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What does Cariwest mean to me? – Sherol Leslie

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Sherol Leslie - Cariwest 2017 Best Individual Winner (Photo by: Kevin Fuhr, Delta Imagery Make up by: MKUP Cosmetics)

This year as Cariwest rolls around you may notice a familiar face being showcased all around town. Being the winner of the Best Individual award in 2017, We wanted to take a look behind the curtains and give you some insight into who Sherol Leslie is and what our cities annual Caribbean extravaganza means to her.

Recently we were able to have a very insightful interview, with Sherol, which really brings to the forefront her passion for her Bajan roots, Cariwest and Edmonton.

Question: What is your first memory of Cariwest?

Sherol: I remember being really young and my parents getting us ready. We would usually wear souvenir t-shirts that were included in our care packages from Barbados. I loved looking at all the people, the costumes and being able to recognise the music that my dad would always play in our basement. When it was time to leave I always wanted to stay longer.

Question: As a young kid were you always drawn to the experience of Carnival?

Sherol: Yes, from the beginning I was always drawn to carnival. When we went to visit Barbados, my parents birth land I always watched carnival, better known as Crop Over. As I got older and learned the history behind it, it really made me love it that much more. So, I knew when I got older, that carnival would be something I would love to be a part of.

Question: What band are you currently involved in and at what point did you decide to fully immerse yourself into the whole Cariwest experience?

Sherol: Currently I serve as one of the Band leaders with yegtrinifeters, although I have been a part of many bands over the years. I joined and got connected with my current band, as I share a common ground with my co-band leader Ottis Ross who has the same vision as I do. Plus, I have been on the receiving side, as we started off with t-shirts. We even took a try at getting our own stuff made with volunteers. We really learned a lot and grew up in the process and now take pride in giving the best experience to everyone. So, by taking on the role as band leader for a few years now, I am able to bring together a great set of people from all walks of life and unite in the name of carnival.

Question: How important is it to you emotionally and culturally that Cariwest is still going strong?

Sherol: I get so excited for this time of year. Especially for the new band members because I want them to feel the same rush I do. The prep, hair, makeup, I think of it all. The most important thing that is on my mind are the new comers, also those who have lived here for 5 years or less and came from other Caribbean Islands and have not been back since. Cariwest brings them back to what they might be missing back home. We know we can’t capture it like it is back home, but we know for sure we can leave them feeling proud and joyful to participate and show the city where they hail from and share their culture for 3 whole days.

Question: This year you are going to be all over Edmonton as the face for Cariwest 2018. What does that mean to you and the work you do within the Caribbean community as a whole here in Edmonton?

Sherol: To be honest I am still very shocked that I was chosen, Lol. It means so much to me because I had health struggles a few years back and I am so blessed to be here. I give thanks for all that comes my way. I guess it will hit me when I actually see my face around town. To me it stands for a symbol of strength and courage because believe it or not, I’m shy. It also stands for that feeling of togetherness because no matter what I do in life I want others to feel the same way I do, when doing whatever they set out to do.

To be the face of Cariwest would show our community, that everyone can do it if you stay focused, have a goal in mind and truly believe in yourself. I really don’t do things to get noticed, I do things for people to TAKE notice that Edmonton is truly a great place to be and as a proud person of Caribbean decent I am honoured to be that face you see and you can walk away and say. “She really represents” because it’s what I know and who I am.

Question: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in Playing Mas for the first time, but is not sure how and/or feeling shy about putting on a costume?

Sherol: It is truly a process and one that can have many beginnings. Some people, first start out by attending and watching or volunteering. You can also experience the road with a t-shirt band, that’s how I started. Then as I grew into it, I was taken back by seeing all the colours and how people were so happy to be in costume. It’s like they get to escape for the day and turn into magical masqueraders. Then when all your friends come on board you never could imagine you were shy in the first place. That’s what I love about our bands, costumes are designed for all comfort levels making sure everyone shares a great experience.

For all of us the experience of Cariwest means something different and often unique. For us who work behind the scenes we hope every year adds new meaning for carnival vets and newbies. This year if you are keen to get a head start on the experience, then you must attend the Mas Band Launch on May 19. You can sign up to Play Mas and meet Sherol along with the other band leaders who are there to guide your experience on road.

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