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Allison Demas Making her Mark in Music, Media, Mas' and as a Mother
She’s a self-confessed ‘Caribbean woman” who has worn the hats of daughter, wife, mother, lawyer, advocate for the Arts, business owner and now, the recently appointed Chairman of our National Carnival Commission yet the common denominators Allison Demas has brought to all her life and career roles have been her vision, passion, focus and commitment to making a positive impact.
Being the only child of the late economist, diplomat, Secretary General of CARICOM and Trinity Cross holder, the Hon. William Demas could have been daunting for the Bishop Anstey High School graduate about to embark on her future. Allison must have wondered how to fill such big shoes or even those of her Jamaican-born mother who was a medical professional. “Being an only child was kind of tough because all the high expectations were placed on one person,” she admitted but she also stressed that being the child of parents who moved often, settling wherever her father’s career took him in the region and abroad, helped mold her into the woman she has become. “I grew up thinking of myself as a Caribbean person. This shaped my whole outlook on life.”
That broad outlook included developing a great passion and appreciation for the Arts and particularly for music, yet Allison pursued law after high school, feeling there were few other options because she says, “I didn’t really have a creative bone in my body.” Fate found a way for her to bring her love of the Arts into her career when a copyright infringement brief landed on her desk while at a London law firm. “It immediately peaked my interest,” she explained. “I realised that it was the perfect way to combine my legal training and practice with my passion for the creative industry.” This prompted her to specialise in Copyright and Entertainment Law and join Trinity Chambers on returning to Trinidad, where she acted on behalf of musicians, song writers, performers, photographers and other creative professionals while also sitting on the Board of The Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) as well as conducting research into creative sector development.
Proximity to the creative community eventually altered Allison’s focus to one of advocacy for the sector’s development. “I had all this knowledge but none of it was official so I made the decision to do a second Masters in Intellectual Property, Commerce and I.T. in New Hampshire,” she explained, after which in 2003, she became CEO of COTT, a position she held for seven years during which she made her mark as a capable and focused leader with COTT’s achievement of record-breaking royalty collections and distributions in 2007 and 2008. While some women often put their personal lives on hold for their profession, Allison married and settled with her attorney husband, Garvin Simonette, eventually having the daughter she had always dreamed of. They named her Aisha, a name chosen years before when Allison first heard with the Stevie Wonder hit, “Isn’t She Lovely,” which was dedicated to Wonder’s daughter, Aisha Morrison. Explaining that the name Aisha meant ‘life’, their young child became the centre of the couple’s life, and as passionate as Allison may have been about her career and the Arts, it is clear that her daughter’s happiness is what brought her fulfillment.
Discovering that Aisha was learning challenged due to dyslexia and ADHD was reason enough for Allison to switch gears, devote her time to her daughter’s early education and encourage Aisha’s blossoming creativity. “Aisha is definitely talented. She loves music and art, and is very expressive with colour. She wants to be a fashion designer,” Allison noted with the pride of a loving mother whose face reflected wonder at her 14-year old now attending a special education boarding school abroad. With more time on her hands, Allison, as NCC’s new Chairman, is now concentrating on making a positive impact on the development of our nation’s foremost festival. “Our approach to Carnival has to change. It tends to be last minute. What is required is careful planning done in advance.” She also feels that greater focus should be placed on Carnival as economically, financially and socially viable industry, which requires adequate human, physical and financial resources if it is to be developed and marketed on an international scale. “This is what I’m aiming to do,” she stressed, then added, “I’m also keen to achieve a transfer of know-how to parts of the world where there has been no history of Carnival. There’s a lot in it for us. We’ll be sharing our knowledge, creating opportunities for our artisans and opening up new markets for the industry.”
Allison’s inputs into our 2013 celebration are already indicative that her vision for transforming Carnival through greater focus and planning is already making itself evident, even as she continues to manage Media InSite, the media monitoring business she founded in 2011 after leaving COTT and devoting herself fully to young Aisha’s special needs as a child. Her life has been as ‘all-inclusive’ as the enjoyment-filled participatory experience that makes our Carnival one of a kind. In every aspect of her personal and professional life she has left her own special mark and legacy – a passion for appreciating and developing our Caribbean creativity, which the daughter who continues to be the centre of her world has inherited, as well as an understanding of what really is important in life. To young women with dreams of making their own mark on the world, she had these words of advice:
“Be focused. Always have regard for your fellow human beings. Be kind, caring and considerate. Realise that no one person is an island and that you cannot achieve your dreams on your own. Being the most successful or wealthiest person isn’t guaranteed to bring you inner joy and happiness so pursue a path in life that will bring you joy and fulfillment.” Allison has certainly achieved this… and has done so very successfully.
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