From the first time she played mas in a Trinidad mas troupe with her grade three classmates, Sharlene Lindsay knew that sparkles and feathers would be in her future.
“I was eight years old and our teachers encouraged us to make our own costumes. It was fun to be out having a good time with your friends,” Lindsay told Discover Montserrat.
Ironically, Sharlene has never played big people mas in Trinidad, which has the most popular carnival. However, her love for the art has driven her to create beautiful mas for her second homeland of Montserrat.
Sharlene’s second experiment with designing costumes for carnival came after she competed in the Miss T&T UK Pageant in 2008. “My friends and I used to go to Nottinghill Carnival to play mas and we had the option to create our own pieces to play in a troupe. We would hold a house party and just get together to create the costumes we wanted to see on the road.”
During her time in the UK, Sharlene unwittingly created designs that would eventually show up in the 2012 festival troupe she would organise for Montserrat’s 50th Festival.
“My best friend Juanita was my mannequin. Her relatives were from Montserrat but she had never been and I would try to tell her about the island. In trying to describe Rendezvous Beach which is the only white sand beach on the island, I came up with the concepts for the Rendezvous line which we used in 2012.”
In 2010, Sharlene tried her hand at designing for children with her troupe Kandi Shoppe.
“That taught me a lot about the business side of things. How to plan for production time, ensuring customers pay on time. I lost a lot of money,” she recalls of her first year designing an entire troupe.
Thankfully her work didn’t go unnoticed, parents and friends loved her grown up version of the candy-styled costumes and wanted their own. She also got the attention of soca singer Jadine Greenaway who wanted to partner with her for the 2011 festival.
They only designed five individual costumes to put on the road for Parade Day but it had the desired results. Sharlene’s designs were used in the 2012 Festival 50 promotional campaign, which resulted in more than 3500 people returning home to celebrate. Island Diva Mas was the largest adult troupe for the 50th festival celebrations. They also took home the cash prize for best adult troupe.
She missed the 2013 festival to focus on delivering her son Sionne and that came with mixed feelings. “I was enjoying my son and being a new mom but on Festival Day, I was asked to be a judge and there were only two children’s troupes on the road. No adult mas troupe, just T-shirt groups. After that, I decided iDiva has to be on the road every year.”
In 2014, iDiva put Take Flight on the road. This featured three sections of various birds. In 2015, it was Galaxy Quest and in 2016 they are going tribal with Tribes. She credits her friend Jamilia Greenaway for helping her to achieve all that she has with the business. “Jami has been with me since the beginning of Island Diva Mas and she hasn’t left my side. I can count on her to have my back.”
One particular design worn by model Shaquille Sam in the New World section has been gaining lots of buzz on social media.
“It felt really good to see people saying this design must be from Brazil or Trinidad. To know it was one of mine and it was having that kind of impact was fantastic.”
Her early spring design launches have been a key factor in the annual growth of the band. As many revellers make their plans on whether they will come home to Montserrat for festival early, having beautiful designs and several sections to choose from is additional motivation to return and get on the road for the New Year’s Day Parade.
Sharlene’s hard work is paying off as in 2015, her designs will be featured in several carnivals.
After enjoying their time playing mas with iDiva in 2015, the ladies behind Brazen Caribbean on Antigua invited Sharlene to create a Monday wear line. Antigua is celebrating its 60th carnival this August.
“Monday wear is a growing trend. Most people who play with troupes want to add something extra to look different than they would on Carnival day, which is usually on the Tuesday. We can give them a bigger headpiece, more bling on their bra, feathers on the collar. Whatever they want,” the designer explained.
The BrazenDiva designs are a hit and mas lovers from Grenada, Barbados and St. Vincent & the Grenadines are placing orders as well.
Her work isn’t stopping at the Caribbean Sea, Sharlene was given full creative freedom to design a female section for the Boston carnival this August.
“I have wanted to see iDiva pieces in other carnivals and it is finally happening and that feels so good.”
See more of Sharlene’s work with Island Diva Mas on their Facebook page.
To place an order or get more information email Sharlene at firstname.lastname@example.org .