Being Carol RobertsCarol Roberts has returned to the Voice of Barbados with her morning show, Today in VOB Country.
By Sherie Holder-Olutayo | Sat, September 15, 2012 - 11:59 PM
“I am Carol Roberts.”
Those four words have served to not only introduce the seasoned broadcaster to her friends and to the island, but they have also served as her mantra – her clarion call to the world.
“I have friends from my days at Foundation who used to tell me whenever I would introduce myself I would say, ‘I am Carol Roberts’,” she says laughing. “I don’t remember this but it sounds like me, and it goes back to my grandmother who always felt you should speak properly.”
Carol sat down with EASY Magazine after recently returning to Voice Of Barbados (VOB) last week. Ironically during our interview, the call-in programme was flooded with callers, primarily women, who were objecting to Carol being on the radio.
“These things just roll off my back,” she says of the negative comments. “Bajans take that the wrong way, sometimes as arrogance, but I firmly believe that the only way you can inspire confidence is if you exude it. At the end of the day I have to define myself.”
For Carol, her new show, Today In VOB Country, represents so much more. Call it a rebranding, reinvention or just finding her way forward again, but it is her chance to continue building her brand.
“I’m back in radio, back at my first love,” she says candidly. “When I think of everything I have done, there’s only been one instance where I had a job that I did not like. I’ve been lucky enough to have a job to get up every morning, much to the chagrin of my friends, that I absolutely love.”
For Carol, her latest gig in radio brings her full circle.
“I didn’t start off at VOB, I start out at Rediffusion, but I did do a stint here at Starcom. People that I knew then are still here, so it’s like coming home. I know everybody here and they’re very welcoming and warm.”
That sense of ease has been instrumental for Carol who happily begins her workday at three a.m. and gets to the station for five a.m. But that comfort that Carol has acquired particularly with her career comes from doing what she loves.
“From the time I was four I would say, ‘I want to be on the radio.’ I wanted to be on the radio because of Marvo Manning, Olga Lopes-Seale and another lady called Pam Went,” she revealed. “I would listen to the BBC at the top of the hour and would literally mimic it out loud. Every line they said I would repeat in their accents.”
But it wasn’t just the news that held an allure for Carol, it was reading and a love for books and words.
“I fell in love with reading and it has defined so many aspects of my life,” she added. “When I was a teenager, growing up relatively poor, reading was an escape because I didn’t have to travel anywhere. I used to show off both at St Paul’s and at Christ Church Girls’ Foundation, because [there were] children who travelled and were able to go to restaurants [and] when they were talking, I was talking too. What they were talking about I knew about because I had read about it.”
What that love of reading did was foster a love for English, the language, which would ultimately play a role in her destiny.
“I realized if you read enough and retained it, you were on your way to greatness,” she said. “That really and truly nothing could stand in your way.”
As Carol advanced in school, she also developed a love for different languages which at one stage had her leaning towards a career at the United Nations as a linguist. But somehow Carol always returned to her first love . . . radio.
“On the 18th of November 1981, Vic Fernandes hired me on the radio,” she recalled. “I trained with Julian Rogers, Win Callender, Clairmont Taitt [and] Vic Brewster.”
That training proved successful because she eventually parlayed her penchant for broadcast to television, which proved to be a far different animal than the one she was used to.
“I never encountered issues of gender, but issues relating to skin colour and my looks,” she said. “I heard things like, you’re too black for television — or you’d be good for TV, but only if you were fair-skinned. I even went to interview a prominent politician who said: ‘Oh I heard you on the radio, you have a beautiful voice . . . I thought you were a fair-skinned girl from England.’ So it wasn’t gender but those perceptions I had to battle.”
For Carol, somehow she managed to remain undaunted by other people’s perceptions. Her uncanny knack for letting things roll off her back have been instrumental in winning the battles she’s had to wage.
“I never felt daunted when people said: ‘You don’t have a face for television.” I always felt like, ‘Watch me’,” Carol says candidly. “I know that I am not good at a lot of things but the things that I am good at, I am very, very good at. So therefore I am comfortable in my skin.”
Over the past year Carol’s confidence in herself and the world that she had grown accustomed to had been shaken to its core at the sudden death of her husband, Elvis Reifer.
Though she credits how far she’s come in terms of her grieving to her two children.
“My daughter and I have a symbiotic relationship,” Carol said. “There are so many things about my daughter that I admire. My daughter is unflappable which is something I am only now getting to. She is poised, and rational in her thinking. I am volatile. Mishka is a wonderful human being. My son is like me.”
Carol is quite cognizant of how her life has changed.
“We haven’t had the best of time since my husband died, but my children in their own ways have helped me get over the hump of grieving,” she said. “It’s like we’re a unit and once everybody in the unit is comfortable and I’m the nucleus, we’re good.”
One change it made for her is that she started to meditate and become more introspective.
“I had started to read the Seven Laws Of Success by Deepak Chopra. I had started to read it before, but I read it again after Elvis died and everything made sense.”
The biggest change for Carol is being on her own in every sense of the word.
“In very practical ways I have always been mentally independent. But since Elvis died, I have had to walk the walk of being independent. There are so many things now that I have to do, like going to pay bills; picking up medication, doing the school run, helping with math homework.
“I take blood pressure medication. The morning that he died everybody was hounding me to take the medication but the prescription ran out and I didn’t [know] where to fill it because he always did that. I also lost the one person that thought I was perfect.”
Though her life has changed drastically within a year, Carol has found her place in the world.
“Now I fill my prescriptions, I know where SurePay is,” she says laughing. “I can’t fix a tire yet but I’m getting there.”
Though she is now a widow, she hasn’t lost her lustre for marriage and says positively, “I will get married again.”
“I believe in relationships. I believe in love. I believe you can exist on your own, but you’re always better when you’re part of something you’re working at everyday. I am an idealist so therefore I think there is somebody else out there for me. I believe we’re on this Earth to live life to the fullest.”
In the past when things would get hard for Carol she says that she’d hear her grandmother’s voice and it helped her to find her way.
“Now I hear Elvis’ voice,” she revealed. “But you know, when things get hard I just say to myself, ‘I am Carol Roberts . . . and there’s nothing I can’t do if I put my mind to it.’”
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