In 1987, Kimberley Mais was a fresh faced 16 year old who had just completed high school, with higher education on her mind. But her life changed suddenly, when she was declared winner of Pulse’s Jamaica Fashion Model competition. In a moment, she substituted glamorous world of fashion for a campus hall. “It was the turning point of my life,” reflects the 5’8’ beauty, whose impressive international career spawned the evolution of Jamaica Fashion Model to its current Caribbean Model Search format, paving the way for the careers of future Pulse stars, Justine Willoughby Nikki Vassel, Jaunel McKenzie, Carla Campbell, to name a few. Mais went on to become one of the world’s most successful new faces in international modeling; establishing the name of a then young agency, named Pulse.
Kimberley created history in 1987 when she was selected from over 1000 local and int’l models to be the campaign model for Japan’s Kirin beer. She was taken to Japan by Pulse’s CEO Kingsley Cooper who negotiated the terms of the Kirin Beer contract. So in-demand was Kimberley that her career jettisoned to new heights as she ascended to the top and became the darling of the Japanese fashion and beauty industry working almost every day. Her powerful star status remained in tact for several years. Mais also achieved the unprecedented feat of appearing on the cover of every issue of Vingtaine, Japan’s number one magazine at the time, for an entire year.
Signed to Elite Folio, Kimberley did scores of television commercials, thousands of catalogues, magazine covers, and fashion shows. Mais ascribes her immense success in the Japanese market to the fact that they could relate to her look; with her dark eyes and dark hair she seemed like a more exotic version of Asian. Her success in Japan relayed to success in Europe where she did a number of magazine covers, commercials and editorials across the continent. She did a spread for French Cosmopolitan and was even the face of Turkey’s Tourism campaign in 1988.
Of taking the leap into the world of modeling Kimberley notes, “It was challenging initially because I was venturing into unchartered territory.” At the time, she had no predecessors to emulate and as a young Jamaican woman, modeling was an unproven career path.
For 10 years Kimberley’s face was all over Europe and Japan and she lived like a nomad, spending a few months each time in Tokyo, Spain, New York, France and Jamaica.
To Pulse CEO Kingsley Cooper, Kimberley Mais plays a pivotal role in Pulse history, “Kimberley’s success in the world markets was our first experience of a strong and sustained modelling career,” Cooper asserts. She took the company to initial notoriety – today international agencies are on the look-out for the fresh new talent Pulse has to offer, knowing the standards of their models.
After a decade of an intercontinental successful career, Mais felt the need to put down some roots. Her life took another drastic turn when she got married and moved back to Jamaica in 1996. She had gone to film school in New York and today her work life is focused in the media. She hosts Ready for Caribbean Fashion Week, Caribbean Fashion Weekly and Island Dreams. When she is not in front of the camera, her time is taken up with caring for her 3 children aged 9, 7 and 5 months.
She stills recalls winning the Jamaica Fashion Model competition as being, “the best thing that ever happened to me,” grasping her from the ordinary propelling her into pioneer position. She still recalls her experience of the competition, as if it were yesterday. “As contestants we felt like we were all in this together, learning this new trade and aspiring to be the next fashion model. It was a new and exciting experience.”
With the 2007 edition of Caribbean Model Search now on in earnest Kimberley has lots of advice to share with model hopefuls in the competition. “It’s a such a tough business and you face rejection everyday”, she warns. “You have to believe in yourself and know that even the top models don’t get every job. You have to be strong, have a good sense of self and remember that it might not happen over night.”
Seeing the evolution of The Jamaica Fashion Model pageant into the international event that Caribbean Model Search now is, has made Kimberley proud know that she was one of the firsts. “It’s great to see where Caribbean Model Search winners and finalists have come from and what they have accomplished; I’m proud to have been part of that.”
On Sunday September 2, fashion fans will see one of Jamaica’s first supermodels as she makes a special guest appearance at the Caribbean Model Search finals at the Hilton Kingston Hotel.