I “discovered” Azalea Hart in 2016 when a stunning image of her, in all her carnival glory was making its rounds on social media. That year Hart was also named the “2016 Face of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival“. The Toronto Caribbean Carnival aka Caribana also happens to be the largest cultural festival of its kind in North America. A true carnival queen (carnival costumes were designed with her in mind), Hart is the producer and host of popular YouTube show “Carnivlog with Azalea Hart”. Launched in 2015, the show features interviews, band launches and Caribbean event coverage. Since its inception, notable celebrities and DJs such as Bunji Garlin, Sean Paul, Angela Hunte, Walshy Fire of Major Lazer, Kes the Band, and DJ Private Ryan (to name a few) have made appearances on her vlog.
A proud Canadian of Trinidadian heritage, Hart’s passion for carnival and Caribbean culture is just as evident as her drive, work ethic and determination. To date she’s traveled to Trinidad, Jamaica, Miami, Cayman Islands, Los Angeles and Barbados to partake and document carnival festivities.
A true inspiration, Azalea remains humble and steadfast in her mission to share Caribbean culture with the masses while steadily building her entertainment empire. Here’s her story….
If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?
Positive, Ambitious, Funny (can I say that about myself? Call MYSELF funny?! I am though I’m hilarious!)
Tell me about yourself and the journey that led to your current career as creator and host of popular Youtube show “Carnivlog with Azalea Hart”.
I went to school for Broadcast Journalism at Seneca College – Trinidad Carnival conveniently fell on reading week so I was on my way and on my flight were two of my professors (who are married). They were on a stop-over to Grenada, I chatted with one of them for a quite a bit and she was really interested in the idea of Carnival and asked if I was documenting any of it. I wasn’t, so she suggested that the next Carnival I attend (which was going to be Cayman Batabano) that I document it for her class. So the following April, I borrowed a camera from school and vlogged my trip, designed a logo and here we are. It all started as a class project.
You are a recognizable face within Toronto’s West Indian community. You were the 2016 Face of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, you’ve interviewed notable personalities in the Caribbean entertainment industry and you’re a carnival chaser; having traveled to numerous countries to participate and document the carnival experience. Seems like you’re always on the go. What drives you and keeps you motivated?
The passion and love I have for my culture, our music and our vibe is enough to keep me motivated. I do this for the LOVE of it. I don’t make money from this – I do this because I want to bring Caribbean culture to the forefront of media. I want to shine a positive light on it and I want people to really see and experience (if they can) this amazing euphoric feeling that is Carnival.
Over the past few years there has been an increasing number of products and platforms geared towards Caribbean people specifically the Caribbean woman. In your opinion what is fuelling this niche?
Caribbean women are fuelling it. We want to be appreciated, we want to showcase what WE do, we want the world to see what we see through our eyes, through our experiences, through our passion projects and more. If we don’t do it, who will?
What advice would you give to women wishing to pursue a career in the Caribbean entertainment industry?
Just do it. Do it for the love. Don’t do it if you think you’re going to make money or I don’t know, become famous. It’s not like that. You have to do it because you’re passionate about it because it’s easy to give up. It’s easy to not want to push anymore and it’s so easy to doubt yourself or listen to negative comments. So you have to do this for YOU. But just know, it isn’t easy. Nothing worth it is.
How has your cultural background impacted your outlook on life, success, business etc.?
This may not be a Caribbean thing or a Trinidadian thing, actually, it’s not at all. This is “2017 thing”. It’s hard to try to explain to my family the career path that I’m on. Not that I’m not supported 100%, but I’ve received the comment “you need to get a real job” more than once from a few people in my life. So my outlook on life, success and business actually came from within. I had to envision my destination before I started my journey or else I would never have made it this far.
In your opinion, what is a major issue affecting Caribbean women in 2017?
In my opinion, this issue doesn’t only affect Caribbean women, it affects women in general, and that’s women working in media. It’s difficult to brand yourself as a woman in media, conducting interviews, building your own brand and working with celebrities or artists without having to deal with rumours or people slandering your name or knocking your image. It is MORE than okay to be a (beautiful) woman, interviewing men and not having to give them your number or have sex with them. It’s a major source of frustration every time I get a new opportunity. I worry that the organizer or the interviewee may want something “more” or think they’re “owed” something in return. Either way, it’s a major issue in my eyes and I find it very unfair.
One Caribbean woman that inspires you and why?
I draw inspiration from a lot of Caribbean women, I don’t think I could ever just choose one. Most famous, I’d say, Rihanna because no matter how famous she got, she never turned her back on her roots. In Toronto, Nneka Elliott because she chose to follow her dreams; she left a safe position at a local news station to pursue her passion. In Trinidad, my sister- in-law Candace Guppy because I watched her build a brand from a concept to one of the most popular event experiences in Trinidad and now in every carnival; Candy Coated Events. Close to me, my cousin Lisa. I’ve always felt that I was following in her foot steps but of course, I took a different path. She’s a mother of two, she’s a vice principal, she juggles a social life and she looks damn good doing it all.
What’s your favourite Trinidadian saying?
Haha, this is a tough question. Trini humour makes me laugh. I think my favourite might be “outta timing”, as in someone is doing something or says something inappropriate = they’re moving outta timing.
Fav place to visit when in Trinidad and why?
There’s so many, I don’t know how to choose! Lol. I will say the Haagen Dazs café ALWAYS sees me more than once and that is something I MUST have while in Trinidad; Bailey’s ice cream from Haagen Dazs.
Finally share a few words of wisdom for Caribbean women.
Do you, boo. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t!