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Emcee 'til I die!

yolanda holder tells of her love for her job

by Kimberley Cummins

No one tells Betty White she is too old to act, so when MC Yolanda Holder reaches a certain age one should not attempt to take her off the stage.

For her emceeing is much more than just a job, it could be described as a love. One she said was too powerful to explain.

“I don’t even know if love is the word, I don’t even know if you could describe it. Even when I am 80, as long as I can walk onto the stage and I know where the audience is you will see me. As long as I can walk on and walk back off, and remember my lines you will see me on stage.

“I see Betty White, she has reinvented herself, she is doing ads, movies, all kinds of things and she is still working at her age. I love this so much I will be on the stage ’til I die,” she pledged.

Holder made her first appearance as an MC at the annual Learning Centre Concert, more than ten years ago when at that time her son, calypsonian Chad Sir Ruel Bowen, was a student. The school’s regular MC was unavailable for the concert and because teachers were aware of her theatrical background, they approached her to emcee the show. She accepted and as people would say, the rest is history.

“I was green then and I would say I still think I have a long way to go. The audience, they were friendly, I did not get heckled and they really got my jokes. I have been doing that every year since, except two years I took a break, and now I am the resident MC,” she said.

In recent years the Barbadian public had grown to love her as Cordie in the Barbados Government Information Services public service announcements. They adored her as she flawlessly run the programme in the House of Soca calypso tent. And while her baby-like appearance had some questioning her age, this theatre practitioner said her talent had been developing for many years prior.

Holder’s dramatic journey started way back in the 1970s as a student of the St. Leonard’s Girls’ Secondary School. In her first theatrical endeavour she competed in the National Independence Festival Of Creative Arts with the self-penned Teenager in Trouble and another piece chosen by NIFCA. Later she moved on to become a member of Stage One Theatre Production and presently she is the other half to Jennifer Walker in Double Laughs. She credited being “Yolanda” as a major contributor to her longevity in the business.

“I try to develop my own style, in that I try not to tell jokes. I talk about everyday experiences, things that happen to me.†I have never been booed because I think people like the Bajan characters I play. People all over Barbados stop me and tell me they love to see me on TV and like to hear how I speak. When I am in the tent I would play myself in one half and a character in the other and the people like that,” she said.

A perfect example, Holder said, of how being oneself’s could help with emceeing was on judging night. The mother of three described judging night as the hardest night an MC could experience in the tent.

“Even though the show will run like every other night, you can’t do anything until you get the judges’ lights. You still have to wait on the judges, so therefore you have to have material to fill the gap. You can’t be silent; you have to find things to say because sometimes the light does not come back as quickly as you would like. When you are yourself stuff tends to flow better,” she said.

Holder affirmed that emceeing was not all about jokes and her advice for young people who wanted to get into the business and continue in it was to grow a thick skin.

“Anyone interested in getting into emceeing needs to have a strong back. It’s a difficult job, in that it doesn’t matter how you are feeling, during the day you might be down or depressed, you may have had a death, you may have had a break up, a lot of things could have happened within a day leading up to the event. But no matter what you are going through, you still have to go and do the best job possible,” she said.

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