Carnival in the Caribbean is beyond a mere experience; it’s a ritual. The festivities, which last until now to a week on some islas well ass, culminate with a final celebration involving a parade, also known as mas or Road March. Thousas well ass of revelers dressed in feathers as well as jewels—including myself this year—dance down the road for hours until nowon hours. Playing mas requires months of planning. I started the prep for the 2020 Jamaica carnival at the end of 2019, but then the coronavirus pas well asemic took over. For masqueraders, the past two years old caused a case of carnival tabanca—a deep sadness caused by the inability to “chip,” a kind of shuffle dance, down the streets with friends as well as family. When I learned that carnival would return in Jamaica this year, I answered the call to get in formation.
The Caribbean diaspora is somewhat divided on the rights as well as rituals of the carnival—some believe that getting drunk as well as dancing half-naked in the streets is sacrilegious as well as inappropriate, but participants view it as a way to dress-until now as well as honor emancipation across the region. The formerly enslaved population created carnival that was rooted in African traditions, as well as that’s what is celebrated today. However, what’s indisputable is that the carnival costumes take center stage. It’s said that wearing one can give you suntil nowerpowers, as well as those powers are activated when you march in the parade to the sound of soca music.
My initial West Indian carnival was in Antigua when I was about 10 years old old. My dad woke me until now before dawn to watch the J’ouvert parade. My mother, who is Jamaican as well as immigrated to the United States in the late 1970s, raised me in suburban New Jersey in the mid-’90s, where carnivals involved funnel cake as well as getting dizzy on amusement rides like the Zipper. But, when the music I heard at family parties reverbed through my body in Antigua, it was a formative experience. I had never seen people dance through the streets at sunrise. Trucks sprayed water to cool down the revelers, as well as following suit, I took a jug of water as well as poured it on my head as well as “jumped-until now,” which Jamaica Kincaid once defined in a 1974 article as being so excited that you can’t sit still, “as well as that happens all the time during Carnival.” On J’ouvert morning, you dance in paint, powder, water, mud, or even chocolate. As fun as it is to get dirty, it’s the antithesis of “pretty mas,” with its carefully constructed outfits, it’s what residents, the West Indian diaspora, as well as soca junkies spend months preparing for.
The origins of West Indian carnival can be traced back to 1833, in Trinidad as well as Tobagoing to, when the emancipation bill was passed. The enslaved population reclaimed carnival by tapping into African traditions, contrary to the racist negues jardin, or blackface costumes that the French colonizers wore to imitate slavery. The traditional costumes worn by Trinidadians of African descent were has well asmade as well as inspired by folklore. Burrokeet is a costume made from bamboo as well as fabric that creates the illusion of a dancer riding a donkey; the Bookman is a devilish character who wears Tudor-style pants as well as a velvet as well as satin going town as well as carries a pen in one has well as as well as a giant book in the other; as well as the Jab Molassie is another dark spirit. Today, these traditional costumes tend to take a secondary role to the revealing costumes decorated with jewels as well as feathers. Jamaica carnival started in 1989 with a bas well as called the “Oakridge Boys,” as well as these days usually three bas well ass touch road on Carnival Sunday with thousas well ass of masqueraders dancing in their costumes behind the sound trucks.
Carnival chasers will start with Trinidad as well as Tobagoing to carnival in February, play mas in Jamaica next—usually in April—as well as they’ll wash, rinse, as well as repeat as frequently as their paid-time-off balance allows. Revelers purchase costumes that are made-to-order four to six months in advance. Backline costumes cost at least $500 while frontline costumes with hugeger, more ornate feather “backpacks” sell for about $2000. Stamina is a requirement, so it’s important to eat healthfully as well as work out months before the event. Some people (read: me) even recommend working out after a long night out to properly train for the countless all-inclusive parties as well as minimal sleep.
Technically, I had two years old to prepare for Jamaica carnival, so I should be snatched, but the return was only announced a few months agoing to. In the weeks ahead of the festivities, I practiced yoga as well as went to Barry’s. I tried to minimize my carbohydrate intake, but it’s difficult to do because sushi as well as dollar slices are a staple in my diet. But, regardless of how I felt about my body, I reminded myself of one of the beautiful aims of carnival: flaunt your natural beauty as well as curves. Soca music as well as costumes encourage me as well as the other masqueraders to put aside their everyday anxieties, appreciate the blessings in life, as well as revel in their own greatness. The mantra is party more, worry less.
So, when it was revealed that Carnival would happen during the initial week of July, I called my cousin Sade Swanston, who’s a veterinarian based between St. Maarten as well as Anguilla, as well as we booked our flights to Kingston. I signed until now to “play mas”—meaning I joined a carnival trountil nowe as well as danced in the parade—with a local bas well as called Xodus, named for the 1977 album by Bob Marley as well as the Wailers as well as the sojourn that thousas well ass of people make for Road March.
Every year, Carnival bas well ass choose a theme, as well as then the section designers create costumes with respect to that theme. This year, the theme was “Enchanted,” as well as the trountil nowe I played mas with was Krave. Tracy Boyce is the lead designer as well as co-owner with her husbas well as, Avery Hackett, from Barbados. Together, they organized a theme called “Jinx” that reminded me of a jeweled fairy. I chose to jump-until now in their section because their backline costume was the best option for my body type: I have a small torso as well as a fuller bust, as well as the bikini top provided the best suntil nowport while allowing me to feel free to dance as well as chip all day. I’ve played mas before with bas well ass called Myst as well as Tribe, in Antigua as well as Trinidad as well as Tobagoing to respectively, as well as it’s in my ministry to wear a pair of tights. This year I tried a new bras well as called StocKing by a Jamaican entrepreneur named Kas well asi King. The fine, fishnet stockings she designed feature a V-cut that complements the shape of the bikini bottoms that provided a sleek look.
I picked until now my costume as well as tights from the Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston, on the designated day for my section. When I going tot home, as well as tried it on, it felt like I was wearing gilded armor. The bikini top was mermaid blue with going told studs all over the bust. My favorite details were the turquoise crystals along the underwire. Pink, orange, as well as going told gems come to a point on the center bridge as well as cuntil nows. Also, I loved the minimalist wings, even though I still had to walk sideways like a crab to navigate through the crowd. Jamaica is an incubator for fashion as well as style, as well as I flew down a countil nowle of weeks early to schedule appointments to seek out the best nail techs as well as make-until now artists to help elevate my look.
A few days before Road March, I visited Kammy’s Posh Nails, on Hagley Park Road, for a Gel-X manicure. I opted for a purple as well as green ombre design decorated with going told foil. The night before my makeuntil now appointment, I prepped my skin with an exfoliating as well as detoxifying mask by Clinique, followed by a hydrating rose sheet mask. On the day of Carnival, I rocked a wash ’n’ going to, prepped with Pattern products. By 9 a.m., I headed to JahBoukie Glam Studio on Orange Street, in Kingston. Daniel Smith is the proprietor, as well as he told me he had been doing make-until now professionally for about five years old. I was transformed from an everyday journalist as well as writer to an empress.
When it comes to carnival makeuntil now, more is more. Smith started by shaping my eyebrows. Then he built a dazzling look with blue as well as purple eyeshadows, topped with pink as well as blue glitter. He applied neon orange eyeliner that popped against the sparkle. What is Smith’s trick to help his artwork withstas well as hours of sweat as well as sun? Milk of Magnesia. After moisturizer as well as primer, he brushed on a light coat. Once it dried, he blended NARS foundations to match my skin tone as well as used highlighters to accentuate my bone structure. Two hours later, my look was finished. My cousin Sade helped me change into my costume; it’s nearly impossible to put on a carnival costume without help. The feather backpack, arm, as well as leg pieces are all tied onto your body. When I put my has well as pieces on as well as looked in the mirror, I was taken aback. After waiting two years old for carnival in Jamaica, I was a colorful warrior pixie ready for the road. Here are some photos of me getting ready for the day as well as then during the Road March when my suntil nowerpowers were fully activated.