You may not know her by name, but you’ll recognize Sintra Bronte. After starring in the Jamaican Tourism Board’s 1972 promotional campaigns, she quickly became a Jamaican icon, as synonymous with the island as Bob Marley’s “One Love.” There’s just one issue: Bronte, seen emerging from the water in a clinging red tee-shirt with “Jamaica” printed in black in all-caps lettering, isn’t Jamaican. She’s Trinidadian.
Four decades later, Bronte and her 1972 poster remain part of the world’s understanding of “Jamaica.” Here’s how it happened.
Bronte was “at the right place at the right time,” as she puts it, staying at Kingston’s Pegasus Hotel at the same time as JTB’s marketing agency. Originally looking to cast a Jamaican-Chinese woman to attract Asian tourists, the agency had a tough time finding the perfect person to play the part—until they stumbled across 26-year-old Bronte. Anthony Abrahams, Director of Tourism at the time, agreed that Bronte was the right person for the role.
After seven hours of shooting, they found the perfect image for a new poster. And while Anthony Abrahams, director of tourism at the time, knew it was a solid image, nobody anticipated just how influential the poster would become. The image and corresponding television commercial became huge hits, inspiring a record-breaking half a million visitors to the island that year.
And while there have been countless recreations and imitations—recording artist Alicia Keys most recently—Bronte will always be the original. She went on to run a successful travel company in Trinidad, but has said that she is forever grateful to have been a part of something so special. For Bronte, the photos represent much more than travel to Jamaica. “Whether I represent Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados or Grenada—I represent beauty in the Caribbean,” she stated in an interview with Patrice Yursik of Afrobella. “We are all beautiful women. I am so proud to be a Caribbean woman.”
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