The energy level at Sandals South Coast was at an all-time high as over 70 of Sandals and Beaches most talented dancers, vocalists, musicians, disc jockeys, spoken word performers and models from seven Caribbean Islands converged at the Luxury-Included® resort for the 2019 Festival of the Arts Competition recently.

The week-long mega-festival certainly satisfied with a uniquely packaged event for every palette. The electrifying spirit of the Caribbean filled the air as DJs battled it out during a silent headphone party at the start of the week, while deeply moving spoken word pieces and a plethora of musical performances mesmerized patrons under the stars on Tuesday night. Wednesday’s Runway event boiled over with beautiful bodies and over the top fashion while Thursday’s Footloose uncovered unique interpretations of Dancehall from old school to acrobatic to downright hilarious.

The spotlight event on the final night of the festival brought out another moment of truth. Models decked out in their colourful national costumes alongside the highly anticipated male and female vocalist category. Jamaica’s Alex Richards from Beaches Ocho Rios thrilled his way to the top with the Tom Jones classic I who have nothing.

Shanika Watson_Best Female Model_lw

The Jamaican team also copped four other awards. Nicholas Mairs and Jemarie Richards from Sandals Negril won the DJ Clash and Musical Instruments categories respectively. Sandals Ochi’s Shanika Watson strutted off with the top female model award and the entertaining duo of Owen Brown and Glenroy Walker from Sandals South Coast were more than happy to accept the award for top Dance Duo.

Among the other winners were two Saint Lucians; Tasha Fanus for spoken word and top female vocalist, Johnel Leo, who received a standing ovation for her hauntingly beautiful performance of Never Enough from the soundtrack for the Greatest Showman.

Romario Brown from Beaches Turks and Caicos sveltely captured the male model spot and Shaquan Ward from Sandals Royal Barbados took home the solo dance category award by simply doing what he does best; entertain.

My experience at the Sandals Festival of the Arts was divine,” said Johnel Leo. “I think this competition is everything. Beyond the actual competition we get to meet new people, we get to exchange experiences at our difference resorts and in our different countries and we made friends.”

For Romario Brown, the experience and in particular his win in the male model category was a dream come true. “Modelling is a passion for me so I’m really happy to have come this far.”

Jamarie Richards_Best Instrumentalist_lw


The Festival of the Arts Competition actually started 15 years ago as a way for Sandals as a company to not only build camaraderie across the region and bring individuals from different divisions together in a creative space,” said Group Manager of Themed Entertainment/Children Activities for Sandals Resorts International, Joel Ryan. The event provides an added avenue for team members beyond only the Entertainment department, to showcase their tremendous and diverse talent.

Overseeing this year’s competition was a carefully selected team of adjudicators representing the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts as well as the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC).

Ryan noted that in addition to receiving pointers from the judges on ways to improve their performances, participants in the Festival of the Arts Competition were also engaged in targeted masterclass sessions prior to their showcases.

What has been very powerful coming out of these sessions is the instant learning that we’ve been able to see on stage at each event,” said Ryan. “We have seen the team members really grasp the information and internalise it and it’s also giving us the ability to look deeply at how we can continue developing the creative arts within the non-traditional form.”

Johnel Leo_Best Female Vocalist
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