Every Kadooment Day Jasmine Babb creates a spectacle at the National Stadium as she moves across the stage to the rhythms and tempo of the season’s hottest music, wearing impressive costumes.
As Queen of the Band, she commands the attention of both audience and judges, her five foot six lithe figure ably carrying an eye-catching costume that invariably ends up among the winners. This is the day she chooses to go into mas mode, satisfying her passion for masquerade, design and fun, parading with gay abandon, albeit without the lewd gyrations.
The picture immediately changes the day after the revelry ends, when this business executive, wife and mother dons her business suit and reverts to the professional image. Some people marvel at how she manages to throw herself into both roles with equal aplomb, as well as at the thought that this business executive known for her correctness and sense of occasion dons a Kadooment costume that exposes some skin, and is bold enough to take to the streets to be part of the public display of merriment.
But Babb says she is able to do it because: “I do not live my life in the typical box where people see either a professional or a masquerader.”
“My philosophy in life has always been study hard, work hard and play just as hard” she explained. Four university degrees, including a doctorate, her job as director of human resources for the Caribbean region for the company EY, and decades of playing mas in Barbados and in Trinidad are proof of that.
“I try to be the best wife, the best mother, the best employee. I always strive for the best. I don’t know how to do it any other way,” the perfectionist said, while sitting at her desk last week taking a brief break for an interview, but still with her finger on the pulse of activities in her job.
“Looking back on my life, I am pleased about what I have done and what I have achieved and I continue to enjoy my life based on those philosophies,” she said.
She has indeed spent a lot of her life studying, sometimes juggling study with work and play, and admits it was tough, reflecting specifically on those years when she was studying and would take time out to play mas at Carnival in Trinidad. She would fly to Trinidad on the Friday, spend four days having the time of her life feting, return to Barbados on Wednesday and that same night would be back at the computer immersing herself in studying.
To know Jasmine is to know someone who makes structure, planning and organisation key elements of her life.
“I think I have always had the quest for studying, and I remember my mother saying to me ‘You must go to school and learn’.” That advice was being given by a teacher, Babb’s late mother, a Vincentian married to a Barbadian – “an Alleyne from St Philip”. The couple’s children were born in St Vincent, where Babb lived until she was brought to Barbados in her early teen years.
She said: “I do claim both islands, but Barbados mainly for shaping me in who I am.” She went to school at St Gabriel’s and though a teacher there tried persuading her to pursue a career in art because she was such a good artist, Babb chose otherwise.
She first completed a business degree at the UWI, went on to do her first master’s in Britain after winning a Commonwealth scholarship and obtained the MBA, specialising in human resources. Deciding not to stop there, she pursued another master’s “because I wanted to specialise more in human resources which included law and industrial relations.”
She was still not satisfied and her passion for study drove her to go after a doctorate in social sciences, specialising in industrial relations, which she successfully completed.
Always striving for perfection, Babb is not shy to admit that she always wants to “get to the pinnacle” of everything she does.
It is the kind of encouragement she has also given to students in her classes at the UWI Cave Hill Campus and the Cave Hill School of Business, where she has been tutor and part-time lecturer.
Married for 23 years to well-known Starcom Network journalist Stetson Babb, Jasmine basks in the support and love of a partner she describes as “my soulmate, my friend, my husband . . . really just everything for me”.
It is not a one-way street, however, as she explained: “We are each other’s biggest supporters. We just enjoy our lives together.”
She lists their meeting in London in 1992 among the “highs” of her life and cannot stop thanking her mother for planting the idea that she should “look up that young man Stetson Babb from CBC” who her mother learnt was also going to be in London on a Chevening Commonwealth scholarship at the same time Jasmine was going to take up her Commonwealth scholarship.
As they say, the two have been “an item” since that day more than two decades ago when Jasmine walked up to Stetson, introduced herself following up on her mother’s suggestion and he invited her to join him for coffee.
They remain inseparable, doing almost everything together, from workouts at the gym to jumping in Carnival bands in Trinidad for over 20 years.
She makes it clear Stetson is one of the two men in her life who own a special place in her heart. The other is her 34-year-old son Christopher, an architect.
Babb’s agility belies her age, though she prefers to keep the number to herself, deflecting that question with the response: “I don’t focus on how old I am. I focus on what I have achieved in my life.”
Grand Kadooment 2018 was the fourth year she was parading with the band Aura, this time as Queen of Qatar. Before joining Aura she was the imposing Queen spectators looked forward to seeing on stage with the band Power X 4, and in even earlier days she played mas with Cranston Browne’s band. It has been a long run and she jokes about the time when she will have her “stick” ready to support her while playing mas down the road, since retirement is not yet in her scope.
Babb credits the expertise of “excellent” costume designer Lauren Austin of Trinidad for her fine showing on the road lately. But it should be known that this masquerader also possesses design talents, which she employed in the earliest days of Kadooment, turning out the award-winning band Phases Of Crop Time for Banks Breweries. (GC)