Living life Monica’s way
In Central Bank of Barbados circles she is identified as “First Lady”. But the wife of bank governor Dr De Lisle Worrell insists: “I see myself as Monica still. There is a heaviness to this role which I hope never to take up. I am still me in a lot of ways.”
Married to De Lisle Worrell for 20 years, Monica Drayton-Worrell has managed to maintain that free spirit, that joie de vivre that continues to endear her to many.
She epitomises the “hostess with the mostest”, and anyone visiting the Worrells’ private home at Fisherpond in St Joseph, or being a guest at Newlands, the governor’s official residence on Pine Hill, will attest to Monica’s warmth and congeniality.
As she rushed outside to greet the Easy team on a steaming country day, a broad radiant smile and electrifying personality said welcome.
“My path has been guided in a certain way all the time,” she remarked as we settled down to the interview.
Monica started as a teacher at the Springer Memorial School, for four years teaching English language and literature to Ordinary Level standard and general studies in the lower school. Next it was off to Canada for two years to study public relations. The next 18 years saw her working as visa assistant at the United States Embassy in Barbados.
“I take pleasure in doing the unusual. I think outside the box all the time . . . . You have to take chances . . . . If you live too safe, you will not enjoy life,” she muses.
“I was lucky in a lot of ways. I could have found myself totally different at this stage of my life. But fortunately fate was good to me. So now I feel I should be able to use my experience to help somebody and be totally honest about things.
“That is why the drama side of me comes out. I can be any character without any inhibitions. Life on the whole is one big production. You cannot take it too seriously sometimes.”
Drama has always played an important role in Monica’s life; she has done all aspects of theatre.
“I decided I wanted to explore me, and one day I responded to a casting call for Derek Walcott’s play Branch Of The Blue Nile, which was going to be directed by the late Earl Warner.”
She landed a minor role and her acting career took off.
“That experience taught me a lot” and she credits the professionalism of Earl Warner with enabling her personal development.
“Theatre has a kind of discipline that I like.
“You have to be in touch with yourself. It has set me off for life, because life is very demanding, very mainstream, and you are forced to go outside of yourself to succeed. You have to play the hand you are dealt.
“You might make a mistake, but you do not let that mistake keep you down forever. You do not know any better, so you go on; you try to do better than before. That is drama, that is theatre, that is life.”
For a brief period Monica ventured into the area of creative dance, joining the late Ronnie Roach’s Rontana Dance Movement. She also did a few stints with the Barbados Dance Theatre.
But she admits: “I am not a formal dance person. I like the free movement and free expression of creative dance. I go to Africa, and when people talk about this wukking up, there is nothing wrong with it – though some people do go overboard, like everything else in life.”
Kadooment Day finds the Worrells on the road playing mas’, something she has been doing ever since Crop-Over was introduced. She reflects on the early days when she first joined Ronnie Hall’s band, and later masquaraded as queen of the band in Robert Patterson’s band. She also has fond memories of revelry in the late Ricky Suttle’s and Ainsley Wilson’s legendary Caskaways band.Street theatre“I get lots of satisfaction from playing mas’. It is like taking on a totally different persona. I guess it is the artistic streak in me. The interpretation of the character, the music; it is street theatre.”
Turning her attention to the role of a bank governor’s wife, Monica sums it up as “the role of a friend, in a lot of ways a sounding board. You have to have a lot of respect. Even although I might differ from him sometimes, I still have to respect his views. So you basically just have to be there for him”.
“It is a really stressful job for him, and I have to make sure that other parts of his life have less stress. That means supporting him, playing the perfect hostess. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t.”
But she does set out to get it right, promoting an open-door policy at the official Newlands.
“I believe Newlands belongs to the Central Bank of Barbados, and I think the staff of the bank and their relatives and other people also have a right to enjoy the facility.”
This is her domain. Her husband has told her so. He has left the running of the house to her, and she has thrown herself into the task with a “hands-on” approach.
With renovations currently ongoing at the official residence, the Worrells currently live in their personally owned, well appointed home at Fisherpond.
Here Monica maintains a wardrobe that would be the envy of most women. Hanging in the closets are several outfits bearing the Salam label, designs by Harold “Salam” Davis, the St Philip designer who Monica says “captures my spirit and always comes up with exactly what I want”.Not afraid of style
“I am a person who will wear anything. I am not afraid of colours; I am not not afraid of style; I am not afraid of attitude.”
She is therefore the perfect model for a designer with the motto For Those Who Dare To Take The Stare.
And Monica does. With strong African features and a flair for style, she wears Salam’s many African-inspired and her other authentic African outfits with aplomb.
“I am partial to linens and cottons, and I love white.”
On the day of the interview she presents the picture of the inviting hostess, comfortably dressed in a voluminous, flowing, white linen dress dramatically contrasted with one colourful strip down the front.
A deep thinker, and philosophical in her outlook, Monica declares: “I am very broadminded. I do not judge.”
Citing her own life as an example, she states: “I try not to be hard on young people, because often I tell myself there but for the grace of God go I. When you are growing up you do not know what you are doing.
“I see a lot of situations and I tell myself, ‘Oh my God, I have done that’, but I had nobody to tell me anything.”
But she was always reminded that she was somebody.
“This was always drilled into my head. Even though you know there are always people looking at where you grew up, where you come from.
“But the way I look at life, that does not define me. I have had my dark days healthwise and otherwise, but God has been good to me. I have met some people in my life who have been really good for me. I see myself as being here for a reason.”
And she seeks to maintain a balance between her present role, remaining very involved in event planning, in theatre, and “in all the special things that I have always done all the time”, while giving her husband the support he needs at the bank and at the official residence.