US actress at Sagicor’s motivational rally: Unique challenges faced by women in leadership positions

Amer­i­can ac­tress and singer Sh­eryl Lee Ralph, best known for her roles in the tele­vi­sion sit­coms It’s a Liv­ing and Moe­sha, as well as the 1993 film Sis­ter Act 2: Back in the Habit, has been rev­el­ing in the sights, sounds and tastes of T&T on her first vis­it to the coun­try this week.

The Tony Award-nom­i­nat­ed en­ter­tain­er was the keynote speak­er at Sagi­cor’s mo­ti­va­tion­al ral­ly for its em­ploy­ees.

How­ev­er, Ralph, who boasts of deep Caribbean con­nec­tions thanks to her Ja­maican parent­age, was fa­mil­iar with T&T cul­ture long be­fore she set foot on lo­cal soil.

At a cor­po­rate lun­cheon, host­ed in her ho­n­our at the Hy­att, a ref­er­ence to the south­ern city, San Fer­nan­do, prompt­ed her to belt out the cho­rus to the Mighty Dic­ta­tor’s icon­ic 1950s ca­lyp­so, Last Train to San Fer­nan­do.

She said the record was played reg­u­lar­ly in her child­hood home by her col­lege pro­fes­sor fa­ther, Stan­ley Ralph, an avid trav­eller, who bought it dur­ing a vis­it to this coun­try sev­er­al decades ago.

Her pride in her West In­di­an her­itage was clear as she spoke with re­porters and oth­er guests at the lun­cheon about be­ing raised by a Ja­maican moth­er, seam­less­ly shift­ing in­to that is­land’s pa­tois as she re­count­ed fam­i­ly in­ter­ac­tions, val­ues and oth­er ex­pe­ri­ences.

Celebri­ty and cul­ture aside, Ralph spoke about her work as an ac­tivist and her turn as a mo­ti­va­tion­al speak­er for the Sagi­cor ral­ly, Ig­nite, which took place yes­ter­day at NA­PA in Port-of-Spain.

The ac­tress found­ed the Di­vine­ly In­spired Vic­to­ri­ous­ly Anoint­ed (DI­VA) Foun­da­tion in 1990 in mem­o­ry of the many friends she lost to HIV/Aids and in re­cent years has been pur­su­ing her pas­sion for help­ing oth­ers in need with her artis­tic gifts.

Ralph ex­pressed strong views on a range of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal is­sues, in­clud­ing the pres­i­den­cy of Don­ald Trump—she is not a sup­port­er—the cri­sis in Venezuela and women’s rights.

Not­ing the unique chal­lenges faced by women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions, she cau­tioned against try­ing to be­come too mas­cu­line in ef­forts to break through the glass ceil­ing.

“We can­not com­pete, we can­not com­pare be­cause some­one al­ways los­es, some­one al­ways comes up short,” she said.

Asked about her nu­mer­ous tele­vi­sion roles and her feel­ings about reg­u­lar­ly be­ing cast as a moth­er, Ralph ad­mit­ted: “I wish I got to do more char­ac­ters that are re­al­ly chal­lenged, re­al­ly bat­tling.”

Reporter: Suzanne Sheppard

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