This issue’s famous five personalities you never knew had island roots.
Tyson Beckford is a fashion model and actor born in Rochester, New York to an Afro-Jamaican father of Panamanian descent and a Chinese-Jamaican mother. After being discovered in 1992, Beckford was selected to be the main male model for Ralph Lauren’s Polo sportswear line. This campaign would set him on a trajectory to become one of the most successful male supermodels of all time. The face (and body) of many popular brands throughout the 90s, he was also listed as “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” by People Magazine in 1995.
Commander Janice G. Smith
In May 2016, Cmdr. Janice G. Smith of Arleigh Burke class, became the first immigrant of Jamaican descent to command a destroyer. Cmdr. Smith hails from the parish of St. Catherine but immigrated to Florida with her family in 1988. A year later, she enrolled in the US Navy as a mess management specialist. In 1997, she gained her commission through Officer Candidate School. Cmdr. Smith is the second woman of African-American heritage to command a destroyer and the first female commanding officer for the USS Oscar Austin.
Born in Jamaica, Tessanne Amanda Chin is best known for being the first non-American contestant to win Emmy award winning US talent show, The Voice, in Season 5. As a member of singer Adam Levine’s team, Chin was also the first contestant to hit #1 on the ITunes singles chart twice with three of her covers: Bridge Over Troubled Water, I Have Nothing and Let It Be, all of which also hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart. She has opened for Gladys Knight, Peabo Bryson and Patti Labelle and spent three years touring with Jimmy Cliff. Her debut album with Republic Records LP, Count on My Love reached #4 of the Billboard Heatseekers album chart.
Albert Lincoln “Al” Roker Jr. is an American TV personality, weather reporter, actor, and author. He was born to parents of Caribbean descent; his mother being Jamaican and his father Bahamian. Roker is renowned for being the weather anchor on NBC’s Today show as well as making occasional appearances on NBC Nightly News. In November 2014, Roker set the new official Guinness World Record by reporting for 34 hours.
Marlon James was born in Jamaica in 1970 and is the author of three novels. His most recent, A Brief History of Seven Killings, was the winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, The American Book Award, The Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize for fiction, The OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean fiction, The Green Carnation Prize, and the Minnesota Book Award. His first novel, John Crow’s Devil, was published in 2005 and his second, The Book of Night Women was published in 2008. His short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Esquire, New York Times Magazine, Granta, and Harpers. He lives in Minnesota and teaches at Macalester College.
by O’Neil Phipps
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