUST 2 – Alongside other members of the Festival Management Committee for the Toronto Caribbean Carnival I met with the Real Housewives of Atlanta as they received their carnival costumes for the Grand Parade. I spoke to them about my personal brand #everyBODYplayahmas, and explained the importance and history of carnival.

AUGUST 3 – The day I had been looking forward to all season was filled with excitement, colours, cameras, and smiles, as the past weeks of being the Face of the Festival finally climaxed in a joyous day of music and the glory of the parade down at the Canadian National Exhibition and along Lakeshore Boulevard. Being a part of the opening ceremonies and speaking among the dignitaries and guests was an event I will never forget. This year’s extended parade route and magnificently constructed stage was everything, as well!

The carnival season was wonderful. So wonderful, and it all went by so fast, but I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to represent my city, my community, my culture, and my brand all in the same space.

There were so many highlights over the season, that it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint my favourite moments or biggest joys. I met so many new people, got to know so many individuals on a closer level, and had the opportunity to visit the mas camps, speak with section leaders, and artists, designers, and team members and just learn about all of the unique ways that carnival is created and celebrated.

I am thankful to the FMC for allowing me to take part in the Toronto Caribbean Carnival in this way. It was so important to represent diversity and share the message of inclusion. I will forever be grateful for everything I learned and experienced along the way.

Soca music and Caribbean carnival are so near and dear to my heart, that this experience has now only inspired me to do more, create more, participate more, and contribute more to the development and future presentation of our culture here in Toronto, and internationally. It is such a beautiful culture, and this particular element is a fabulous way of communicating the hearts and souls of Caribbean people.

The future of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival is limitless, and now that I have had this interaction with the administration of the event, I only hope to increase my contributions and support of the festival going forward. This event has definitely had its challenges over it’s 52-year history, but with continued communication and a diverse group of ideas and contributors, I am sure that it will continue to be stronger and more impactful as the years go on.

Thank you to the members of the Toronto Carnival community who embraced me in my role as the co-Face of the Festival with Joel, and who encouraged me on my personal mission with #everyBODYplayahmas. Thank you to the international carnival community members who have supported me both in person, and online, with words of encouragement, and by sharing their photos and experiences with me. The carnival community worldwide is a special one, because we all feel the music and the costumes the same way. We all have a shared passion, and it’s an honour to be able to celebrate with friends and strangers in the same spirit.

Also, thank you to all my Sponsors and Affiliates: 
Carnival Spotlight
Lothian's Boutique 

Carnival Kicks
Clore Beauty Supply 
Joe Fresh
Kya Publishing

Matched For Me
Nikki D Makeup
Garifuna Carnival 

Toronto Revellers
Tribal Carnival 

What a journey this has been!
I plan to take my experiences, my new knowledge, and my new connections, and move forward in carnival and the celebration of body positivity. I look forward to connecting with new carnivals, travelling to new places to experience carnival, and getting as involved with the planning and administration as I can.

My carnival journey has definitely peaked, with the honour of being the Face of the Festival, and I look forward to seeing what comes next. This passion has brought a lot of joy to my life, and I will continue to love carnival and all of its fantastic elements. I hope to continue to see you all along the way!

With Love, 

Nadelle 💙


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