Notting Hill Carnival has been a part of my life since I was very young. As a child I used to see my cousins dance on the floats and I remember thinking 'I want to do that one day'. Soca has always been part of my life and by the time I was a teenager I started to go to Trinidad and take part in Carnival over there.
It was different then to how carnival is now, the fashion has slowly become more minimal. Outfits were not made for curvy girls like me, so I started to adjust and re-create parts of my costumes. As I gained confidence I would fall in love with a costume and gravitate towards it, leaving my friends to join different bands on my own.
There is something about carnival that makes you feel so confident and proud of how you look. I can only compare it to your wedding day- planning is paramount! A year before many of us plan our accessories, footwear, hair and we physically train hard for it.
The two days of carnival are euphoric and there is a genuine sense of unity. It's such a special time, that my Trinidadian friends have a champagne breakfast while getting ready together.
Everyone looks beautiful despite weight or shape. It is totally empowering as a woman and it is a day of freedom.
I have been designing costumes now for five years, I started with a simple vision board with my band name 'Vibrance' on it along with drawings of costumes. My first break was when I collaborated with one of NHC's original bands 'Cocoyea' . Vibrance has grown in numbers, with band members mainly from St.Lucia, Dominica, Mauritius and Trinidad, there is a family feel to the band. The energy is electric.
2020 has been a time of rest. With no carnival, this year I was interviewed by NHC official organisers for their Virtual Carnival experience, which was sponsored by Samsung. I feel very honoured to be part of the parade along with so many great designers and I'm looking forward to what 2021 brings us.
Check out Vibrancemas on Instagram.
Cee Bolakee is a Schools Marketing Executive at the University of East London.