This weekend was a pleasant reminder of how much we have to gain if we value the knowledge and experiences of those both older AND younger than us.
I flew out to Vermont to catch up with my best buddy from Lehigh, Kester. We studied in the same education grad programme. Kezzy’s in his early 20s but he has the maturity of a 50 year old [except for when it comes to his taste in music which I liken to that of a teenage white girl].
When I first met Kester, his demeanor SO reminded me of my brother Miki with the whole never smiling/constant scorn on the face thing. At the same time I saw a little of myself in him when I was his age – a student of colour, trying to make the most of what campus life had to offer. He was heavily involved in affairs pertaining specifically to black students but he held leadership in the wider student body too. As “minority” students, we can often fall into the safety net of only really interacting with our peers who share the same background as us but I’ve always pushed the notion of becoming leaders not only in our communities but in the mainstream as well.
In a lot of ways I took Kester under my wing during my two years at Lehigh. I’m not saying I always give the best advice but when it came to certain things that often required taking a leap of faith, I knew he could benefit from a little push from me. On the flipside, even though I have 5 years of life on Kezzy, he quickly became one of my biggest role models – in our classes, in the way I dealt with people and in the way I thought about education.
There are so many examples I could throw out there of Kezzy teaching me a lesson but the one that always sticks out is the night we finished up at the bar and walked past a girl who was drunk off her face on some steps. We both pointed and laughed then I noticed I was walking by myself…
Kester: Wait, we can’t just leave her here.
Krit: Uh yes, we can. I’m hungus. I needa eat!
Kester: Come on, look at her.
Krit: Yeah exactly, look at her. Who told her ass to go drink stupid like that? I’m not Captain Save-A-Ho.
Kester: Nah we can’t leave her out here.
I was beyond annoyed and moaned and groaned at him about needing food the entire time we carried her lifeless body up into one of the girl’s apartments who agreed to look after her and call emergency services if it came to it. The next day when I woke up and remembered what happened, I thought about what if that had been one of my little cousins. I came to the realisation that we’re better off as people by having Captain Save-A-Hoes around so now I proudly rock that hat whenever the occasion calls.
I hadn’t caught up with Kezzy since me, him and Tone went on our Miami/Atlanta road trip in May last year so it was awesome doing what we usually do when we’re together – talk shit. From Vermont, we drove up to Montreal to visit another friend of mine, Malaena.
Back in the day, dance played a significant role in helping me settle in. When I finished high school, I moved from Porirua to Auckland to study with relatively no friends or family. During Orientation Week in 2004, I saw a stall set up to audition for a Hip Hop crew and thought “why not?” Never really danced before but if I made a fool of myself, no one knew who I was and if I made it in, it’d be something new and fun for me to do. That decision shaped my university experience for the next 4 years. It introduced me to a close knit community that was constantly growing, it built up my confidence in performing and interacting with people, I made all kinds of industry contacts leading to appearances on tv and opportunities to travel all over the country and abroad and it taught me a lot about my social skills [handling girls/divas in particular], networking and doing business. I was good but it wasn’t like I was Chris Brown or anything – even still I took so much from it. Don’t be afraid to try something new cuz you never know where it could take you.
The company was divided into three age groups – adults, teenagers and children. I was in the adult crew while Malaena was in the teenage crew. The first time I saw her I named her Little Amelia cuz her hard hitting style and hair flinging reminded me of another friend. You could see how much passion and hunger Malaena had for dancing.
I’ve always been a big proponent of inclusion cuz I’ve gone through periods of isolation from my peers and it’s not a nice thing. I noticed early on that Malaena was having trouble with her girls – she must’ve been about 14 or 15 at the time. For some reason, she just didn’t fit in. I know a lot of people like that – no matter how hard they try to be liked, it doesn’t happen. I put it down to her being a little different, having a soft nature and then the fact she was halfcaste [the term we use instead of ‘biracial’] upsets some people who expect certain characteristics but don’t get them. The dynamics in the group in general were rough given that 90% of it were female – it was a constant catfight with egos left, right and centre. When she told me she was a Cook Island Maori, I instantly had time for her being Pacific too cuz everyone else was either Asian, South African or white. We weren’t the best of friends [which woulda been borderline perverted given our ages at the time] but I made a conscious effort to bug her whenever I saw her on her own at practice or in ‘O Lagi Atea Moana/C Space where all the brown kids hung out [that’s another snake pit in itself!] Even after I stopped dancing I stayed in touch with Malaena – mainly to use her for her staff discount when she worked at Jeans West out in New Lynn but every now and then we caught up. I can’t remember why but one night years later when she was 18 and legal, we went to the club with my friend Boofty. I parked in a taxi stand or something stupid like that and ended up getting my car towed. Malaena wanted to pay for half but I was working full time by that stage so I was straight. I just joked to her “I don’t take money from students but when you get rich and famous from dancing you can pay me back!”
Around that time Malaena had joined a new dance group, ReQuest. Not long after that, they took the dance scene by STORM. I was too happy for her cuz she found a camp where she could really flourish and be appreciated for her great talents. These ladies well and truly dominated every other crew in the country and today, they’re renowned around the world. I was [and still am] amazed by them. Here you have an all girl group, all under 20 years of age, ripping up the cocky boy crews I could never stand and the majority of them are brown! When I saw they had Maori, Rarotongan, Samoan and Niuean girls, I became even more of a fan. I got my thrills when I found out one of the girls, Samantha, was the step daughter of my first cousin Mike.
Me and my little cousin Alex have a not-so-slight obsession with them. Last year when I came home for my Grandma’s funeral I asked Malaena if they had any gigs on. They didn’t at the time but she invited me to watch them in rehearsal. I took Alex along and we were in HEAVEN. Some people say I’m always the loudest person in a room but that day I was dead silent. I didn’t move a muscle. I’ve come into contact with quite a few prominent names in entertainment but I never get star struck. Around ReQuest I do! Malaena still doesn’t believe me cuz I do it in a funny way but I’m actually dead serious.
Their head choreographer Parris is picking up work everywhere. Some of her more notable assignments have been “American Idol”, “Dancing With The Stars”, choreographing for Jennifer Lopez and now Cirque du Soleil. She’s barely 21! I like that as she continues to rise, her original teammates are with her at every step. Malaena along with 5 other ReQuest dancers [including her younger sister Colette] are living in the Cirque du Soleil International Headquarters in Montreal, training for the new upcoming Michael Jackson tribute show. Me and Kezzy spent the weekend with them and even sat in their rehearsal for “The Way You Make Me Feel”. We were blown away. Can’t wait to see them open in Vegas!
So many friends of mine are out there pursuing their dreams. Gotta say I’m really proud of both Kezzy and Malaena’s achievements in the time I’ve known them. I try to develop the young people I work with and I’ve always found that my growth has been just as dependent on them. I look forward to seeing where their journeys take them!