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Ciji’s flying high

NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

Ciji’s flying high

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You have no band without a beautiful flag woman.

You have no band without an experienced flag woman.

The band will have no control, the music will have no soul.

The revellers wouldnt play their usual mas on carnival day

– Flag Woman by Lord Kitchener

WHEN THE BAND comes across the stage on Grand Kadooment Day, she or he is the first person you see.

This individual clears the way for the band to proceed in front of the judges and spectators and the hype they bring gives the band an extra drive. And they carry one or two flags depending on their skill level.

Ciji Blackett wears many hats proudly and one of them is flag girl.

She has been a flag person for the past 11 years . . . First with Power X 4, then Contact, and now Zulu International.

“I knew the flag person in Power X 4 and was introduced to Chetwyn (bandleader).  I tried it out and loved it and stayed. I then went to Contact and after that ended was referred to Zulu. I have been there since.”

Ciji, 31, has never won the much sought after Flag Person Of The Year award, but she isn’t trying to.

“I never do it for the competition. I just like the art of flag waving and also the dancing. Plus I have my own security up front so I don’t have to worry much about people dancing on me and breaking my rhythm,” she said, adding that she would never win because of her sensual movements.

“There is too much double standards. They complain about lewd behaviour and the wuking up but when I am a flag person I don’t go out to behave nice and wave the flag above my head and twirl around. I like lewd behaviour on that day so I promote lewd behavior in my movements.”

Ciji believes a flag woman is critical to the band.

“I am like the cheerleader of the band. I feel like I not only keep the audience’s attention but I set the hype and pace for the band. The flag person is the party starter.”

Being a flag person means you have to be flexible and can dance. And Ciji is capable of doing both.

Now 31, she started competing in fitness events from the age of 18.

She was a dance member of the Israel Lovell Foundation troupe when one of the instructor asked her if she wanted to enter a fitness competition.

“I  figured it was because I was flexible. I said yes but the show was in two weeks so I had to work hard. At end of event I wasn’t happy with my performance and I said I am going to enter next year to prove to myself I can do it.”

She competed every chance she got after that. The last time she was on a fitness stage was in 2012 when she unsuccesfully defended her title of Island Fitness Queen and placed second.

During her time in the sport she has won and placed, even going to Las Vegas to compete in the National Championship, where she placed seventh.

“The reason why I have stopped competing is because Barbados is too limited and the sport is not inspiring. There is no backing here. The event doesn’t even allow you to qualify to move onto international stages so I have lost a love for it.”

The 5 foot 2 inches mum of five-year-old daughter Diamond says she hasn’t been in the gym for the past three years but she keeps in shape and watched her diet.

“I don’t even practise with a routine for flag waving. I don’t like a set piece . . . . I want to be spontaeneous and change it up. I want to do my jumps and splits to the music and how I feel.”

Ciji says her techniques work for her.

“I do a lot of stretches so my muscles don’t seize up. All before we go on stage I am stretching. I listen to the music and get myself hyped. I am anticipating the jump and when I leave home Kadooment morning my mindset is to be ready, in the mood and have that energy.”

With such a strenuous activity of flag waving, Ciji says she has gotten some bumps and bruises along the way.

“Yes I have been sick and hurt but I fight through it. I can’t let the band down and I can’t let myself down. I made a committment and I am going to see it through. I don’t take supplements or drink energy drinks. I go natural herbs and juices. Plus, I am ashmatic so I make sure I have my inhaler and water and medication.

“Being a flag person takes a lot out of you so you make up your mind that the pain and aches you will deal with later.”

Ciji says her diet is still the same from when she was doing fitness – no bread, no pasta, but a lot of meat, starches and veggies – helping to maintain her weight of 112 pounds.

“I have to watch my lower half as there is where my weight is – legs and bum. When I was into fitness it was about proportion and I am short, so I have to compensate for that.”

As part of her training Ciji was into yoga, fencing, pilates and football and while she hasn’t given up on competing, she is looking at different disciplines.

“I want to get back into sports. I want to compete and push myself. I want to train. I love gymnastics but I can’t use it to say compete in Miss Bikini.

“So I am thinking of competing in pole dancing or Latin or even both as I don’t want to limit myself.”

Ciji isn’t bored though as she has delved into being a Foreday Morning bandleader, coming out last Friday for the first time on her own with her band Naughty The Band under the theme Devious Maids. She is also thinking of doing a Kadooment band in near future.

“I am setting an example for Diamond. She is already making stuff on her own and developing a sense of entrepreneurship. I encourage her in that.”

The Deighton Ggriffith past student said she has heard many “nos” and had doors closed in her face but she persevered.

“I like to challenge myself. So I let the nos push me until one of my ideas gets a yes. I wave my own flag and push my own brand.”

And, come tomorrow, that is exactly what she will be doing – with one or two flags, depending on her mood.