ACUBIEN "DESIRE" Special Issue features Barbados' LIA GAJADHAR

Anthony Best Lifestyle Editor

Lounging in the lush gardens of a private residence in Barbados, Caribbean, I am hanging with my legitimate bestie, the creative tour-de-force and film director, Lia Gajadhar. Our friendship spans two decades – yet, we still look so young! Its been a swelteringly summer and today is no different. I wanted to catch up with the woman who has been a childhood friend, since I have been living abroad for the last five years. Lia Gajadhar’s name is well known across the island: to Bajan’s she is a beauty queen, makeup artist and filmmaker. If you ask Lia, shes just a dreamer. Its now two weeks after the biggest concert of the year in Barbados, #1LOVE, and as the shows creative director and co-producer, Lia sits with ACU|BIEN to share her journey, her challenges, successes, and talk about our friendship and why she is just so f* ing cool!

Lia Gajahdar

Model: Lia Gajahdar, Photo by Anthony Best


The former Miss Barbados’s attention grabbing image gracing the cover page the ACU|BIEN DESIRE Special Issue is characteristic of the confidence of the woman. The Lia cover reflects her daringness to be associated with the disruptive Caribbean-centric media platform that is ACU|BIEN. Over the years our friendship has navigate a myriad of personal and professional situations, from the exhilarating to the most devastating. Along the way, I have seen Lia conquer platforms, dominate stages and believe her to be Barbados’ next biggest export. For these and other reasons, Lia is among the few personalities fitting to be featured in the ACU|BIEN inaugural digital issue. Lia Gajadha truly epitomes DESIRE.

Lia Gajahdar

Model: Lia Gajahdar, Photo by Anthony Best

Beauty queens are often unfairly labeled. In conservative Caribbean societies where women walk a tightrope between repression and ambition, and where their individual liberties are subjected to the vagaries of misogyny, bigotry, egotism and feminism ideology, the beauty queen remains acutely stereotyped. It’s not easy to be taken seriously and on merit when you are beautiful. There are often moral dilemmas to negotiate, played out over cocktails and contracts. When ones objective is to succeed, women may have to maneuver the thin line between player and pawn.

Quite early in her career, Lia observed the covert business of the world of pageantry. These spectaculars are not just the promenading of beauties measured in flashes of form and flesh; they are tense mêlée of personalities and characters of participants and their camps; and at times, for a teenage girl travelling away from home for the first time a scary rites of passage into the unknown. For Lia, opportunities like representing her homeland in Germany at “Queen of the World” provided an appreciation for pageantry as a platform.

Lia Gajahdar

Model: Lia Gajahdar, Photo by Anthony Best

“Pageants taught me a lot of myself and also taught me about people – knowledge that continues to help me everyday. Pageantry was my way of seeing the Caribbean and travelling to other parts of the world. I could go from walking in a fashion show in Trinidad to hearing, at the last minute, a Miss Barbados dropped out [of a show] and they wanted me to go take her place”.

Over the years I have come to know the power and strength of Lia Gajadhar. Undoubtedly she has inherited some of her mother’s best qualities – a woman widely recognized in Barbados for her leadership in gender affairs. From observing Lia in many settings, I cannot help but wonder if she is conscious of her ability to take command of situations.

Working together on the production of the concert, we raced from one meeting to another with government officials, sponsors and suppliers. On one occasion Lia accompanied me to one of MY meetings. Soon after the introductions, I realized I could have walked out or dropped dead and still would have had a successful negotiation, simply because Lia and her tits were in the room. On leaving, we laughed hysterically. The poor man’s eyes were trapped between her perky, natural bosom as he desperately attempted to focus on her face.

In contrast, Lia knows when to scale down the makeup and present herself to suit the satiation. For example, in the business environment in Barbados, meetings with other women may present an entirely different challenge. Yet, this single mom is well informed, approachable and ambitious, and understands the importance of a healthy work-life balance, taking time to enjoy her family and her wide circle of friends.

Lia Gajahdar

Model: Lia Gajahdar, Photo by Anthony Best


After representing Barbados in Chicago in 2003, Lia stepped off the pageant circuit to pursue her creative passions, travelling to Toronto, Canada to study makeup artistry. On her return to Barbados, the opportunity to create her own brand was evident. It would not be an easy journey, but nothing would impede her determination to succeed.

“When I first returned from studying, people thought I was insane to charge what I did for my services. Naturally, the place I found work was at weddings, but also commercially.”

The market in Barbados was not for ripe for professional makeup artists. Preferring not to leave the island for more lucrative opportunities, Lia use the situation as a call to action kick-start new venture offering classes to savvy women who eager to learn expert techniques to enhance their style and image. Over time, Lia built a reputation for her sought expertise, becoming the go to makeup on many big state and film productions. Her clients included Alison Hinds, Machel Montano, Patrice Roberts, Vivica Fox, Universal artist and songwriter Shontelle and Universal Recording artist Vita Chambers.

However, Lia Gajadhar is no workhorse. She finds time to live out her desires. We have always had way too much fun and partied way too hard (allegedly). Our time together is episodic copious amounts of mindless laughter; epic arguments; and the forging of creative projects. Lia is the visual and I am the narration.

Lia’s beauty is evident. In perceiving the topless cover page, we set out to provoke a discussion. The world isn’t balanced. A man grows wrinkles in his face and this connotes ‘wisdom’. On a woman this signifies fading beauty. A man has sex with a coworker and will be high-fived. A woman will be vilified. There are polar positions a woman may only be sexy and dumb or smart and prudish. Lia Gajadhar refutes this perception.

Naked or clothed she is often that person in the room with the most original concept.

Lia Gajahdar

Model: Lia Gajahdar, Photo by Anthony Best


Maybe it is a conceptual eye and the visceral curiosity that led Lia in to films. Her work on videos and film sets gave her a palate for film production and directing. To me it is her need to blow the mold apart. For years, I have watched Lia deliberately take on and crush obstacles, sometimes set deliberately to slow her down. She truly cannot say no to a good idea and will gladly fill any one of several positions on a set just to be “close to the action”. One thing is certain her sights are set on an underdeveloped film and screen market in her homeland.

She sees the Caribbean as a largely misunderstood, often misrepresented and highly underserved community in film.

Lia Gajahdar

Model: Lia Gajahdar, Photo by Anthony Best

“We don’t watch TV and see ourselves, we see North American narratives and ideals, which is slowly stealing our culture. It’s a new, stealthier colonization.” The Caribbean region is a gem of a place: independent countries in such close proximity, living harmoniously is an exception worth celebrating; and what’s more damning is that many of us have to leave to pursue our dreams. “The creative industry in the Caribbean is the next big thing: it’s what fuels the culture and culture drives tourism.”

There is a genuine power to Lia. The days of Miss Congeniality have made way to the perfect blend of a courageous, caring and a consummate fixer. “I am a dreamer” – words she should get tattooed on her body – “but the issue with this dreamer is that I want to accomplish all my dreams.”

Knowing Lia, I have come to respect the delicate balance it takes to make our friendship work, the attributes. The attributes I lack, she possesses and together, we seem to have the right combination of respect, support and bossiness to keep it all afloat. There is an honesty about her that is refreshing. Before you know it, you’re caught in the Lia effect and any resistance is futile. I have seen the best of them fall victim to her vast intellect, her magnetic beauty and her engaging personality.

Don’t be fooled by the tits… this woman is chasing her desires!


1 April, 2016