IT has been said that it is neither the strongest nor the most intelligent of the species that survives; it is the one that is most adaptable to change. And while Patrice Jenice White has proven herself to be both strong and intelligent, it was her ability to adapt to changes in addressing her family structure and employment status that elevated her from being yet another unfortunate inner-city statistic to being the fierce new face of fitness in Jamaica.
As she welcomed All Woman into her Dynamic Lifestyle Training Studio at 4 Hillcrest Avenue, her spry step, toned body, taut skin and tiny five-foot-five frame made it hard to believe that she is 40 years old, and even harder to believe that she has lived the life that she has. But while her body gave away nothing, her unwavering, militant voice told the tale of a woman who was thrown lemons while living in communities where people don't buy lemonade.
“I'm from Spanish Town. I was born and raised in Cromarty, then I moved to Kingston when I was starting grade six. I moved from Bayfarm Road to Seaview Gardens to Vineyard Town, and then went back to Spanish Town where I lived in Tawes Pen, Manchester Lane, Rivoli — all over,” she mapped out, explaining that she endured different types of living arrangements and guardianships while moving around.
“I am the product of a teenage pregnancy and I lived with my mother until I started high school. Then I went to live with my father, then stepmother, then relatives, and so on. I really just had to rough it out,” she grimaced.
But even while “bouncing about” as she called it, and despite being verbally abused by her mother who constantly belittled her and expressed how she regretted giving birth to her, and even after being repeatedly violated by community 'dons' in her teenage years, White desperately wanted better for herself, and set out to achieve just that.
“I attended Merl Grove High School and I wanted to be either a flight attendant or a bank teller,” she recalled. “By the time I left high school I didn't think the flight attendant job was possible, because it was only pretty girls that I saw Air Jamaica hiring and I didn't think I was pretty. My bank teller dream was shot when I actually applied for a job at a prominent financial institution and was rejected.”
But on her way out from that interview, one of the women on the panel stopped White and offered her a piece of advice.
“She said that when I'm looking for a bank teller job I was never to use my Seaview Gardens address. I realised then and there that I would never get any other bank teller job because I didn't have an uptown address.”
White's first job after leaving high school was as a janitor at a McDonald's restaurant in the Corporate Area.
“I was that person you would see with that big yellow bucket mopping the floors. Up to now I don't think I can manage that bucket!” she said, making light of the fact that her spirit was crumpled while her peers from school were enjoying their summer vacations, and even jeering her when they visited the fast food outlet.
But White was only warming up. While busting the floors at McDonald's at night, she was beating the books at Duff's Business College in the daytime. Her strong sense of discipline and her innate drive to excel saw her moving up the ranks at McDonald's.
“I moved from the person who was cleaning the floor to, 'Welcome to McDonald's, how may I take your order?' Then I moved from that to administrative assistant, where I was doing the payroll and things like that for the rest of the staff,” she said, marvelling at how her business qualifications started opening doors for her.
“When I left McDonald's it was for a job as a supervisor at a cellular company, then from there I started working at Kingston Hub distributors as an accounting clerk,” she shared. “Then I moved up from that position to being the company's party services coordinator.”
In 2004, two months after she gave birth to her daughter, White decided to start her own business. Having built an impressive repertoire for herself on the party scene from her previous job, it wasn't difficult to get her catering and bar services company Bars To Go off the ground. The challenge came from balancing a new baby and a new business.
“The first two years after I started, those were the roughest two years of my life,” she reflected. “Because not only did I have a young baby, I was a young entrepreneur trying to get a party service business off the ground, so I basically worked at night. I leaned on my husband at the time for a lot of support.”
Despite the challenges, the beast was awakened in White and it was hungry to achieve more. She decided to further her education.
“I was never able to go back to university until I started my own business. My father is a taxi driver and he tried with me as much as he could, but he couldn't afford it,” she said humbly. “And I was not the brightest in school so I could not enroll in UWI straight away. I had to take the long route and obtain my subjects before I could read for my degree in business administration.”
When her business took her to a bar convention in Los Angeles, White was so impressed by a celebrity mixologist that she set out to become the Jamaican equivalent of what he was in Hollywood. This led her to studying mixology and becoming the first certified master mixologist in the Caribbean. She then established the Bars to Go Training School which certifies students to practice mixology and bartending anywhere in the Caribbean, USA or England.
The fittest of the fit
But how did this party service provider, who never did any form of physical activity beyond the recreational netball game every now and then, become one of the most revered (and feared) health and fitness coaches in the game?
“Two months after I had my baby I realised that I weighed more than I weighed when I was nine months pregnant,” she said, sharing the first time in her life where she was ever concerned about her weight or fitness.
“When my daughter was two years old I looked on my tummy and thought to myself, 'A weh mi a go with 10 month belly?'”
Even after trying numerous workout plans, diets and even having liposuction done to remove some of the fat from her tummy, White could not keep the weight off.
Diets, divorce and dating again caused her weight to fluctuate, but it was not until 2015 that a lighthearted jab from her new husband about her tummy, and malicious comments from her former fitness coaches, fuelled her to get serious about her health.
“I was really hurt, not so much by my husband's comment, but by the remarks that my former fitness coaches made behind my back. This was in January and I decided that when Frenchmen party came around at Easter I was going to prove the naysayers wrong,” she said.
She weighed 205 pounds at the time, and in less than three months she shed 75 of those pounds.
“When I turned up at Frenchmen I weighed 130 pounds, but I didn't just lose weight, I had muscles — even abs that doctors and trainers had told me that I would never get. I was able to wear a swimsuit, with no cover-up, and the following week I jumped carnival in one of the most revealing costumes, with my abs popping left, right and centre,” she celebrated.
The results from her own training programme and social media then did their thing, and White, who always had a nose for business, saw where she could capitalise on this niche. Thus Dynamic Lifestyle was born.
More than a celebrity trainer
Though White's Dynamic Lifestyle studio is graced daily by several high-profile clients, and though the hilarious 'Pat and Ele' chronicles on Instagram (@patricejwhite) is of sitcom quality where she does fitness routines with entertainer Elephant Man, White considers herself to be way more than the feisty celebrity trainer.
“My business started with the regular people. The results that regular people got from working out with me is what got the attention of more and more people in the first place, especially my signature 'Get Ready for the Road' fitness programme for those jumping Jamaica carnival — for which persons can still register,” she plugged. “And all my clients, celebrity or not, are just regular people when they come here, and they better put in the work to get their results.”
White wants to be the Oprah Winfrey of health and fitness.
“When it comes to health, wellness, fitness, a wholesome lifestyle — anything at all related to becoming your best self — the name Patrice J White from Jamaica is the name that people should be calling. Just as how Oprah has done it in her element, I want to do that in mine,” she said unabashedly.
Her motivation to achieve her goals has changed from being one of anger and proving doubters wrong, to living for a sweet 16 year old girl.
“My daughter Makayla McHugh is my why and my reason,” she smiled proudly. “She fuels me in everything that I do. It is important for me to remain my authentic self to lead and be an example for her, so that she can be the best woman that she can be when she grows up.”
“Family is very important to me. I have no relationship with my mother, so when I got pregnant the first thing I said to myself was that I must have a relationship with my child. My husband has also been so supportive of my dreams, and although we are both busy people we are working on finding ways to dedicate more time to just the two of us.”
Her personal journey has not only made her an advocate for physical health, but mental health as well.
“I never dealt with my trauma from what happened to me as a child, and that spilled over into adulthood,” she shared. “I was diagnosed with clinical depression because I didn't get the help that I needed, so bringing awareness to mental health and the illnesses under the umbrella is a very big passion of mine.”