She plants her elbows firmly on the desk in front of her, rests her chin on her hands, and gives you the benefit of her direct gaze.
Miss Kitty is ready for you, now.
Oh, you don’t know Miss Kitty? Let me introduce you. Her Facebook page notes that she is a “Radio & TV Personality • Entertainer • Author • MC • Voice-Over Talent • Upcoming Artist.” But, as I quickly discovered during a recent conversation, there is a whole lot more to Miss Kitty than that.
Ms. Khadine Hylton (for that is her real name) is also known as “The Fluffy Diva.” For my non-Jamaican readers, the word “fluffy” refers to a woman of fairly substantial proportions. Now, traditionally, Jamaicans don’t worry too much about physical size. No hang-ups there. So fluffy is not in any way derogatory. In fact, it is almost a term of endearment.
The young woman sitting in front of me is comfortably full-figured in a casual pink T-shirt, with a round, open face, bright eyes and short, salmon-pink hair. I know from the start that I am going to enjoy talking to her.
I ask her about Miss Kitty – and Khadine. Miss Kitty is vivacious; she is frivolous and flirty; she is “bling”; she can be very loud. There is an urban energy to the flow of her talk – she confesses that she can carry on a monologue almost indefinitely. A stream of consciousness almost, littered with Jamaican patois phrases, funny voices, jokes, a bit of saucy stuff (just a dash), sudden changes of direction, much laughter. Has Miss Kitty ever been lost for words, I ask her? Yes, just once. She says that was when she saw “Christian Grey.” In Burger King. Or the equivalent of. I was spellbound, tongue-tied, she says. But sadly, she has never seen him again. (Christian, where are you? If she does find you again, I am sure she will have her tongue back. She won’t let that chance slip by, again).
Aspects of Khadine are there in Miss Kitty, she says. I realize that she can’t quite separate the two identities, nor does she need to. They seem to merge, and that is fine; after all, none of us are one-dimensional. Miss Kitty is not an invention or a fake. But…“Sometimes I just want to be quiet,” she says. Khadine enjoys a quiet evening at home, watching HGTV and CNN on television. She likes to chill and do nothing at all, at a quiet resort hotel. She doesn’t listen to loud music in the car. She doesn’t smoke or drink.
A city girl born and bred, Khadine Hylton enjoyed a happy and stable childhood in Kingston. She was born into a small family, by Jamaican standards: her father a police officer, and her mother an anesthesiologist. She has a sister. Her mother’s work ethic has always inspired her: “I don’t want to disappoint her…I want to make her feel proud,” says her daughter. We talked about summers. For her and her sister, every summer vacation included two weeks overseas (she loves New York – not Miami); and two weeks in the country. Her grandmother (Miss Norma) lived in Belmont, Westmoreland – still a quiet hamlet beside a turquoise sea. While her mother taught her the value of hard work, her grandmother taught her self-reliance. While they were staying with Miss Norma, the children were always busy. They bought cookies and bag juice (a kind of syrupy drink) and made “suck-suck” by freezing the bag juice in ice trays. They used to sell these during the hot summer days, as well as small pieces of their grandmother’s sweet potato pudding, earning a little money to put in their pockets. Entrepreneurship from the age of eight or so!
Miss Kitty reminisced further. “I love long journeys,” she says wistfully, remembering the slow drives from Kingston down to Westmoreland. The family always stopped at certain places, like Holland Bamboo in the parish of St. Elizabeth, where the bamboo arches over the main road, creating a beautiful green-arched avenue. As a child, she looked forward to those stops.
Coming back to her work on radio, I asked her about her relationship with her audience. How does she establish that strong connection, that following of fans (aged eight to eighty-five) that has grown steadily? The thing to do is just “be yourself,” she says. “And talk about real issues.” That way, they know you are genuine; they can sense it across the airwaves; you are who you are. “I think I am an old spirit,” she laughed. She told me that a woman once called the radio station to invite her to her mother’s funeral. Not feeling very comfortable at the thought of attending a stranger’s funeral, Miss Kitty enquired further. She learnt that the woman’s mother had listened to her devotedly, never missing a program, even when she was sick in hospital. Miss Kitty was like family to her.
Amazing, the power of the media. “You just don’t know whose lives you are impacting,” she muses.
And what of Miss Kitty’s future plans, personal and professional? At the end of her life, she says, she doesn’t want to feel that she just “occupied space.” Miss Kitty is a traditionalist at heart; she believes in family. “I want a ring, and a proper wedding,” she says firmly. She does not buy into the “baby-mother” syndrome of dependency. “Don’t tell me you have five kids, and no father around,” she declares, with more than a touch of impatience. She regards Jamaica as a matriarchal society, but realizes that many young Jamaican women need guidance – a path to independence and greater fulfillment. So, she plans to set up a charitable foundation for young women. She is also working with local telecoms firm Digicel as an “Ambassador,” to raise awareness of children and adults with special needs; she has also conducted appeals for post-earthquake Haiti on behalf of Digicel. She is a firm believer in the power of education and will be engaged in her personal “School Life” project on radio.
Meanwhile, there are plans to begin studying for a law degree later this year. Will she have the time and energy? “I will find a way,” says Ms. Hylton. And, perhaps surprisingly, she would like to go into politics one day. Or perhaps that does not surprise me so much? There may be a book or two, and perhaps merchandising.
We share a goodbye hug. “Miss Kitty won’t last forever,” she smiles. “I’m still a work in progress.”
P.S. Do read my fellow-blogger Corve DaCosta’s interview with Miss Kitty…or rather, listen to the audio, here: http://corvedacosta.com/my-exclusive-interview-with-miss-kitty/
Miss Kitty will return to the airwaves on Monday, July 1 with a new program, “Miss Kitty Live,” on Nationwide News Network (90 FM on your radio dial). A simulcast with New York’s Link Up Radio, the program will air from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. on weekday afternoons. You can hear Nationwide streaming online at http://www.nationwideradiojm.com/listenlive.html