It was an interesting question that came almost out of the blue on a recent episode of the popular Joe Budden Podcast – ‘Whatever happened to Rachel?’
‘Who is Rachel?’ many youths in their 20s and teens will most likely ask, whether they are from Black America or the Caribbean.
But Rachel, they need to know, is Rachel Stuart, the Jamaican-Canadian beauty who first came to her home island’s attention when she became Miss Universe Jamaica for 1993 and went on to represent the country at the Miss Universe competition in May of that same year.
She didn’t make it to the top 10, but it was the start of a journey that would see the model have a massive impact on Caribbean music’s explosion in the United States market and internationally as well.
How did she do this? Well, after Miss Universe, Rachel went on to become host of Caribbean Rhythms, the BET music video programme showcasing musicians from Caribbean nations that aired in the United States during the 1990s.
It was through Caribbean Rhythms that artistes like Buju Banton, Bounty Killa, Beenie Man, Machel Montano and even Shaggy were brought a little closer (and made more familiar) to the US market, aiding them in making the music from the region more and more popular.
And without these artistes’ success, who is to say if Sean Paul’s Gimme Di Light would have had the chance to explode as it did, leading to a career in which the once frequently-ridiculed ‘uptown DJ’ is now responsible for multiple billion-view music videos on YouTube and regarded as among the biggest international acts in the world.
While it can never be said that Rachel was solely responsible for the international success of dancehall, reggae and soca, her and Caribbean Rhythms‘ impact cannot be denied.
Even though already used to doing interviews with Anthony Miller on TVJ’s Entertainment Report, there is no denying how comfortable Rachel made Jamaican artistes feel as they engaged in interviews to be viewed by an American audience, at a time when, unlike today, many were not yet used to international exposure.
After a few years, and with a job well done of bringing Caribbean music to the US, Rachel in 1996 moved on to BET’s prime time music-oriented talk show, Planet Groove, where she brought her smooth, sexy Jamaican style to a wider audience.
After Planet Groove, Rachel would vanish from the airways, though she would later host Island Stylee, the award-winning inflight programme for Air Jamaica.
Now, coming up to 30 years since Rachel represented Jamaica at the Miss Universe competition, she is, from all reports, quietly living the good life with husband, Paxton Baker, and their three children.
Baker, an American businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, was, for nearly 15 years, president of BET Event Productions, which produced music festivals, TV awards shows, specials and concerts throughout the world. While at BET, he produced several major award shows including the BET Experience (2014), Soul Train Awards (2009-2014), The Source Awards (2006–2007) and Billboard Jazz Awards (2001).