Monday | September 2, 2002
Up close with Parisa Fitz-Henley
SUPERMODEL PARISA Fitz-Henley has hit the runways of New York and London, appeared in major fashion magazines like Cosmopolitan, Essence and Glamour. But when the cameras stop flashing and the show is over, Parisa happily says "That's a wrap" and unveils her other side. It is the side of her that flipping through the pages of her portfolio will not reveal.
"Parisa is one of the most honest people I've ever met," said her husband, of three months, Araya Crosskill. "She's fair and believes in justice and doing the right thing. She's very outgoing: she can be silly and goofy, but when you talk to her about something near and dear to her heart the transition to her serious side is almost seamless."
Executive chairman of Pulse Entertainment Group, Kingsley Cooper, who introduced Parisa to the modelling world, shared his sentiments about one who is his agency's 'pride and joy'.
"Parisa is very spiritual and has very strong religious beliefs and family values. She is not caught up in the modelling hype and with all her success, she's managed to find a balance in the very crazy modelling world." After a moment of intense thought, he added, "She's very special and very real."
Keeping it real is not something that Parisa Fitz-Henley struggles to do. "I'm a model not because I studied and sought after it," she said. "I really have my parents to thank for it. It's because of their genes that I look a certain way."
The soft-spoken 25-year-old was simply and casually attired when Flair spoke to her at Devon House, St Andrew. She wore no make-up, no nail polish, and had no 'airs' about her. But even at her simplest there was no hiding that signature 'model look' and the distinctive smile that lit up her face and extended to the people around her.
"I actually wanted to be a doctor," said Parisa.
But when Pulse got a glimpse of Parisa Fitz-Henley, they were adamant that she was to be more than just the girl next door. The Jamaican-born beauty, who had spent most of her childhood in the United States with her mother, had returned to Jamaica and was at the time attending St. Andrew High School.
"I had a choice between graduating from high school or modelling, " said Parisa. I chose to graduate." But Pulse did not go away. That summer after high school she was encouraged to enter the Jamaica Fashion contest and after winning her dreams of becoming a doctor got pushed back and she launched a career down the runway.
"Parisa has been very successful in the business," said Cooper. "She's busy working, all year round."
But success hasn't stopped Parisa from constantly struggling with herself to be a motivated and enthusiastic model.
"Because Parisa kind of got just into modelling, sometimes you have to remind her that it is her job," said Croskill. "It's like it's not stimulating enough for her and because one day she could be here and the other day somewhere else, it doesn't afford her the time to go to school even part-time and she hasn't gotten to do some of the things she wants to do. If Parisa were not a model, I think she'd be a writer looking for a way to give back and use her experiences as a human being in some way that she can help people. She's that kind of person. "
Parisa has grown to love the art of expressing herself. "I love to write children's stories and adult stories. When my husband and I were dating we would even write articles for each other and I really enjoyed doing it."
But there are some things that a career in modelling has afforded Parisa that she is grateful for: "One of the greatest things about modelling is to be able to place, set up house quickly and leave quickly," she said.
Of all the places she's been, she'll never forget her five months in Cape Town, South Africa.
"Cape Town is beautiful. The sun is hot but the air is very cool. The diversity there is amazing: it's inexpensive and it just has the right vibe. I felt like everyday I could work and have time for my friends and myself," she said.
Because of her personality and her spirituality, Parisa, a Bahai, has been very selective about her work. Cooper says there are certain jobs that Parisa simply will not take.
"I work on the conservative side. I only do certain kinds of magazines like health magazines and catalogues," Parisa explained.
"If she wanted to be more high profile she would have to do certain things, like work the cocktail circuit and socialise with some of the editors, but she's chosen not to do that, instead she's just eked out a world of her own," Cooper continued.
Croskill says that despite her careful choices, there are things she has no control over: "Like she just did a scene for a movie. Her scene was something she was comfortable doing, but we have no idea what the entire movie will look like."
Another important part of Parisa's world is her relationship with her husband. After two years in a long distant relationship the couple got married at simple and small wedding at Parisa's mother's home in Florida.
"From early in the relationship we always talked about getting married, but there were so many fears which we had to work through." Well the couple who speak strongly about their friendship worked out and talked over their fears and tied the knot.
And Parisa, who's still wearing the glow of one newly-wed said, "Marriage is wonderful." As she reminisced on her wedding day, with wedding pictures in hand, she told Flair, "I love being married and I love him," pointing to a picture of her husband, Croskill.
Parisa tells all...
FL: How old are you?
Parisa: 25 years old
FL: What's your favourite colour?
Parisa: I love coral
FL: What makes you say "oh no, I did it again-"
Parisa: When I've hit the snooze button five times too many I get up thinking I can wash my hair, eat breakfast and leave the house all within a few minutes. Of course I can't and I end up thinking "oh no, I did it again."
FL: What have you done and surprised yourself?
Parisa: On the days running up to my wedding day it was so stressful. I took on everything. It's just like me to be wondering, "Is the food hot enough?" and to make sure everything is o.k. But on my wedding day, I really surprised myself. I was a lot calmer about things and just let it all go and I had such a great time.
FL: What qualities do you admire in a man?
Parisa: Honesty. I also admire a man who is respectful, kind, friendly, humble, confident and someone who's willing to work on themselves.
FL: Have you found your ideal man? What's he like?
Parisa: YES. He's tall, dark and handsome and is very straightforward, very caring, very self-less, he's intellectual, fun, athletic, open-minded and he has nice hands and feet and nice teeth. (Parisa married her ideal man in June of this year).
FL: How many children do you want to have?
Parisa: I don't know. I think I just want to have the number of children that I can
FL: How well do you cook? What dish do you consider to be your best?
Parisa: I love to cook. I love creating different dishes and making vegetarian meals. But I think I really have a talent with Italian food and I can make tofu so that even people who don't like tofu will enjoy it.
FL: What's your favourite kind of food?
Parisa: I love Ethiopian food.
FL: What do you do to relax?
Parisa: I watch T.V. read and hang out with my husband. (He has a calming effect on me.)
FL: If you had two weeks to live, how would you spend it?
Parisa: I would like to tell everybody about the Bahai faith. I'd try to apologise to anyone I thought I needed to and I'd probably gain a lot of weight eating everything I want to eat.
FL: What qualities do you like in yourself?
Parisa: I like the fact that I try to be honest. I like to laugh and when I'm at my best I really believe in people.
FL: What would you change about yourself?
Parisa: I would like to be less critical, more patient with myself and others and I'd like to be ore of a go-getter. I'm a little too laid back.
FL: (Dream a little choose one day in your life ten years from now. How do you see yourself and what are you doing?
Parisa: I'd like to be speaking before an international audience about the rights of children like the U.N. I'd like to really make an impact on the way people think.
©Copyright 2002, Jamaica Gleaner