These select few have not shied away when doubt, rejection or failure intervened, simply sticking the course until a glimmer of hope materialised into more. Join The Bermudian in celebrating this unapologetically tenacious group of aspiring athletes, artists, creators and more.

Photo by Jayde Gibbons

Maya Palacio, Journalist

Behind local media outlet MediaMaya is a young, standalone journalist with an appetite for truth. Maya Palacio was the Best of Bermuda award recipient for best journalist in 2021, commanding our attention with her tenacious, media-centric approach and since then, she’s continued to prudently highlight the divide between traditional forms of news dissemination and Bermuda’s younger generations. In 2022, she’s professing to bridge the gap.

“There are better ways to communicate,” she says. “And I plan to find them.”

“Social media is the news,” Palacio states. “Back in the day, news companies had the platform. Now, everyone has a platform and can tell their stories and go viral.” This industry-wide shift led Palacio to take a new approach to delivering the news, one that centres around engaging today’s youth by adapting to the ever-evolving interface of social media.

Palacio realized her own potential at a young age, uncovering a passion for both writing and sports as early on as her Harrington Sound Primary years. “I used to race  to write the fastest and race to win a competition,” she jokes. By high school, she was co-hosting the radio show Teacher Talk on Magic 102.7 where she interviewed young Bermudian athletes, as well as picking up work with Bernews and the Royal Gazette during school holidays. “From then, I knew my journey was in media: talking and engaging with the community,” says Palacio.

As the product of a single-parent household, raised by her mother and two older sisters, turning this dream into a reality would fall solely on her shoulders.”I had to work five to seven jobs over the summer and apply for scholarships to pay for my final years [of university], living expenses and plane tickets. I couldn’t fail a class, I couldn’t get sick. I knew my circumstances and that I needed to make it work.” This dogged, unrelenting spirit defines Palacio as a journalist with something to prove.

Her resounding advice for budding journalists: “Work with everyone. Learn from everyone. Your generation knows phones better than anyone. You are who social media platforms market to. Take advantage of that and use it,” she urges. “Follow your heart but take your brain with you. If you need help, I’ll help you.”

Nathan Trott, Athlete

An avid footballer since the age of six, the now 23-year-old Nathan Trott is realising his dream as a professional football player. “I’ve always enjoyed and dreamed of becoming a footballer, nothing else interested me as much as football,” he shares.

While Trott’s path to success was tapered by trials, rejection and uncertainty, his devotion paid off in 2016 when he received an offer from the English Premier League football club, West Ham United. “Signing at West Ham was something I’ll never forget. It was a dream come true, especially after a long summer of being rejected by other clubs and a lot of doubts from other people.”

At 23, he’s proven his naysayers wrong with a career hallmarked by impressive milestones including winning the UEFA European U19 Championship in 2017, as well as making his first team debut last season in the FA cup. “It was a moment I’ve been waiting for a very long time, and it finally came to reality.”

Currently, Trott is on loan to French team AS Nancy Lorraine, where he hopes to grow as a goalkeeper and gain experience outside of the UK. “For me, it was a no-brainer and I took the opportunity to develop, improve, test myself [so I can] return to West Ham a much better and more experienced player,” he explains. “Overall, my dream is to play at the highest level I possibly can and perform in top leagues and tournaments.”

For young, aspiring Bermudian footballers, Trott offers his sage advice of remaining focussed, believing in yourself and blocking out distractions that might compete with your goals. “It’s easy at a young age to get distracted, so one thing I did was separate myself [from distractions] and take any opportunity I got and I made it into something,” he offers. He humbly adds, “If I can do it, so can any other talented Bermudian – there’s plenty more just like me.”

Aliana King, Model

Having appeared in the pages of Vogue and Nylon magazines and appearing in campaigns for Sephora, SKIMS, Garnier and Clarins, model Aliana King has a very impressive rap sheet.  

Her big break came after she walked in Bermuda’s own Fashion Festival in 2016. It was there that she met Haitian designer, Paola Mathé who asked if she would model her headwraps. After the photos were taken, King posted a few on her Instagram where an LA-based agent, Leah Hilbbert saw them and reached out to her. “I was skeptical at first,” King admits. “But she was already working with another Bermudian model, Sophie Adams, and I decided to give it a shot.” The rest she says, is history. “Once I started working with Leah, she helped me get signed to eight international agencies in the span of two years.”

 Today, King works full-time as a model and uses social media to garner work.”Instagram is like my resume,” says King. “Every client that is interested in booking me will most likely check my Instagram first.” And social media isn’t just useful for getting her work, sometimes it is the work. “Over a quarter of my total income last year was through social media collaborations and advertisements,” admits King, who partnered with Kérastase in 2021 to showcase their Curl Manifesto products to her 135,000 Instagram followers.

When asked what her plans for 2022 are, she says, “That’s a great question, I wish I knew.” And she’s not trying to be mysterious, she really means it. “All the jobs I’ve booked, I booked no more than a week before I shot them. I know I’m going to be spending a good amount of time in either New York or Europe soon, but nothing has been decided yet.” Despite the uncertainty, King is optimistic: “The next big job is around the corner, I just haven’t booked it yet.”

BermudaCal, Artist

Callum Smith, or BermudaCal as he’s known musically, made a name for himself in 2021 when he signed a major record label with Empire and released his first track called Kehlani. For years Smith had been recording and producing his own music but it wasn’t until last July after he released a song called Novacaine that he started getting industry attention.

 Smith told the Royal Gazette in December: “I got a message from the VP of Empire Records. He said, ‘I found your track Novacaine. I absolutely loved it. If you’re ever in San Francisco we should book a meeting.’” Not leaving his future to chance, Smith travelled to California to meet with executives at Empire and to his astonishment struck an eight track deal with the label’s subsidiary EverybodyKnows.

When it comes to his sound, Smith prides himself on his uniqueness. “I’d describe it as hip-hop and RnB with jazzy influences,” he says. And while he finds inspiration from other artists like American rappers Anderson .Paak and Mac Miller and jazz musician Dexter Gordon, Smith’s music feels personal; you can even hear his saxophone making a debut, or the trumpeting of his former Warwick Academy music teacher, Kent Hayward.

In the same year that he got his record deal, Smith racked up an impressive one million streams on Spotify by 260,000 listeners from over 150 countries. He’s since received an outpouring of support from fans worldwide, which has been his biggest source of encouragement. “Hearing from people that my music is helping them or that they connect and feel emotion when listening is the best bit,” he shares. “Every artist makes music to provoke something within the listeners, so when I get messages like that it’s the biggest compliment.”

Looking back, Smith attributes his own resolve to his recent success. “It’s difficult to stay motivated when nothing big happens for so long,” he says. “But I’ve just always really believed I can do this, and I’ve never doubted that I was making music I felt would resonate with a lot of people.”

Photo by Meredith Andrews
Photo by Meredith Andrews

Aaron Crichlow, Philanthropist 

At just 26 years old, Aaron Crichlow has sparked a movement with love at its core and collaboration as its impetus. BermudaisLoveis more than just a community group, but a collective ideology centred around bettering the island through tangible change. “I like to think that we are a social movement as opposed to a charity,” Crichlow emphasises, speaking on the nuances of their mission. “Our goals are not just increased youth philanthropy. We want to see societal change. We want to see systemic change. We want to see individuals change.”

BermudaisLove intends to affect progress through a three-pillared approach: awareness, collaboration and action. By bringing civic-minded citizens together around a common goal, they hope to make Bermuda a more equitable place to call home. They target islandwide issues, hosting events like trash cleanups, clothing drives, community gardens, food programmes, blood drives and more to help combat inequality. “Each event speaks to a separate human right: the right to food, housing, clothes, healthcare and a healthy environment,” Crichlow adds. 

His passion stems from a background in social justice and law, and he is soon to be called to the Bermuda Bar. While some might label him an idealist, Crichlow hopes to use our country’s legal framework to introduce these human rights to Bermuda’s constitution. And with the use of social media, he continues to rally Bermudians around this movement with an indefatigable attitude that is both inspiring and infectious. “We do it because we think it has the potential to impact another person’s life and make it that much better,” he explains. “And hopefully in doing so, we can get other people involved to create a community that is centred on making the lives of others better, simply because we have a duty to love each other.” 

Photo by Tanya Weekes
Photo by Tanya Weekes

Gherdai Hassell, Artist

When The Bermudian last sat down with Gherdai Hassell, she was enjoying the success of her first solo show, I AM Because You Are, at the Bermuda National Gallery. A year later, she’s establishing herself as a household name.

“Last year was the most rewarding year of my life to date,” she gleams. “I have been really zoned in on making, I think that’s what made the difference [for me] in 2021.” As an MFA candidate at the China Academy of Art, Hassell has been working to hone her creative process.

“Working on my thesis has really helped me to centre and focus my subject matter and my why.”

“The biggest change for me has been the need to develop language around my work. Before I used to make work intuitively, but now my process involves significantly more research, reading and writing.” Hassell’s highly cerebral collage work instantly enthralls with its whimsy, but behind its allure are deeply personal and historical messages that surpass the boundaries of art as narrative. Hassell tactfully weaves written word into her projects, embodying the role of artist and storyteller in one. “My role as an artist is influenced by the fact that I love telling stories – untold ones and creating new ones,” she says. “Writing has elevated my work. It has allowed me to make sense of what it is I’m trying to say visually. Viewers will always have their own interpretation of what something means to them. But I think it’s important for me as the artist to first state what my intention is with written language so that other people aren’t writing my story.”

Looking forward to the year ahead, Hassell says she plans “to return to the idea of studio as laboratory.” Participating in three biennials in 2022: the Bermuda Biennial at the Bermuda National Gallery, the Havana Biennial and the Bamako Encounters  African Biennial of Photography in Mali, Hassell is also taking on two artist residencies, a few exhibitions, and the illustration of a children’s book.

For artists hoping to reap the same level of success as she, Hassell encourages them to know their worth. “Your desire to be an artist is a legitimate, valuable and honest way to make a living,” she says. “It takes courage to take a path where the journey isn’t paved out. Making a living as an artist requires dedication, reinvention, creativity, wit and grit.”

Imari Wade, Artist

Imari Wade has been chasing her dreams for over a decade, and her dedication is finally paying off. In late 2021, she signed a record deal with Sony Orchard, validating years of growth and giving her a platform in which to share her music with the world. Wade says her music is hip-hop but with strong island vibes. “I tend to tell stories in some projects, while others are just created through feelings or ad hoc projects I challenge myself to take on.”

Since winning Hott 107.5’s Hip Hop Challenge back in 2013, Wade has worked on evolving her sound. “My music has [been] elevated as it’s evolved,” she says. “I’ve had plenty of time to figure out my natural swings and critique old deliveries.” And while she would have appreciated the attention ten years ago, she acknowledges that everything happens exactly when it’s supposed to. “I believe my time is now,” she says with certainty. “I believe in myself and I plan to make the best of the opportunity.” While Wade finds inspiration alone with her thoughts, her four-year-old son will always be her biggest fan: “His push to always hear more of my projects is more powerful than any crowd for me,” she shares. 

When asked what she plans to accomplish this year, Wade says: “To take what I already have and maximise it.”

“Where there is a strong will, there is a way and I will find that way or make it myself.”

Madelyn Moore, Athlete

Madelyn Moore is commanding the attention of the competitive swimming world, earning the WAC Swimmer of the Year title in 2021. She shattered national records in the 50 and 100 freestyle, 50 and 100 butterfly in long course metres, as well as the 50 freestyle in short course metres. Adding to her repertoire, she broke five college records for the University of Northern Colorado in 50, 100, 200 freestyle, 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.

Her journey has been anything but uncomplicated, though. The COVID-19 pandemic bringing with it an onslaught of quarantines, isolation periods and disrupted training. “It wasn’t easy training alone for extended periods of time,” she says, adding that most meets were required to remain spectator-less.  “I used to think that everything had to be perfect for me to perform my best,” she explains, “but what COVID has taught me is that there is no condition or situation that will ever be exactly how I envisioned it, and that’s okay!”

While she upholds an infectiously optimistic attitude, her success has not come without moments of personal trial. Last year, Moore and fellow Bermudian swimmer Jesse Washington were invited to represent Bermuda in the Tokyo Olympic Games: a career-altering invitation. However, the Bermuda Olympic Association turned it down on their behalf. Moore received the news once she arrived in Puerto Rico for the Central American and Caribbean Games. “I was devastated, as any athlete who has worked for this opportunity their whole athletic career would be,” she says. But Moore didn’t let it stifle her competitive edge, instead channeling feelings of frustration into what was her final meet of the season. “I tried to put everything that I couldn’t control behind me and competed to the best of my ability.” Rightfully so, she walked away with four gold medals, broke three national records, one CCAN record and qualified for the World Championships in Japan.

And for the record, Moore is equally as impressive outside of the pool. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice, with a minor in legal studies, this spring. Afterwards, she plans to continue her studies with a master’s programme at the University of North Colorado, where she will stay for the next two years leading up to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

When asked what her biggest goal for the upcoming year is, Moore shares: “To have fun doing what I do. It sounds so trivial but it’s so important.” She added, “I’m grateful for every opportunity I am given and want to remember that they won’t last forever. At the end of the day, I am blessed to be able to compete for Bermuda.”

Ajani Burchall, Athlete

In December 2020, at just 16 years old, Ajani Burchall made his debut in the Premier League in a championship game between Bournemouth and Huddersfield, making him the fifth youngest debutant in the championship this millennium. A year later Burchall was receiving offers from some of the UK’s best-known teams, including Arsenal, Leeds, West Ham and Crystal Palace. Ultimately it was Aston Villa who won out, signing Burchall in July.

Growing up in Bermuda, Burchall spent his younger years playing for the North Village Rams before moving to the UK to pursue his dreams after being convinced to try out for Bournemouth. And though still young, he’s already made a name for himself. After being included in the Guardian’s 2021 list of the 20 best talents in the league, well-known football writer Paul Doyle wrote of Burchall: “A fast, skillful and smart winger, he has been quick to make an impact at Villa, scoring a hat trick in his second appearance in the U18 Premier League and also collecting three assists in his first four games for the club.”

 It’s fair to assume that despite his age, Burchall is making an impact and getting the attention he rightfully deserves.

Caitlyn Bobb, Athlete

Track runner Caitlyn Bobb may be only 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Maryland, but she’s already smashing records and earning her stripes. In the last year she’s broken both school and national records, earned the 5th fastest time in the 500 metres in the US college rankings for 2021, been named the America East FemaleTrack Performer of the Week in December 2021, and qualified for the 2022 CARIFTA Games where she will represent Bermuda in Jamaica this April. 

Though Bobb, who only graduated from Harford Technical High School last year (with nine individual state titles) missed out on representing Bermuda at the Tokyo Olympics, she wasn’t all that disappointed, telling the Baltimore Sun in July 2021: “I am still young, I still have other big, big meets.” But those watching Bobb’s athletic career are hopeful that she’ll compete at the Paris Olympics in two years’ time. Bobb’s own mother, Dawnette, represented Bermuda in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona where she placed sixth in both the 100 and 200 metre heats. 

While one could surmise that being an Olympic sprinter is in Bobb’s DNA, it’s her hard work, perseverance and the devotion she gives to her sport that make her a winner and a record-breaker.