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Jessica’s next move


Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Jessica’s next move

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At 55, Jessica Odle has accomplished a lot in her life, some of it planned, some of it fallen into, though she always seemed prepared for her path. She’s an accomplished hairdresser, an entrepreneur, a politician, a seasoned diplomat, and, now in the second half of her life, a wife of four years and a stepmother.
This stage of Jessica’s life has brought some new avenues for the now transplanted Barbadian to explore in New York. Those who might think that her greying hair is any indication of impending retirement need to think again. Jessica has no plans of going quietly into that good night. Instead, she’s embarking on a new journey, that of stylist and image consultant.
On many levels it seems like a natural progression.
“I don’t hide my age,” she told EASY magazine recently with an exuberant laugh. “I wear my grey hair because I’ve earned every one.”
What Jessica has also earned over the years is the right to look back and feel proud of her accomplishments and the roads she has travelled. With that has also come the tenacity to forge a new path, bringing to bear all the skills she’s honed over the years.
“I will always be a politician, I suppose,” she said candidly. “Many years ago what brought me into politics was speaking for people who couldn’t speak for themselves to get what needed to be done, done. It happened at the time when Barbados was going through a structural adjustment period.”
Jessica admitted that she and her friends often got together and their meetings would end in deep discussions trying to “fix Barbados from their living room”.
She revealed that she came into her own through hairdressing, which was really her launch into the world.
“Nobody believes me when I tell them that I was a very shy child. When my mother would take me to parties, I would never leave her side. But the hairdressing and an indwelling sense of how to make people feel good about who they are created a perfect mix, and I took that into the political world.”
She waxed poetic on her role as the Consul General because on many levels it was that position that changed the course of her life.
“I took that job very seriously and I was really about promoting Barbados,” she said. “The job called for deepening the relationship with the diaspora. One of the highlights for me on the cultural side was a rehabilitative product at Her Majesty’s Prisons using art. I brought an exhibit to New York from the inmates and held it at a gallery in Harlem. It was supposed to be a joint exhibit, but the curator in Harlem said the work was strong enough to stand on its own. So we had a full-blown exhibition of Barbadian art in Harlem and it ran for a number of weeks, and most of the work was sold.”
Jessica reveals that things like that continue to fuel her desire to help people to be the best they can be.
After her diplomatic stint ended, Jessica signed up for classes in fine arts and ballroom dancing.
“It was during the ballroom dancing class that I met my husband. He was in the class and we exchanged numbers. What it meant was that when my tour of duty ended I wasn’t coming home. I didn’t factor in the love piece, but Robert Baril just came into my life and life has never been the same.”
Jessica married Robert at 51 and traded her homeland for his new home.
“It was the best time to do it,” she says of her marriage four years ago. “I never wanted kids and I never met anyone that I would have committed my life to. Four years later we’re still going strong, and I know I would not have been ready for marriage younger.”
What Jessica is ready for is her new business venture, Your Best Image, as a stylist and life coach. In many ways Jessica has come full circle, because she is utilizing the skills that started out her career in cosmetology and expanding on them.
“The gift of touching people in a way that makes them feel great is something that I decided at age six I would do,” Jessica said. “But I’m not putting a full stop on anything because for me there’s more to come.”

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