It’s so funny to read the headlines when they’re about someone you know personally. So often rumors and falsehoods are presented as truth. If you don’t know the real person and the real behind the scenes details, it can be easy to believe what you hear or what you read online.
Sintra Bronte is living proof of that. She is known to the world as the original Jamaican tourism board poster girl, a poster that has inspired legions of imitators and impersonators. But I have known her for as long as I can remember. My mom became friends with Bill and Sintra Bronte in the early 1980’s and in Trinidad, we call close family friends Aunty or Uncle. I have grown up knowing her as Aunty Sintra. And I’m so proud and happy to FINALLY share her story here on Afrobella! We’ve been talking about this for YEARS.
Here are some recent photos, in case you want to see what the original Jamaica poster girl looks like today.
Sintra did this most recent photo shoot at a friend’s home in Miami during a recent visit Stateside. She looks beautiful and relaxed, and she remains a symbol of Caribbean beauty.
“One of the newspapers in Jamaica requested a recent photograph of me. And I think it’s time people know who she really is so they can stop speculating,” Sintra declared, during a recent phone interview.
Throughout my life I have known Sintra as an entrepreneur with multiple interests, primarily focusing on tourism, shipping and hospitality. She has focused on building a career along with her husband, Bill Bronte. They have a beautiful home and live a comfortable life. Fun fact – as far as I can remember, they have always had fresh veggies and animals as part of their home life. “We had at one time, 12 goats. Right now I have about 35 chickens so I get fresh, homegrown eggs,” she told me during this interview. They have a relaxed and enjoyable social life with a solid group of friends (including my parents).
I grew up knowing that Sintra was this Jamaican poster girl – she makes no secret of it, there is a large, framed copy of the poster in her home. But I didn’t realize the scope of the international attention and fame of the poster until I migrated from Trinidad. Through it all, she has just been Aunty Sintra who I am likely to see whenever I go back to Trinidad. Here we are last year, at my brother Patrick’s wedding.
Here she is with my mom, for Sintra’s birthday in 2014. I love spending time with both of them together, never a dull moment!
My earliest memories of Sintra are of gifts. I remember her buying me a bright blue paint set by Prang when I was maybe 7 or 8, and I LOVED that paint set. It came in such a cool little kit. I remember being a little one with my mom and my dad, going with Sintra and Bill to Divali Nagar – an amazing Indian bazaar and festival in central Trinidad. This must’ve been in the 80’s or even really early 90’s – there was such ornate imported jewelry, and I remember oohing and aahing over the necklaces and earrings with my mom and Aunty Sintra. And in probably the most vivid memory, I remember going to Bill and Sintra’s house and they had Shetland ponies WHO WERE ALLOWED IN THE HOUSE. When I mentioned this to Aunty Sintra on the phone last week during our interview, she laughed. “You remember that? Yes, Shetland ponies! I had two. They were always coming through the kitchen and laying flat on the kitchen floor. That’s the way they felt at home. That was so beautiful.” So it’s been kind of funny to sit back and watch the renewed flurry of attention in the original Jamaica poster girl, now that photographer Brendan Forbes has remade the original Jamaica poster featuring Alicia Keys as the model.
A photo posted by B R E N D A N F O R B E S (@brendanforbes) on
It’s resulted in a flurry of renewed interest in Sintra, and a LOT of misinformation.
For those of you who don’t know, here is a brief primer.
Sintra Bronte is the Trinidadian woman who was featured in the famous 1972 Jamaica Tourism Board poster, which according to this Jamaica Gleaner article, is considered one of the most famous travel posters in the world.
Her name is Sintra Bronte. Not “Sintra Arunte-Bronte,” despite what Wikipedia and most articles about her, call her. “That is NOT my name. I don’t know where that began,” she told me, during our recent interview. I had to reach out to her to clarify and formally address some of the crazy stuff on the internet. We discussed the original poster in detail. I’ll share in a Q&A format.
Bellas, here is the one and only Sintra Bronte, in her own words.
Afrobella: Aunty Sintra, I want to know how this latest wave of attention has been for you.
Sintra Bronte: “This whole thing has been overwhelming, that I am being recognized again. I am getting calls from all over the world about this and I am SO surprised. It’s like I’m being discovered by a new generation.”
Afrobella: Yes! Lately I’ve been seeing some false information out there.
Sintra Bronte: “I’ve been hearing so many different things, but you know Aunty Sintra, I don’t take on news all the time.”
Afrobella: There are people who claim to be you online. I saw some comments online, attributing your photo to the wrong person, or there was a Facebook page that was claiming to be you…
Sintra Bronte: “Yes and I think that is outrageous. I had to shut down one lady from Canada. That keeps happening.”
Afrobella: Tell me the story of that day, of how the poster came to be.
Sintra Bronte: “You ready? That’s a long story. I’ll make it short. Having moved across to Jamaica with my then-husband who was transferred from Port-of-Spain to Jamaica, it is the story of being at the Pegasus Hotel at the right time and the right place. The Jamaican tourism board had their advertising, public relations and marketing people there from New York – Doyle Dane Bernbach and Associates – they were at the same hotel. I was dressed in a beautiful evening dress, and I still have that dress in my wardrobe today. They saw me and they saw the neckline and they were overwhelmed. And they went to the Jamaican tourism board and requested; can this person do the ad for them. And this…this is how it all started for me.”
Afrobella: The actual day of doing the photo, tell me about that. Did you know it was going to be something special?
Sintra Bronte: “I just thought it would be a regular ad. It took seven and a half hours to make at Frenchman’s Beach in Port Antonio. Seven and a half hours to complete and I suppose at that time I was young….that was 43 years ago. I was 26 years old.”
Afrobella: When did you know you had done something iconic?
Sintra Bronte: “When Playboy called me to pose. I told them definitely not…from then on, I realized this was gonna be something. But not to this extent.”
Afrobella: Do you think you’ve embraced it, or hidden from it?
Sintra Bronte: “I think I have hidden from it. I was so focused on my business in Trinidad. And I was sad at certain things that took place. At times I feel that the Jamaican government never honored me the way they should have.”
Afrobella: How do you feel about some of the criticism, that you represented Jamaica in this poster but you’re a Trini?
Sintra Bronte: “…I would hope the people who are seeing the pictures through their eyes would see them the right way, because I am a Caribbean woman. Whether I represent Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada – I represent beauty in the Caribbean. We are beautiful women, the way we think, the way we live, the way we enjoy life. We are a happy go lucky people. I am so proud to be a Caribbean woman.”
Afrobella: What do you want people to know about you?
Sintra Bronte: “I feel honored that people try to imitate me to a certain extent, but I don’t like them to take the image and say that it’s them, to say this is their picture. I think that’s wrong. I don’t like people using my picture without my permission. I am here to support my husband as we are both getting older in life… I am trying to stay very focused on that right now. I was always focused on what I have to do for myself and retirement, and this is how I thought. So it’s beautiful to sit back and see where I’ve come from and where I am at today. That’s the long and short of it. You know me all of these years and I don’t think Aunty Sintra has changed, and I don’t think at this age I want to change my lifestyle or who I am. I will always be the humble, natural woman that I think I am.”
Afrobella: What are your beauty secrets?
Sintra Bronte: “I don’t overdo with alcohol, I don’t smoke, I love a good night of sleep, I make sure to take care of my skin every night before I go to bed. Every night, don’t care what hour of the evening that you go home in the evening, clean your face. Take off your makeup.
Inside you must be able to control good thoughts and bad thoughts and you must look forward to being better than you were before. Always try to improve your life standards. Don’t stay stagnant. God gave you a brain. Be what you want to be. I just try my very best. Like your mummy, I love the spa, I go to the hairdresser. Praise God, I’ve never had a face lift because I am diabetic and they can’t cut me. I still have a little beauty left and I am grateful to God for all that He has done.”
Afrobella: Do you exercise often?
Sintra Bronte: “Taking care of one’s body is very important and you should start early in life, but it’s never too late to start. Knee problems have made exercising difficult for me lately, but I believe in fitness and nutrition.
I say try not eating after 7 pm. Try not eating rice and too many starchy things. If I am eating meat at night, I try to eat a lot of salad with it because of the water content of the vegetables. Particularly at my age, heavy meals at night make you feel unpleasant in the morning.”
Afrobella: And what about favorite products? Favorite brands? I know you’re into good skin care.
Sintra Bronte: “I am a believer in Clarins. I have used Clarins for many years. Oh my God, their serums. Some of their body lotions are to die for. Their body peel. To die for.”
Afrobella: And if people want to find you online…I think it’s time for you to take ownership of your name online. Are you planning to have a website, or at least a Facebook page?
Sintra Bronte: “I think it’s time I have a Facebook page. I was thinking of YouTube also.”
So there you have it. She is wary of Facebook because of some of the falsehoods, but I’m encouraging Aunty Sintra to join Facebook herself in order to scare off the impersonators. She is considering YouTube as an avenue. I can see her being a beauty brand of her own, representing Caribbean beauty and women who are maturing like a fine wine. I’d love to see her on the speaking circuit, discussing entrepreneurship and Caribbean womanhood.
It was wonderful catching up with an old family friend and she gave me some great personal advice as I go down my own path of entrepreneurship. Aunty Sintra encouraged me to keep on keeping on with my dreams so when I’m older, I too can have a home with Shetland ponies and a small herd of goats and chickens.
“This is what life is all about and this is why I’ve worked so hard. Now that I can relax, I know who I am, what I am and I know what I had. But I had to work hard for it. Nothing was just given to me by anyone. I have worked hard for my lifestyle. So think about 30 years from now. Keep on your path. Think about your savings and investments. This is what I stayed focused on: my life. What would I be like at this age. I was always focused on taking care of Sintra in case of the rainy days. That is what you need to think about, what will happen to Patrice in 30 years? You have to think of and protect your own future.”
Valuable insight from an amazing woman who has lived – and continues to live – a full, interesting, fabulous life.
Please feel free to leave comments here – Aunty Sintra will be reading!