If there's one thing that could be said for Camille Comas, it would be that she does not fit into stereotypes.
Comas was raised in the Laventille and Belmont communities by an aunt, Sandra Comas, and her grandmother, Eunicy Comas. Her father lived in the United States, and passed away just as she entered her teens. Over the years, she has lost friends and classmates to crime. Her neighbour and classmate was murdered.
For Comas, it could have been simple. Others in her place made different life choices and it would have been easy for her to follow that well worn path.
She chose instead to forge her own way. She chose the church over the streets and her education before fleeting relationships. With the odds stacked against her, she refused to be stereotyped. Today, these decisions and investments in a brighter future are paying high dividends. Comas, recently won the 2011 Digicel Rising Stars Competition, marking the peak in a musical career that was started in the halls of her church when she was just seven years old.
From the age of seven, Comas has been performing in choirs at her church, the Pentecostal Cathedral in Port of Spain. During her teens, she progressed to solo performances at church. She also played the trumpet and the keyboard and danced. Today, she is the church musical director, keyboardist, vocal coach and choir director.
Last year, she chose to enter the Digicel Rising Stars Competition, prepared to test her talent against other contenders for the top spot. Her goal in this competition was not fame and fortune, she simply wanted to win so she could pay her school expenses. Win she did. At the end of the grueling competition, Comas emerged copping Digicel's TT$100,000 top prize.
So does this mean a future career in music for the young performer? Comas has very different goals in mind.
Apart from her love for music, Comas has always had but one dream — to become a doctor and she kept that goal in sight. Never denying her love for music, the former student of the Tranquility Government Secondary School and St Augustine Senior Secondary School, moved to Florida in 2003 to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Biology and a degree in Music at the Florida Memorial University in Miami. After graduating, she taught music and mathematics briefly in the United States before returning to Trinidad.
In a recent interview, the young performer revealed that she is currently enrolled in medical school at the St George's University in Grenada where she will pursue her dream to become a doctor. She said her earnings from the rising star competition is being used to help her with college expenses.
"Once I paid my tithes and offerings at my church, I invested everything else in school," she said.
She said she is determined to succeed and make a difference in her community. It is her desire to show that a lot of good in her community goes unnoticed.
"Urban areas like these are very often stigmatised," she said of her hometown. "People are afraid to come here and based on that fact, a lot of young people in these communities are forgotten and get left behind. People think these areas are bad and that everybody in the area is bad, but you have good people in these areas. There are talented people, intelligent people, people who would rather pick up a book than a gun, who would rather go to school than sit on a block... they just need someone to give them a push."
Comas said she refused to be subjected to stereotypes.
"I always purposed to be different, not to fall through the cracks," she said. "You really have to make a choice to be different and that is something I did. A lot of people I grew up with are dead today because they chose a life of crime and drugs, I chose to be different. I think I can also be an example to others. I try to live a life that is pleasing to God and I hope that by my lifestyle, just knowing that I am here, that they would at least be somehow encouraged by the little that I do to aim for more."
Of her winning performance at the Digicel Rising Stars Competition, the singer said the competition has provided her with a significant amount of exposure, enough to pack her calendar with gigs from government ministries, private companies, local hotels, schools and for weddings.
"It is really a good stepping stone for people to put themselves out there," she said.
Of life after the competition, Comas said things have been relatively interesting.
"I have to be even more careful of what I do or say," she said. "Everybody knows my name and that is something that I have to get used to. Everywhere I go, I have to be an example because you never know when people are looking at you and you want to be a positive role model, especially to young people."
Other than that, she is back in school.
As for her future goals? That is still unclear, as she wants to teach, become a doctor and develop as a singer and a musician all at the same time.
If her track record is an indicator of things to come, then Comas will certainly find a way to do it.