Jada Fournillier seems to be a quiet and reserved ten-year-old, that is, until she slips into her blue devil persona.
Then, she is bold, aggressive and ready to take on the world.
That attitude has made Jada, as far as her mas band, Next Level Devils, knows, the first blue devil on stilts – a hybrid of the blue devil and the moko jumbie.
Although she is from Morne Cyril, Paramin, which is well-known for blue devils, Jada’s love of traditional mas began when she was introduced to the moko jumbie.
She said in 2017, her godmother asked if she wanted to try walking on stilts and she agreed. “It was interesting seeing people on high stilts, basically walking on wood, and I wanted to try it.”
She said at first she was afraid of the height but she soon got accustomed to it. She trained with Kriston Chen of #1000mokos and Glen De Souza of Keylemanjahro School of Art and Culture who she said is the best teacher when it comes to doing tricks on the stilts. The next year, she walked with both bands as well as with the San Fernando band Future Jumbies for Carnival.
It was only last year that Jada started playing the blue devil. She said she had seen her neighbours play the mas for years. She liked how it looked and wanted to be a blue devil to scare people but she never played with a band.
However her neighbour, Steffano Marcano of Next Level Devils, approached her mother with the idea of a devil on stilts. Jada, a year four student of British Academy, Port of Spain, jumped at the chance because she wanted to be the first person in Paramin to do be that hybrid.
Last year, she played with the bands Moko Somõkõw which won Mini Band of the Year, and Next Level Devils. She plans to do the same this year. However, Jada said she prefers to perform in Paramin where people are impressed and excited about seeing her stilt-walk on a hill and be a blue devil.
“The vibes up there (in Paramin) is much better. It makes me happy and you get to blue-up yourself and scare people to get money.”
She said she likes the feeling of freshly made, warm blue dye when it is applied to her skin and to play with the aloe and red food colouring mixture that looks like drool coming from the devils’ mouths.
She recalled that in the Paramin blue devil competition, last year, she portrayed a goddess who had to control two “devil dogs.” She was on stilts and held the leashes of two blue devils but she could not see where she was walking because of the smoke the band sprayed on the ground.
“At the beginning it was scary because I was holding on and they were pulling me but I got accustomed to the balance. I could not see the floor. It was like I was blind but I could still walk.”
She said at one point she took off her stilts and came down on the ground to be able to scare people. She said between being a blue devil in Paramin and performing on stilts at a fete last year, she made enough money to buy a Nintendo Switch video game console.
Even though Next Level Devils has over ten women in the band, she was the only girl. “I like being the only girl but I wouldn’t mind company, a girl to help and teach how to do it.”
She also wants to blow fire using pitch oil (kerosene) at least once so she could be the youngest blue devil in Paramin to do it but her mother said she was too young. She also heard the pitch oil could blacken gums so she does not want to do it too many times.
In addition, Jada starred in the short documentary Lifted about a Venezuelan boy, a refugee, who learns to stilt-walk and makes friends with a young girl. Lifted was screened in numerous international film festivals in 2019 including the TT Film Festival, the Timehri Film Festival in Guyana, Nouveaux Regards Film Festival in Guadeloupe, and the Global Impact Film Festival in Washington, DC, and won several awards.