Kimberley Mais: Jamaica’s original top model

Kimberley Mais Issa will forever be a Jamaican pace-setter in the world of modelling. Her model success in 1987 paved the way for hundreds of Jamaican models, some of them yet unborn, to hit the international spotlight, as Jamaica’s Observer reports.

In 1987, Kimberley Mais was a fresh-faced teenager who had just completed high school, with higher education on her mind. But her life changed suddenly, when she was declared winner of Pulse’s Fashion Model competition. In a moment, she substituted the glamorous world of fashion for a campus hall. “It was the turning point of my life,” reflects the 5’8′ beauty, whose impressive international career spawned the evolution of Jamaica Fashion Model to its current Caribbean Model Search format, paving the way for the careers of future Pulse stars such as a Justine Willoughby Nikki Vassel, Jaunel McKenzie and Carla Campbell.

Although she came out two years after Pulse and Jamaica’s first successful international cover girl Althea Laing (Essence), Mais was to become Pulse and Jamaica’s first global supermodel, earning tremendous success in the Asian, US and European markets.

In addition to her modelling career, Main would also do well at Miss Universe, placing in the top 5 in 1991. It was only last year, almost 20 years later, that her placing was bettered by Yendi Phillips’ 2nd place finish.

Kimberley created history in 1987 when she was selected from over 1000 Japanese and int’l models to be the campaign model for Japan’s Kirin beer. She was taken to Japan by her model manager and Pulse founder Kingsley Cooper, who negotiated the terms of the Kirin Beer contract. So successful was Kimberley in the Japanese market, that she earned the unprecedented distinction of appearing on the cover of every issue of Vingtaine, Japan’s number one magazine at the time, for an astonishing 12 months in a row.

Signed to Elite Folio, Kimberley did television commercials, appeared in catalogues, magazine covers, and fashion shows. Mais ascribes her immense success in the Japanese market to the fact that they could relate to her look; with her dark eyes and dark hair she seemed like a more exotic version of Asian. Her success in Japan relayed to success in Europe where she did a number of magazine covers, commercials and editorials across the continent. She did a spread for French Cosmopolitan and was even the face of Turkey’s Tourism campaign in 1988.

Of taking the leap into the world of modelling Kimberley notes, “It was challenging initially because I was venturing into unchartered territory.” At the time, she had no predecessors to emulate and as a young Jamaican woman, modelling was an unproven career path. For 10 years Kimberley’s face was all over Europe and Japan and she lived like a nomad, spending a few months each time in Tokyo, Spain, New York, France and Jamaica.

To Pulse CEO Kingsley Cooper, Kimberley Mais plays a pivotal role in Pulse history, “Kimberley’s success in the world markets was our first experience of a strong and sustained modelling career,” Cooper asserts. She played a key role in making Pulse the success it was to become – today international agencies are on the look-out for the fresh new talent Pulse, given the company’s history.

After a decade of a successful inter-continental career, Mais felt the need to put down some roots. Her life took another drastic turn when she got married and moved back to Jamaica in 1996. She had gone to film school in New York and today her work life is focused in the media. She hosts Ready for CFW and Caribbean Fashion Weekly, among other titles. When she is not in front of the camera, her time is taken up with caring for her three children.

She stills recalls winning the Jamaica Fashion Model competition as being, “the best thing that ever happened to me,” grasping her from the ordinary propelling her into pioneer position. She still recalls her experience of the competition, as if it were yesterday. “As contestants we felt like we were all in this together, learning this new trade and aspiring to be the next fashion model. It was a new and exciting experience.”

For the original report go to http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Kimberley-Mais–Jamaica-s-original-top-model_10015289#ixzz1btC97m1t

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