Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 4th 2015 Contents October 4, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
WOW MAGAZINE| 5
| PROFILES |
By Onika Nkrumah-Lakhan
I HURRY ACROSS to Duke Street; I'm trying to
avoid the rain and I don't want to be late for my
interview with a special lady. I enter a bluish-
glass building and give my name to security.
Soon, a young lady in a blue and white polka dot
dress with pearls approaches. "Onika?" She
smiles, and I follow her. Tonya Rowley has none
of the self-important airs that affect some VIPs;
I will actually enjoy this interview.
Tonya is the 29-year-old daughter of Dr. Keith
and Sharon Rowley. A chocolate-skinned ver-
sion of her mother; attractive, narrow features
with a broad, bright smile. While she might be
unassuming, her lawyer instincts are quickly dis-
played when she asks to see my interview
questions first. Satisfied, we continue our chat.
A past scholarship winner, she's giving back
service to the government, and will be entering
private practice in 2016. Tonya completed her
Master's in Corporate and Commercial Law; she
is a graduate of the prestigious London School
of Economics and Political Science, as well as
UWI and Hugh Wooding. "I invest in the things
I'm passionate about, like my career, my family
and my art." For all her poise, I sense a bit of shy-
ness. I dig deeper and she admits that while
she's naturally an introverted person, that qual-
ity has been exacerbated being a politician's
WOW -- Is it awkward now that your Dad is
the Prime Minister, knowing that you are also
under some measure of public scrutiny?
It's important to be yourself. It just requires a bit
more awareness. I'd like to think I've always car-
ried myself as a young lady with high standards.
WOW -- Did you always want to follow in your
mother's legal footsteps?
I wanted to be a graphic artist, but changed my
mind because art is an area of solace for me. I
didn't want to intrude on that specialness. I was
heavily influenced by my Mum because I look up
to her, not because I was actively being led in
one direction or another. I'd watch her dress in
her gown and bands and wanted to be like her.
WOW -- Describe growing up in your house-
We're a close-knit family; my sister Sonel and I
are very close. At one point, we had 26 pets:
dogs, birds, rabbits, turtles, you name it and al-
though we were determined to care for them at
first, the job soon fell to Dad. (She grins cheek-
ily). My parents were big on creating memories
for us and exposing us to a variety of experi-
ences, so family vacations were a big thing. One
year we went to Italy and the Vatican. My sister
and I were younger and we pleaded to go to
Great Fete instead --- imagine that! But obvi-
ously my parents were having none of it, and in
the end we had the time of our lives!
WOW -- Have you had to make any changes
to your routine or life since becoming "first
Not really. The big difference is the issue of se-
curity, which takes some getting used to. I have
to be more organized and plan my itinerary
ahead of time; there is less room for spontane-
ity. Although I can still be impulsive, I now have a
security detail who shadow me wherever I go."
(I recall that when we took the elevator, her
"shadow" took the stairs; it's obvious that they
try not to be too intrusive). Tonya is a new
mother and wife. She married her "best friend",
Kareem Cuffy, in July, 2013. It's obvious she's still
on 'honeymoon'; her face lights up when she de-
scribes her husband, who she met while at Cave
Hill, as "amazing." Their son, seven-month old
Lucas, is his grandparents' "eyeball" and she
laughingly shares that the Prime Minister is still
put on babysitting duty.
WOW -- Describe your fashion sense
I like simplicity and comfort, but when the occa-
sion requires I like to dress up. My must-have is
eyeliner, maybe a little foundation; a natural look.
WOW -- What's the most adventurous thing
you've ever done?
Tonya -- (Pause). Umm, well, I'm not a very ad-
venturous person. I tried once to live on a limb
and it backfired. We went white-water rafting in
California; I promptly fell out and sank beneath
the boat. Another boat had to rescue me. After
that experience, I think I'll be limiting my adven-
tures from now on.
WOW - You've always been in the public eye.
Do opportunistic people try to ingratiate
themselves or befriend you for some self-
I wouldn't want to impute ulterior motives to
anyone. Persons are friendly, but I can't say if it's
with an agenda, but if it is only time can reveal. I
have gotten a lot of Facebook requests, though.
(I sheepishly admit that I too, sent her a friend
request, and quickly move on. Tonya is an excel-
lent artist, a skill honed while at Bishop Anstey
High School. Her paintings are vibrant and realis-
WOW -- Your last art exhibition was in 2013;
do you have another planned for the near fu-
Right now my time is consumed by Mommy-
hood and my career; maybe when Lucas gets a
WOW -- Are you more a J'ouvert or Mas per-
I've played Mas for many years with Tribe, Is-
land People, Legends. I like Caesar's Army, Sat-
urday J'ouvert party, but I won't be playing next
year. I'm just going to chill with the family.
(An hour has passed and as we conclude, I rec-
ognize a kindred spirit in Tonya; she's definitely a
Daddy's girl. Her father may have been given the
political sobriquet of "Rottweiler", but he's
clearly Tonya's puppydog.)
WOW -- How do you feel when people malign
your father's character?
My father means everything to me; it's very
hurtful. It's the most difficult aspect of being a
politician's daughter, because I grew up with
him; I know him!
WOW -- And finally, what message do you
have for young women?
You can achieve: focus and commitment will re-
move all obstacles. Work hard, then play hard:
balance is the key. And breathe....
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