THE DISTINGUISHED — MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS
By any measure, popular broadcaster and communications specialist Simone Clarke-Cooper has a unique talent for getting guests to feel comfortable, open up and unveil hidden stories and emotions. She also comes armed with a secret weapon, though possibly not much of a secret, which is her warm smile that, in many instances, erupts into laughter, and a mission to empower and encourage others to be the best version of themselves.
With decades in media and communications, Clarke-Cooper has evolved throughout her career. “I am currently thinking about the last 30 years in a flash wheel or a time-lapse,” she shared at the beginning of her interview, adding that, “when persons say I have accomplished so much, I often find I have to step outside of myself because it feels like time kind of flew by and sometimes it feels like one big fast blur.
“Speaking of evolution, that’s a large part of the work I do now, to declare my hand as that person who is working in media, but who is very much human at the core. Having been through some stuff, as my daughter will say, I have taken it as a mission to talk about how beautifully imperfect we are and to make my mess – as American broadcaster Robin Roberts said one time – make my mess into a message,” she continued.
Clarke-Cooper’s introduction to television came through an audition for the youth-focused show – Rappin in 1994. She grew up on set, she explains, in an opportunity that allowed her to flex her muscles as a presenter and learn about the art of production.
“When I started then, before anything was put on tape, Wycliffe Bennett, then head of the Creative Production Training Centre (CPTC), would sit myself, with Yvonne Chin, Livingston White and Paula-Ann Porter-Jones in the event there was a mispronunciation of a word or a body movement that was wrong, and [or] if there was a gem or an instruction, he could [give] us to improve. He didn’t hold back. Oftentimes I would leave in tears, but it served me so well,” she said. “I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up. Voice and Speech I led to Voice and Speech II, and that led to Voice and Speech III. At the end of it all, I had to learn production, PA, editing, camera, sound – every single aspect of television production because he wanted us to be whole and complete practitioners, and it is the best foundation I could have received.”
Fast-forward to 2020, in remembering her purpose, she registered SimSpeak Communication at the start of the year, which she said was to launch out with training and coaching options for young broadcasters, corporate personnel and individuals who sought self-development in public speaking presentations. Led by the advice of veteran broadcaster Francois St Juste, who she names as another mentor, she would later introduce Sim Soul Sessions. She serves as the executive producer and host of the soul-stirring show that airs on Monday nights on Television Jamaica (TVJ).“Francois taught me that there is nothing you can make up your mind in life to do, that can’t happen. I used to go to him all the time to ask what he was thinking about promoting me to positions like senior and executive producer, and I would say things like ‘I don’t have executive producer in me’ because I was still a self-doubter. But I think one time I went to him with an ‘I can’t’ story, and he said, ‘There is nothing as can’t, there are no problems, only opportunities for [a] solution,’ and that has altered my mindset to this very day,” Clarke-Cooper shared as the lesson served as a reminder that she could establish herself and her show.
She has welcomed numerous personalities, from recording artistes to politicians, to bare their souls on set with her, and it has been a rewarding experience to add to the many that have shaped her own life. She also sat in the interviewees chair to answer questions about her own experiences and challenges.
“I’m one of the most paradoxical media personalities because I am out there … meaning I have the public persona, but when I’m happiest is when I’m home in the comfort of my home, watching television with my daughter (she is just a great source of strength for me) but I recognised that if I’m going to ask others to do it, I should be able to it,” she said.
“It might have taken some prodding and reinforcement, but I could never imagine what Sim Soul Sessions could have done until I set out to do it. And I don’t know if it was the time period it was launched, letting people know they were not suffering alone, letting them see that there exists community and that it was okay to talk about the things that have gone wrong in their lives, no matter who you were,” Clarke-Cooper continued.