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My name is Rachel Grappie and I’m a multimedia artist who changes her hair every month.
I’m from Pashley Street, Laventille, where I grew up over 30 years. Girl days in Pashley Street were hard, because of the stigma Laventille got. And just hard. I went to St Catherine Girls’ Anglican, then Barataria Junior, then St Augustine Senior Comprehensive.
I was raised and remain an Anglican. And go to church. Occasionally.
I believe in God despite all the pain and suffering I witness because, with the bad, also comes the good. Yes, we have a lot of murders, all these other things—but, then, we have a bright sunny day, we don’t have volcanoes, we don’t have to study tsunamis coming to us.
I have three children, two boys and a girl, Kelsea Grappie, Mikaeel Campbell and Kyle Valentine, the oldest. Kelsea, not Chelsea. She always say, “I am not Chelsea! Chelsea is my cousin!” That’s her cousin’s name.
I got to know my boss through doing a course at UTT. If I had just walked up and asked to speak to her, first thing, my appearance. Then, she’d watch and see: Laventille. And it’s, “Oh, God, I ‘fraid these people”. It’s like that all over Trinidad. Once you put, “Laventille” on your application, you don’t get through. You have to know someone that knows you personally to account and say, “Yes, she lives there, but Rachel is nothing like what other people portray Laventillians to be like”.
I have just one piercing and it was mostly a spontaneous act but my hair is always a tribute to my mood. You could tell my mood by my hair colour and style. If it looks wild, it’s because I feel frustrated and I just want to express myself. I can’t do it within my art because it wouldn’t be respectful—so I take it out on myself: what I wear; how I wear it.
I could wear the same jersey three times and it look totally different every time. I could wear it formal with a jacket. I could tie it up for a party vibes. I could wear the same jersey to work and look professional. It’s all how I choose to portray myself at the moment. I’m a walking work of art.
I change my hair every two to three weeks. It doesn’t get too expensive because I have a hairdresser friend, Nkeisha Murray, aka Far-I, who uses me as a muse. When I look in the mirror, I feel empowered, I feel beautiful, I feel me! People say, “Oh, image is nothing!” No. I could rock blue this week but, next week, I’m feeling happy—what colours make me feel happy? Yellow! Green! Purple! So my hair goes those colours.
Curry is the best cuisine for Trinidad because you could curry everything! But I don’t eat octopus or squid. Not even if you curry it.
Camille Selvon-Abrahams, the mother of Trini animation, is my hero. But if I could have dinner with one person in the world, it would be Will Smith.
I worry about living accommodations. Because I don’t have my own home. The way the country is going, I worry about the safety of my kids.
The best thing about changing my hair is the styles I get to use; the bad thing is the time it takes. First, we have to colour; then we have to choose the exact style; then we have to do the marking. It’s a tedious process, but worth it, all the time!
A Trini is someone who is so independent, they have the choices to go after what they want. Without any obstacles because of religion, ethnicity or because you’re not rich enough!
Trinidad & Tobago is culture and freedom to me: you can eat curry in a Chinese restaurant. I love that we have a lot of cultures and we all come together. The most time that is portrayed is at Carnival. But I don’t play mas myself. You know how much I could do for my children with that money?
n Read a longer version of this feature at www.BCRaw.com
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