The World is my Oyster
Name: Tricia Demas
Nick name: T, Trish, D
Occupation: Owner of La Vida Bella Day Spa
From: Palo Seco, Trinidad
Official current home: St. Maarten
She exudes confidence. This island girl I have had the pleasure of calling my friend for about 12 years now is one of the most beautiful and positive souls I’ve ever met. She was in love for the first time at age 16, had her first child at 18, married by 20, became a mother for the second time at 21, lost her first daughter at 22, divorced at 30 and a business owner at 35. This is her incredible journey.
I meet with Tricia at her very own day spa where she waits for me dressed in a beautiful royal blue shirt that suits her skin tone and as always with flawless makeup on. She is a true natural Caribbean beauty. When the first glasses of wine are poured and we sit back I start the interview. She is not shy, far from it in fact. She starts by saying that I can ask her anything. Her life is an open book, she says. On the wall behind her in bold letters is one of her favorite sayings: “Believe in Yourself”. Underlined are the words “Be” and “You”. That is Tricia. Always herself. Always positive.
She was born in San Fernando, Trinidad but tells everyone that she is from Sobo, a small village within the area of Palo Seco, South Trinidad where she grew up. She moved to Palo Seco at age 9 after a tragedy in the family; the murder of one of her brothers. Tricia along with her 4 siblings and her mom moved from where they had everything to a small old wooden house on 5 acres of land in Sobo. Her mother, wise woman that she is, always taught them to remember that “in life you never know where you will end up, so always learn to live as high as king and as low as a servant”. They survived on whatever the land provided: Dasheen, Casava, Rice and other ground food. Meat was a luxury. While a lot of people call that hard living, Tricia to this day enjoys that type of food, food from the earth.
In her younger years little T would wake up early everyday, prepare something to eat for her and her little brother before starting the hour long walk to school. But to her this walk was one of the most beautiful walks there was because of the beautiful gardens along the way. Mischievous as she was (and still is) she would sneak into these gardens and take mangoes and figs from the trees. Her mother was away in the US or other Caribbean islands trying to make money to feed her babies back home. Tricia and her little brother were left in the care of their older siblings. She learnt to be independent from young and her being the positive person that she is, she always sought the good in any situation.
In high school she excelled academically even though academics was not exactly her favorite thing in the world. Palo Seco Secondary required very high grades to be admitted and although she had those grades, she was denied entry at first because of space limitation. So Tricia was temporarily placed in a Trade School. She loved that school for one thing and one thing only: they offered Beauty classes. But unfortunately for young Tricia her mother had other plans for her daughter and as soon as a space opened up at the high school she immediately yanked her from the trade school and placed her at Palo Seco Secondary. Tricia was heartbroken. Beauty was and still is where her heart is. From a little girl she would experiment with plants and flowers how to extract color to color her lips, or use Clorox to bleach her hair and she would use wet kite paper for hair coloring.
At the age of 14, while visiting her mother in St. Maarten Tricia met a lady who asked her one of the most important things in life: “Tricia, what do you want to be when you grow up”. Feisty Tricia had her answer ready. She had on her lipstick and was wearing her beautiful flowered dress and she answered:
“Me? I want to be beautician. End of story.”
Tricia’s mom however, had aspirations of her daughter becoming a doctor or a lawyer, she had to become somebody. There was no money to be made in Beauty. But her mother’s words would go into one ear and out the next.
At age 16 with her high school diploma in hand Tricia was sent to live in St. Maarten with her mom. This is when she meets a young, handsome St. Maartener and immediately falls in love. It was a whirlwind romance that got her pregnant at the early age of 17. At 18 Tricia became a mother for the first time. The young couple was married when Tricia was 20 years old and they proceeded to have their second daughter, affectionately called Tia.
It wasn’t until after the birth of Tia that Tricia re-discovered her love for Beauty. So she packed her bags and with her two little girls in tow moved temporarily back to Trinidad to attend beauty school. She enrolled in the School of Cosmetology. Around this same time her first daughter Denica was sadly diagnosed with terminal cancer. But Tricia, relentless as she is, would let nothing keep her from her goal. She would spend her mornings at the hospital where Denica would get her chemotherapy then leave her daughter in her mother’s care before starting the 4 hour journey to beauty school in Port of Spain. After school she would travel the 4 hours back home where she would spend time with her little girls, while practicing whatever she learnt that day on her mannequin or on little Denica, who quite enjoyed the pampering . She would often cry after dropping off her sick daughter at her mom’s, but once at school she would feel this peace come over her and that was what allowed her to focus on the work at hand. Needless to say these were hard times for the young mother of two but she persevered and proudly graduated from the School of Cosmetology a year later. Sadly though, not too long after that, little Denica succumbed to cancer. She was only 4 years old.
What would make others quit, motivated Tricia. She found a way to spin all this negative into a positive. Nothing keeps her down for long. She knew that this too was part of her journey and she was glad to have the assistance from the other villagers in Sobo, who would not think twice to help with baby sitting duties or driving Tricia to beauty school. It was a real tight community.
Meditating also helped Tricia keep her sanity. She would sit out in the cane patch and meditate. The garden in the back of the little wooden house where they lived was beautiful and peaceful. It helped to keep her positive. It was important to Tricia not to be bitter, even when someone or something does her wrong she is quick to forgive.
“Life is about elevation. It is a ladder we have to climb. Some people may drop off, some you may hold on to while others would help pull you up.”
By now Tricia is back on St. Maarten. The relationship with her husband had started to sour and ended up in divorce a few years later. Infidelity played a big role at the end but Tricia by now has also outgrown her husband. She was definitely not the same young girl that returned from Trinidad. She had been through so much. The divorce though, helped both of them grow into the direction they were supposed to grow in. Tricia has no regrets. It was part of her journey. It is important to her that when she leaves this world she leaves behind a legacy and that her daughter can proudly say: “I had a strong mother”.
It was time now for Tricia to finally be herself and to start going after her dreams. She got the opportunity to work at the island’s most well known spa just when a Women’s Conference was in town. Some of these women were assigned to her for facials, manicures etc. and she devoured every single word of advice she could get out of these power women.
“When it seems to be the hardest or when it seems your back is against the wall, that is your best time. That is when you don’t give up. That is when you sit still and you put a strategy together to make it happen. You have nothing to lose at this time. That is the time when you grow balls.”
Tricia’s ambition knew no end. She had dreams of one day owning her own spa and she would stop at nothing to achieve this. Hard work did not scare her. She ended up working for this well known spa for 12 years of which two she spent at the only Dior Spa on the island at the time, where she became one of the island’s first Dior therapists. One of her proudest moments was when she obtained her Dior certificate. She felt like she had arrived.
“We women are strong”, says Tricia and she believes in pulling other women up. “We are made to be power houses. You can’t give up.”
“Watch me. One day”, were her favorite words.
She kept educating herself, wanting to keep up with everything in the world of beauty and cosmetology. She believed in the more organic beauty way before it became a trend and she took courses whenever she could, at times traveling to the US to take courses that were important for her growth in the cosmetology business.
Tricia put beauty on hold for 4 years while she bartended in the bar owned by her then boyfriend. It was not a job she enjoyed but she was good at it and her attitude made people love her. It’s hard not to like this sassy Trini woman. While she bartended she saved and saved until she finally had enough to open her own place. The perfect location however was harder to find. Like with everything else in Tricia’s life though, a little determination was all she needed. She found the perfect place overlooking the lagoon. La Vida Bella Day Spa was now open for business.
It has now been three years since the opening of La Vida Bella. It is still a work in progress but Tricia has accomplished what she has always dreamt of. She is thankful and feels very fortunate for the team of girls she has working with her and considers them to be more her sisters than employees. Besides her day spa Tricia is now also one of the official make-up artists to the Prime Minister’s wife, which on its own is another great achievement for this go-getter. But Tricia is not done. St. Maarten was always supposed to be the location for her first spa. Now she is looking to expand into the Caribbean with her Vida Bella brand and her ultimate goal is to open a spa retreat in Tobago.
Tricia looks up to her mother and considers her to be her true inspiration.
“I have several people that have inspired me but I always have to say my mother is my main inspiration. Like her I am not scared. I do not care what people think. I don’t think much of people either, I take them for who they are and I try to be as polite as I can be. I don’t accept neither do I give Bullshit. I don’t care for being stuck up. My mom has inspired me. She taught me: You don’t know where you will end up in life. It’s that book that has already been written”.
Besides being a business owner, Tricia has also gotten a second chance at love with an amazing man who respects her and understands her passion and she recently became a pet mom to little fireball Leroy. Leroy proves to be a great companion, especially now that Tricia’s daughter Tia is in Trinidad attending her old high school, Palo Seco Secondary. Leroy understands the drama that is Tricia and has quickly stolen the heart of all her friends, even getting personalized invitations to birthday parties at times.
Her journey has made her into the woman she is today and she is happy to have achieved all that she has, but her journey is not yet over. Besides wanting to open other spas in the Caribbean Tricia realizes that it is time for her to settle down, perhaps get married and adopt more dogs. It is important to her to help others, and not to keep her good fortune only to herself.
St Maarten is and always will be home to Tricia. It is the place where she gave birth to both of her daughters. It is where she got married, then divorced. It is where she fell in love, out of love and in love again. It is home. She does get home sick to Trinidad at times and carnival time proves to be especially hard. She misses the vibe, the freedom. But for this ambitious woman business always comes first and carnival will just have to wait.
Are you or do you know an Island Girl whose story you would like to see featured? Email me: thetravelingislandgirl at gmail dot com.