One could say she is a rose among thorns of the performing arts
“I’ve learned that a positive outlook always brings positive returns. If you consistently put positivity out into the universe, it gives it back to you. So that’s how I choose to approach my future.” – Sakina Deer in the Tallawah Magazine.
It is rumored that being a successful actor, not to mention an actress, in Jamaica, is very difficult; doing what you love and making a living from it is just as much a taboo. However, this is not the case for Jamaican female performer Sakina Deer as she has made her name in the theatrical industry and has been an inspiration for aspiring actresses.
Before she set her sights on acting, she aspired to become a medical doctor. It was customary for many Jamaican children to dream of becoming a doctor, lawyer or teacher, dentist, pilot, or engineer; wanting a career in the Arts was far-fetched.
She was born in Kingston, Jamaica on October 27, 1984 and was raised by her single mother and supportive grandparents. She attended the RJR Basic School and received a scholarship to Saints Peter and Paul Preparatory.
“I grew up with my grandparents who were everything to me. My grandfather was a stickler for etiquette and propriety so we had to speak the Queen’s English at all times. My grandparents were pillars in the church to the point you would think ‘a dem prop it up’. They were serious church people who were loving, respectful and just decent salt-of-the earth good people.” – Sakina Deer in Buzz Magazine.
She attended the prestigious Immaculate Conception High School and later enrolled in the Natural Science undergraduate programme at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus. Before finishing, she went on to the University of Technology (UTECH) where she started Medical Technology but she was forced to drop her studies due to financial hardship.
“If not acting, then medicine definitely, specifically cardiology. I did the sciences before jumping on the stage. Initially I thought of paediatrics until I saw my own child in pain and then I knew it wasn’t for me. At one point I was a veterinary nurse, working for two years at Caymanas Park at the tracks.” – Sakina Deer with Buzz Magazine.
She does not have any regrets for not completing her degree as the performing arts and being an actress was her calling; however, she told Tallawah Magazine she was taking a course as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) back in 2014.
“I wanted to be a doctor…to heal people… Now I think I still do heal; not their bodies, but at least for a few hours, their souls.” – Sakina Deer in an interview with JamBiz.
As a teenager, she found herself gravitating towards the performing arts and she performed in Father Ho Lung’s Ministry where she was encouraged to pursue her untapped potential and inevitable dream; she participated in her first play ‘Isaiah’ in grade nine. ‘Jesus 2000’, one of Father Holung’s plays, allowed her to travel across the United States performing and singing in plays and concerts. She received unconditional support from her family, especially her mother who made her feel like she lacked nothing in life.
“My mom was, and still is, my biggest fan. When most of the other academia oriented people in my family thought I was wasting my time and life with this “acting thing”, she stayed up with me into the wee hours of the night while I rehearsed. So yeah, mommy supported every aspect of my journey.” – Sakina Deer.
She was encouraged to join the Jamaica Theatre Company and landed a lead role at her first audition in the play, ‘The Wiz’, the rendition of the famous ‘The Wizard of Oz’. She was grateful for the support of Mike Daley, Jenny Stevenson, and Robin Bason who gave her the extra push to audition.
She never stopped there and she was casted by Russell Dawkins and then Jamaica’s comedy factory, Jambiz Productions which gave her a career exposure she needed. Her first play with Jambiz Productions was ‘Diana’ in 2007. She is currently affiliated with the Jambiz Productions where she acts alongside theatrical greats like Glen Campbell, Oliver Samuels, Camille Davis and Courtney Wilson.
“I mostly get my info from books and watching movies and studying the actors. Here at Centrestage, Patrick Brown and Trevor Nairne insist on the best from you at all times. We have our disagreements, but it’s mainly about the work, and then we get over it and move on. We’re not just doing a show; we’re a family.” – Sakina Deer in a feature with Tallawah Magazine.
Her captivating personality also afforded her the interest of Television Jamaica, a leading television station in Jamaica, who requested that she audition to be a host for Smile Jamaica: It’s Morning Time.
“Being a media personality is cool and it’s mostly been a learning curve thus far, but as I said, I have a jealous husband and that`s theatre.” – Sakina Deer.
In 2015 she was the principal female actor, Isis, for the New York independent film ‘Dope Fiend’ and upcoming film ‘Sprinter’. She attributes her ‘Dope Fiend’ role to Shayne Powell; she shared the stage with Powell in the musical ‘Last Call’. Dope Fiend won Best Feature Film in the Newark International Film Festival.
“They flew me up to New York City and I got the VIP treatment with brownstone apartment and all. I got into it through Shane Powell who told me they were looking for a Jamaican actress. My audition was done via video and during this period I was so sick but in my sick state I got my iPhone, did my thing and surprisingly I got the job.” – Sakina Deer.
With her rise in fame and notable mentions for her roles in successful plays as well as her involvement on Smile Jamaica: It’s Morning Time, she has become a sought-after actress in Jamaica. She has mastered all her roles “from intensely domestic to delightfully musical” as stated in the in The Tallawah Magazine feature.
“I am surviving. I am triumphing. I’m still in the process of chipping my way out of the stereotypes that I’ve been cemented in for so many years.” – Sakina Deer.
She has been in the business for twelve years as a professional actress and has won the International Theatre Institute’s Award and the coveted Actor Boy Award for Best Actress in a supporting role for her role in ‘if there is a will there is a wife’. She also won an Actor Boy Award for Best Costume Designer for the play ‘Duppy Whisperer’.
“Jamaican audiences are fickle. They will drop you if they don’t get the quality they are looking for so the onus is on you to keep getting better,” Deer says. “You can always be better. You never stop growing. If at any point you get so complacent that you think you know it all then this is not the place for you.” – Sakina Deer.
Her role as Etta in ‘If There’s A Will There Is A Wife’ is Deer’s most challenging role to date and she recounts Wendy in ‘A Funny Kind Of Love‘ being her most challenging emotional role.
“There were days that I hollered over that role but the more I cried is the more cussing I get, because tears don’t help in a situation like that.. I lift my hat to Camille everyday. Some people have a natural gift for comedy while other people have to work at it.” – Sakina Deer.
Deer has a beautiful daughter, Sonja; she says her best role is being Sonja’s mother:
“I had no purpose until her. She is my blessing. Initially I was distraught as I didn’t think I was ready to be a mother, but the universe aligned and the day after she was born I knew this was what I was meant to do. Every day is a learning experience, full of challenges and hiccups, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” – Sakina Deer.
The triple threat who dances, sings and acts says that one thing on her bucket list is to perform in the The Lion King on Broadway which one of her biggest acting aspirations. She got inspired when she first went to see the play when she went on tour with Father Ho Lung in the United States and the performance exuded all kinds of emotions in her; she was brought to tears.
Her recent role in the successful comedic play ‘Blindspot’, to which the thirty-one year old gave a riveting performance, was a hit; it played non-stop for months at the Centerstage theatre house in Jamaica. Highlights from her career also include (but are not limited to): Diana, Jesus 2000, Amazing Grace, Moses, The Wiz, Once On This Island, Disco Inferno, Uptown Bangarang 1 & 2, Which Way Is Out, Ladies Of The Night, Glass Slippas, Baby Scam and Funny Kind Of Love.
With her bubbly demeanor and ability to win over any audience, it is not surprising that she is a Queen on Jamaica’s theatrical and media landscape. She continues to rise on the performing ladder as she sets attainable goals and achieves them without fail and exceeds expectations while doing so.
“At this point in my life, I feel awesome. I never knew I’d be a mom and an actress at the same time. I’ve been acting full-time since my daughter was born, and at this point I feel like I’m doing exactly what I was meant to do.” – Sakina Deer.
By Alexandra Daley