"DON'T TAKE EVERYTHING PERSONALLY AND NEVER NEVER SELL YOUR DIGNITY, INTEGRITY, AND SELF WORTH FOR MOMEY." CECILE LEVEE,
AN AFRO-AMERICAN BUSINESS WOMAN WITH A TEMPERAMENT LEADER IN AHOU ATTITUDE MAGAZINE
Main character of the famous video clip Cherish of the mythical group "Kool & The Gang", Cécile Levee is a talented woman of the Jamaican fashion industry, born in Jamaica. During her career, she appeared on series such as the Cosby Show, appeared on the covers of several major magazines such as Black Hair and was seen in the publications of Ebony, a magazine aimed at the African American public, created in Chicago by John H. .Johnson. Multidisciplinary woman, Award winning Author "Please Don't Touch My Tomato" a book about Child Molestation. Please Don't touch my Tomato uses Tomato as a metaphor for vagina, and is intended has a conversation starter about this heinous crime, usually committed by family members or close family friends. Please don't touch my Tomato encourages children to tell on their Molesters. She tells us about her journey and tells us about her experience during the AHOU ATTITUDE interview.
Interview conducted by Sunday Alaby
1 / Tell us about your childhood in Jamaica? What important moments marked this period of your life?
Childhood in Jamaica during my days represented freedom, carefreeness and innocence. The important moments are that during those times it was really a village that was raising you, any Adult could discipline you by correcting you and you had better be respectful to all adults. There was expected behaviors for a proper young lady.
2 / Little girl, what future did you dream of?
To have homes all over the world, so I could spend my time traveling and that is still the dream.
3 / What values did your parents pass on to you?
Self worth, self esteem and confidence
4 / Does the first name Cecile have a special meaning?
Did your parents used to give you a nickname? If yes which?
I was named after my Father’s only Sister. No nicknames
5 / Teenage girl were you rather rebellious or withdrawn?
Neither rebellious nor withdrawn. I was outspoken, outgoing, sassy and feisty. Quite self assured.
6 / From what age were you allowed to go out with a boy?
My Parents might have preferred 21, I didn’t rebel but I didn’t obey.
7 / Did you, a teenage girl, dream of succeeding in the business world?
Yes I have always had visions of being the boss, the owner, the decision maker. For a long time the dream was to be a Lawyer but life got in the way and my creative side won.
8 / How would you define Jamaican culture?
The Jamaican culture is infectious, it is unique, it is finding humor in the most dire times. It is one that has to be experience to be understood. Our motto is out of many one people and a famous quote of ours is “we Likkle but we tallawa” meaning we are small but mighty.
"I AM SURE THERE ARE STILL INDIVIDUAL INTEGRATION PROBLEMS BUT AS A COUNTRY WE ARE AN EXAMPLE OF FEMALE EMPOWERMENT."
9 / Define for us the Jamaican woman in general;
Beside the word resilient in the dictionary is a picture of the Jamaican woman. Strong, fearless, no nonsense, clever, providers, warriors.
10 / How do you see your country? What is the place of women in Jamaican’s society? Are the inequalities between men and women important? Do women encounter professional integration problems?
Women play a very important part in the Jamaican society, a significant number of households are headed by female, whether Mothers or Grandmothers.
Inequality is very important but in Jamaica the percentage of female managers is about 59.3%. And we also have the highest percentage of female Managers globally, with the USA ranking 15th and UK 41st.
I am sure there are still individual integration problems but as a Country we are an example of female empowerment.
11 / In what area do you engage socially? Why do women marry at a young age in your country?
Contrary to popular belief Jamaican women do not get married young we lead all countries in the waiting to get married age. We have the oldest average age about 33.2 years
"LIFE AS A COUPLE IS WORK IN PROGRESS. KEVIN RESPECTS MY BEING MYSELF WITHOUT TRYING TO 'TAME' ME."
12 / Why is it important for you to support women in the entrepreneurship sector?
Support for anyone is important, for women sometimes it is just less access to financial opportunities. And who among us was not given some help or support along the way. “Let those who are watered, be water”.
SOCIAL MEDIA :
13 / Give us the name of a woman who inspired your career.
Oprah, Martha Stewart women who set no limits on who or what they could be. They built empires using themselves as the brand. Cecile Levee Lifestyle I want it to be limitless.
14 / You have matured, in addition to the values instilled by your parents, what are your values as a woman today?
Kindness, and integrity never goes out of style.
15 / At what age did you get married? How would you define life as a couple? What did the man who shares your life bring you?
I married Kevin at age 33, so 26 years and counting. Life as a couple is work in progress I have faith that one day he will get it right, especially the obey part. He is the Father of our 2 beautiful and wonderful Daughters Kennedy and Spencer. Kevin brings calm, balance, laughter and of course he respects my being myself without trying to “tame” me. He supports my joie de vivre.
"WHEN YOU NEED TO BE THE EXAMPLE FOR YOURSELF. YOU HAVE NO OPTIONS BUT TO BRUSH YOURSELF OFF AND GET GET BACK IN THE GAME EVEN IF IT'S IN A DIFFERENT WAY. "
16 / You are a mother, an influential and internationally recognized businesswoman. Is it easy to combine a family life with a job that involves such great responsibilities?
Balancing family life and a job is never easy for anyone there is alway so much guilt and did I spend enough time, Is missing one game going to turn them into derelicts and the guilt never wanes but you do the best you can and then pray. Fortunately I had my own business when both my daughters were babies so I could take them to work or take off as much time as I felt was necessary. I was a breastfeeding Mom, so they were pretty much my American express cards “Don’t leave home without them”. But as they started to get older I started to instill independence.
17 / Have you ever wanted to give up? (can you give us an anecdote)? What allowed you to tarnish and keep moving forward?
All the time, but not for long as I get bored easily. When you lose a business you have invested everything into and it folds due to a recession and you are left in debts. Years later you do the same business again different location and just as you were getting it off the ground a pandemic hits and its deja vu. You definitely want to give up, but when you need to be the example for your children and for yourself. You have no options but to brush yourself off and get get back in the game even if it's in a different way.
And I would get bored and you keep telling yourself that the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step
18 / Is your profession considered "a man's job" in Jamaica?
I am yet to define my profession,( I think it's multipotentialite) so I am not sure who should be doing it.
19 / How would you define yourself? What woman is hiding in you Cecile?
Creative. A Billionaire.
20 / What is your beauty ritual as a businesswoman today?
Shower and shine. And of course red lipstick.
21 / What advice would you give to women who like you want to succeed in the business world?
Don’t take everything personally and never sell your dignity, integrity, and self worth for money. And you can say no without any explanations or apologies
"KINGSTON, ITS BUSY AND BUSTLING BUT THAT'S THE ENERGY AND HEARTBEAT OF JAMAICA."
22 / If there was something to redo in your course, what would you do again?
Live in Paris for a few years as a young woman, so I could be fluent in the language. But there is still time to make that a reality, its on my list of to dos.
23 / Finally, make us travel. Which two sites would you advise our readers to visit during a stay in Jamaica?
Kingston, its busy and bustling but that’s the energy and heartbeat of Jamaica. And my friend Annakaye Tomlinson’s restaurant Miss T’s Kitchen for authentic Jamaican food in Ocho Rios.
24 / The last word?
Be kind, it's our responsibility.