In the Hot Seat with Cleo Carti

In the Hot Seat with Cleo Carti

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a St. Martinois. Most people know me as a former award winning gym athlete, a drummer in the VKS [Vrijwilligers Korps Sint Maarten – ed.] and participating in cultural, and Carnival parades. I am adventurous thrill seeker; I love to have fun and laugh. I enjoy art, photography, music, travel fashion, cooking and working out at the gym.


Congratulations on winning Queen of the Band this year – tell us about the design of the costume.

The design of my costume was called “the spirit of the salt”. In designing it, we went back into history as it represented the salt picking days of our ancestors at the Great Salt Pond. Unlike years gone by where weighty iron rods were used, this costume had fiberglass rods, aluminium tubing, metallic sparkle net in different colours and metallic trims. Also used were handwoven baskets and plastic-moulded salt crystals. White habotai silk fabric was used for the upright fan shapes.

Who did you work with to complete this project?

Christopher Santos and Gregory Medina of Trinidad have been working with me as my costume designers for the past 20 years. I would present them with my ideas and the theme – and they would design in sketch-format for approval. Thereafter, they would select the various colours and materials and bring the design to life.

For the stage performance, to compete for the Queen of the Band, the music was a selection of various songs, which were mixed by Deejay Nachum Frank. Two of the main rhythms were from my favourite local band – Youth Wave. The stage performance also included two Moko Jumbies dressed for the theme, Spirit of the Salt, with Kristina Davis’ voice describing the theme and costume.

As one of the most recognised faces when it comes to St. Maarten Carnival, especially the parades, tell us about your Carnival experience in general and what your favourite thing about the Carnival season is.

It is amazing how many people do recognize me from participating in the Carnival parade with my costumes over the years. Surely, participating in the parade is my favourite part of the Carnival season. Over the years, Carnival has lost its cultural touch – that’s why I choose to represent the theme of something back in history.

For many years, St. Maarten did not have the King and Queen of the Band. How familiar were you with it?

I was only familiar with Queen of the Band, by following Trinidad Carnival over the years. With that in mind, it was always my desire to participate in a Queen of the Band competition. I got to know of the local competition when several persons tagged me with the advertisement. Participating became rather exciting, as I was celebrating 25 years of playing mass.

What was it like to perform for this event; and how was the experience or preparation different from what you were used to?

Over the years, I developed a preparation routine, which included my fitness among other things, by doing a lot of cardio to build my endurance, and back and leg exercises for building strength to carry the costume throughout the parade.

Besides the events that you were involved in as a performer, which Carnival event was your favourite this year?

For Carnival, I primarily put all my focus and energy into creating a spectacular costume and performance. I also greatly enjoyed participating in J’ouvert and would always create an attire theme to participate with friends behind my favourite band – Youth Wave. I love zouk and kompa music and would always attend those events in the village.

What was your favourite Carnival song to jam to?

This year, my favourite Carnival song to jam to was “Carnival Bay” by TG Band.

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