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Xerxes: A Carnival show stopper

Monday, February 23, 2015
Kamel Ali portrays Xerxes, king of Persia.

Kamel Ali made everyone stop and stare, and every photographer took his photograph when he paraded on the streets of Port-of-Spain on Carnival Tuesday dressed as King Xerxes from the American fantasy war film 300: Rise of an Empire. The six-foot, three inches tall Arouca native, bears a striking resemblance to that of Brazillian-born American actor Rodrigo Santoro who played the character in the actual film. 

His portrayal was a highlight for the band YUMA of which he has been a member from inception. But what made Ali choose to play such a character?

In a telephone interview with the new celebrity, he revealed the idea formed after he received several compliments from random masqueraders on the road last year.

"These two guys came up to me and asked me if I was actually the guy from 300. 'One word—300. How many times have you heard this before?' This was what one of them asked me," explained Ali.

After that flattery, Ali decided he should portray the character during some festival. It so worked out that YUMA decided for its 2015 presentation to be named: Reign which would showcase empires, dynasties and kingdoms. Talk about fitting for Ali. He quickly signed up for the section Shahenshah, which in Greek means Persian King. The costumes for this section were designed by mas man team, David Dewer and Justin Scott. But Ali's costume, an individual portrayal had to stand out, so he called on long time friend and fashion jewelry designer Josanne Mark to help him steal the show.

"I thought a jeweler would have been the best to execute the costume. I have known Josanne for quite some time now and I have seen the quality of her work. So she was indeed an appropriate selection to get the job done," said Ali.

Once the costume was completed, the 37-year-old former model, spent hours getting ready for the road. While some might have been taking their beauty nap for a fresh face on the road. Ali spent the wee hours of Carnival Tuesday morning with body artist, James Paul, applying a full body work of bronze on him to give that shimmery golden effect as was seen on Xerxes in the movie. Then it was on to face make up. In all, it took five hours for Ali to fully get into the costume. But it was all worth it once he hit the streets and became the talk of the town.

"I spent most the day posing for shots," he jokes.

Ali also revealed that his portrayal has landed him a few interviews and photo shoots well.

"I must say, I knew the costume was going to be beautiful, but the response was truly overwhelming."

He spoke highly of Mark, saying it was her eye for detail that created such an awesome imitation of the great Persian king.

The woman behind Trini Xerxes

In an earlier interview with Mark, who was still elated and overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback she received from her interpretation of the character, she told the T&T Guardian she jumped to the opportunity when asked by Ali to create the costume.

"Kamel approached me with the idea. He called me and said he wanted to be Xerxes for YUMA. I was excited to do it immediately," expressed Mark.

The jeweler of nine years began seeking material for her task ahead as early as September last year. She started the costume in the second week of January and it was completed on Carnival Monday night 2015.

Mark said because the costume was very detailed piece, it required a lot of focus and time to complete it.

"We did not want it to look exactly like the original but as close enough as possible. And of course we wanted to add a little local touch to it."

Most of the material included metal work. The cape and belt worn by Ali was made and embellished by both Ali and Cheryl-Ann Francique and the sandals were a design by local leather designer Amde.

The stunning costume created such a buzz, that Mark has since been flooded with calls for work. 

She is no mas woman, but cutting her teeth in Carnival this year has surely sparked an interest. The 33-year-old from Fyzabad, who studied fashion design jewelery at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), in Manhattan, said she is actually considering designing for Carnival again.

"To get involve in Carnival would be a welcomed challenge for me, because it would give me the opportunity to explore pieces that will not involve feathers. I have a lot of ideas, especially for large costumes she says.

Her Jo Fine Jewelery collection can be found at Stechers gift stores at Trincity Mall, Gulf City Mall, Piarco Airport, and at The Gallery Long Circular Mall, St James.

For more information on Mark or to view the costume and pieces from her collection, visit or her Facebook page at: Jo Fine Handicrafted Jewelery.


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