US TV host Sharon Carpenter awed by Trinidad and Tobago's culture
Sharon Carpenter is a US-based TV host and award-winning broadcast journalist of British and Indian descent. She can currently be seen covering star-studded red carpets and movie premieres for BBC America and AMC Networks. Carpenter delivers breaking updates on the royal family as a regular contributor on E! News and CNN and shares her film expertise on Good Morning America’s Binge This.
She is a guest LA correspondent for top-rated UK morning show, Lorraine. Carpenter is also the host of Let’s Go Live! – her Instagram Live celebrity interview series. Guests have included Chris Rock, Claire Holt and Sean Paul. The social media show, which she created during the pandemic, has received both a Telly Award and a Webby Awards honour. She is also the president of Carpenter Media, LLC. Check out her website at: www.sharonlcarpenter.com.
Carpenter was spotted by Overtime Media at a Carnival event. Overtime Media subsequently interviewed her about her first Trinidad Carnival experience and other topics of interest. She is also preparing to host a Trinidad Carnival Recap chat with Kes The Band's lead singer, Kees Dieffenthaller on her IG Live show.
How long have you known about Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival?
When I was attending university in New York City, one of my roommates was from Trinidad. Every year he’d be gone for two weeks to party it up at Trinidad Carnival, then he’d come back home and fill us in on all the fun and the action. He’d tell me it wasn’t for the faint of heart and back then I probably considered myself exactly that, ha ha.
Do you have Caribbean roots/heritage in your family tree?
I don’t, believe it or not, but I grew up in the UK around a lot of Caribbean people and West Indian culture has had a huge impact on youth culture in particular in Britain over the years. It’s influenced all of us in some form or fashion. Growing up, I loved dancehall which we called ragga music. When I was 16 or 17, I started attending the Notting Hill Carnival. I went for the hip-hop and ended up staying for the soca.
Tell us how you got your start in media, what inspired it and why you continue to share news and info with the world?
I originally wanted to be in the music business as an A&R with dreams of one day owning my own label. That’s one of the reasons I moved to New York for university. I interned for a record label run by my now best friend/rep Fiona Bloom, and realised almost immediately that it wasn’t for me – although I learned a ton over there. Meanwhile, someone at the university I attended knew that I knew a lot about music and introduced me to the producers of a public access music video show. Public access is community TV and super low budget. They needed a new host. I didn’t get paid but I got great experience interviewing everyone from Diddy to Brandy to Snoop to Wu Tang and Mobb Deep.
I’d never in my wildest dreams thought about a career in TV before that. I was shy. While working for that particular show I met the news director of a local NY station, Will Wright. He’d spotted me grabbing celebs for interviews in a super hectic environment and said “anyone who handles themselves that well in a crazy situation like this should be in news.” I started my journalism career about two weeks later as an associate producer for his newscast. The rest is history really. I’ve been blessed enough to have had the opportunity to work for some of the biggest networks and shows. I love storytelling in all its forms both on and off camera. As well as hosting and reporting, I create and develop shows.
You've witnessed the advancement of women over the past few decades to the point where women are more empowered and included than ever before, what are your thoughts on this evolution of society? Do you support the progression wholeheartedly or do you have any reservations?
I think it’s great, of course. I definitely support the progression and the Me Too movement has been a big part of that. I remember the days when I was coming up, dealing with so many powerful men in the music and media industries and some of them would act completely inappropriately. I had to walk away from a lot of opportunities because of that but always believed that the next opp would be around the corner, and it always was – I made sure of it. Believing in myself, working very hard, being determined and just pushing forward is what got me to where I am today… despite the obstacles.
What kind of challenges have you faced /do you still face as a woman in the media industry and how were you able to overcome them?
Sexism has been an issue too but my way of overcoming that was/is basically the same way I mentioned above — plus I had no choice but to get a tough skin and learn how to stick up for myself. People who have worked with me over the years know that I can be pretty hardcore when it comes to getting the work done and getting it done well. I don’t let anything get in the way of that.
How did you end up in Trinidad for Carnival 2023? Was your interest more personal curiosity or professional intrigue or both?
Both to be honest. I’ve been to Crop Over in Barbados several times – which I absolutely love. Back in 2019 I was out there with Krave The Band and last year I was there with Krave and Bajan 1966. I always have an amazing time. Loving Crop Over gave me the desire to experience Trinidad Carnival. A couple of my really good friends in LA had planned their trips this year so that made me want to go even more. DJ Private Ryan is a good friend of mine and he introduced me to Jonny Mack and the Epic Carnival Cruise folks. They invited me to be a “captain” on their cruise that would leave from Barbados and head to Trinidad for five days at Carnival. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. I saw that awesome talent like Deejay Puffy, Father Philis, Mr Vegas, Destra Garcia and Rupee would be on-board. It was a no-brainer.
We've seen some of your positive posts about it, but give us some more details please. How was the Epic/Trinidad Carnival experience for you and what did you learn that you didn't know before?
It was amazing. Words can’t even express how fun it was. Once I arrived at Barbados airport I bonded with some of the Americans who’d just flown in for the cruise as we took the shuttle bus to the ship. The fun kicked off from there. The first night, as we sailed to Trinidad there was a white party on the deck by the pool. Have you ever partied to soca music until 3 am (everyone else went until 6 but I was trying to pace myself, Lol) in the middle of the Caribbean Sea with the gentle motion of the waves assisting your dance moves? Ha ha. Not many people have. There was unlimited food and drink available on the ship which was all-inclusive. I had an amazing view of the ocean from my cabin balcony. The ship was its own really cool community.
Once we got to Trinidad, the cruise had tickets for us to all the best fetes from Machel Montano’s The One Show, where I stayed until 5 am, to Private Ryan’s Soca Brainwash, where I spent my entire Saturday. Both were incredible! Monday Mas was super fun but Tuesday Mas was the highlight. Epic got me a stunning custom costume for Yuma that was designed by Jonny’s mum, Sonia Mack. I had a blast on the truck and even more fun on the road. We then headed back from Trinidad that evening and partied the night away yet again on the way to Barbados. I made some lovely new friends on this trip and walked away with a ton of amazing memories that will last a lifetime.
How familiar were you with soca music prior to this Epic trip and how has this massive dose of the genre affected your playlists, soundtracks, music-inclusive routines and tastes in general?
I was a big fan of soca thanks to Crop Over. When I first did Crop Over, I remember my Bajan friends telling me I’d hear nothing but soca music for the next week. I didn’t know how I would handle that initially but once I experienced some of the fetes and saw the pure joy, fun and energy from the crowd when the big songs came on, I was immediately in love.
Soca is now one of my favourite genres. The beats are siick. Since I’ve been back in the US I’ve been playing all the big tunes back to back to back. It helps transport me back to that happy place and it’s great to workout to. By the way, fun fact – I interviewed the King of Soca, Machel Montano on my Instagram Live show during the pandemic. We were chatting for about 90 minutes. It was so insightful and the audience loved it.
How do you see Caribbean and Carnival culture impacting on the US mainstream, the entertainment industry and other major markets of the world in time to come? How close do you think we are to some major breakthroughs for soca and Carnival culture?
It’s been great to see Machel and Bunji have some mainstream moments here over the years. Both perform a lot in the US And Bajan artists like Father Philis are doing so too. These artists having a physical presence here makes a big difference. Also, with more and more Americans and Brits hearing about Trinidad Carnival and the Epic Carnival Cruise, seeing our posts and just how much fun it is, they then want to try it out for themselves – and once you do Carnival you love soca music. It lives in your heart forever.
Nicki Minaj participating this year got a lot of mainstream attention. Collaborations with other types of artists are a great way to get the music out there. I’d love to see a soca song go viral on TikTok. And the DJs are also a key part to all this. Private Ryan with his super hot soca mixes and Puffy who blends genres like a champ are doing a great job of pushing things forward as they’re being heard all over the world.
"US TV host Sharon Carpenter awed by Trinidad and Tobago’s culture"