Ladaisha Francis, or “Mackerel Official” as she is known in the social media sphere, says she aspires to be a comedienne. Her Instagram videos, in which she exhibits defiance about her promiscuous lifestyle, have attracted, at last count, 86,000 followers — the majority of whom find them entertaining.
But beneath that truculent exterior is a young woman with deep emotional scars which, she said, forced her to start living with older men at the age of 15 as a means of survival and avoiding homelessness.
“My mother put me out her house at the age of 15 years old, and from she put me out mi deh pon mi own a battle life and a struggle. Mi go all over go live — kotch a friend yard until mi start live with man. Mi do all sort of things with my life, but mi did affi survive,” she told the Jamaica Observer in an interview last week.
“Mi start act like a big woman and tell the man dem say mi older, because mi did waan them put mi up. At the end of the day, mi couldn’t sleep a roadside. The struggle was real, but mi did rather live with the man them, box bout, and when one a them put me out, another one take me in. If mi did live a roadside, mi woulda get battery, mi woulda get rape. And if a mother can put out her own child, there is nobody else to turn to,” Francis said.
The 18-year-old became unusually sad and started crying when she recounted some of the traumatic experiences from her childhood, a rite of passage she said she never had.
“My mother never show mi nuh love. I remember one time when mi a little pickney, I said to her, ‘mommy, you know I always want to be a lawyer’ and mi ask her if when mi reach 18 she woulda support mi. She say to mi, by the time mi reach 18, if mi nuh poor, mi a whore. If you is my mother and you look pon me and tell me that, weh you expect?” Francis reasoned.
Efforts to reach Francis’s mother, Sherlette Black, were unsuccessful, but the elder woman who spoke with The Star newspaper a fortnight ago, described Francis as “uncontrollable” and suggested, among other things, that she ran away from home at age 11, a claim that Francis denied.
“I was a child, but mi never live mi childhood as how mi did suppose to live it — like how mi used to see other children live out fi dem childhood,” Francis claimed.
She alleged that her mother did not provide any guidance during her upbringing, which left her with a gaping hole for love and attention.
“My mother was just all about the money and waan go foreign. She was never there emotionally or psychologically. She was only there financially and she ensured that mi always have food. But feeding a child is not love. I was a girl pickney and I wanted my mother to tell me ‘this is how the world set, this is what is out there’,” she said.
“How was an 11-year-old supposed to understand certain things when mi never really get any training like that fi say, my mother tell mi not to do something and mi still do it? When me go out a road and man see me and like me at the age of 12 years old, weh she expect?
“Mi get love from man weh my mother never give me. Them put me up and them take care a me. And them never treat mi bad because mi do what any good wife woulda do. Mi clean and wash them clothes fi them,” she said.
“People say mi did force ripe, but man hug me up and kiss me and tell me say them love me. That was love for me and my mother never show me nuh love, so mi go abroad go get it.”
However, Francis admitted that at such a young age she did not know immediately that the men would also want to have sex with her. She said that her first sexual encounter was at 12 years old with an older man who is the father of her son.
“Mi never expect say him did a go want sex because, remember, I was young at the time so mi never really understand. A love mi did a search for. Him used to tell mi every day say him love mi. Him look after mi, make sure say mi eat …those things. Him ensure say mi alright — physically and emotionally — them little enjoyment deh weh you think you own mother shoulda give you,” she said.
As for the age of her son’s father, Francis did not wish to divulge that information but admitted that he was an older man. Pressed on whether she now recognises that she could not have consented to sex at 12, Francis insisted that she was a willing participant.
“That is the law opinion. Me willingly sleep with him so that was not rape for me. And whatever happen, done happen already,” she argued.
Asked whether she was ever abused by any of the men she lived with, Francis said it happened once.
“One time me did have a boyfriend and because mi tell him say mi never love him, him beat mi. But other than that, I was alright.”
Francis said when she was pregnant her mother took her to the Child Development Agency (CDA), which placed her in State care.
“When mi get pregnant mi mother mek government take mi because she say she couldn’t manage me. She go down a CDA, tell them say she nuh gravitate to me and she can’t manage me, so them fi tek me. I was in a home from 13 and come back out at 14.”
Francis was sent back to live with her mother. However, her mother put her out again, she alleged.
“She tell CDA say she cyaan take me back because she nuh have nuh money. Them tell her say they will give her $10,000 every month to finance me and the baby. I came out of the home and was living with her until 15, but you know a government, so by March, April, the money still never ready and by July she say mi cyaan live at her house no more.
“I remember I turned to her and say ‘Mommy, mi get pregnant, and yes, it was a mistake; but people do make mistakes and every disappointment to mankind is an appointment to God. Everything happens for reason,’ and she still put me out,” Francis claimed.
On the other hand, she said her father was more of a loving parent although he had a separate family.
“I had a father figure, probably not financially, but mentally and emotionally. My father was the type of father who nobody couldn’t talk bad bout him pickney them. If mi never love my father for nothing else, it was that. Him never have it like how my mother have it ‘financialwise’, but emotionally and mentally, my father was there.”
One of several children for her father, and her mother’s only daughter, Francis said her parents separated long before she could remember but recalled that having to move frequently between homes took a toll on her.
“I was an all-round child — from home to home. This minute mi deh a mi mother, the next minute mi deh a mi father. I was all over the place. My mother have a son and me, and my father have other children. But at one point, when I was around 10 or 11 years old, it was like me alone. I was basically growing myself,” Francis told the Sunday Observer.
“Parents have to be careful what them do in front of them pickney, because at one point when I was back and forth between my parents it did really affect me. This minute them a argue over my stepmother. Mi a hear back the words weh them a say about each other and I was in the middle of it,” she related.
“Mi stop go school when mi get pregnant and I think after I had my son, mi go back a school for a little bit. But because mi fall out with my mother, mi just stop. Recently, I was going back to school at HEART Academy and is man send me. Yet still my mother have money, she have things, she can help people, and if me beg my mother one day lunch money, she tell me say she nuh have it,” she alleged.
As such, Francis said her mother’s recent public appearance on social media came as a shock and was too painful to watch. “Mi never watch the interview because every time mi hear bout it me feel like mi waan cry. Mi never expect that. Come on, you’re my mother, and the world done against me already and a say mi get pregnant early. She supposed to be a mother and say ‘yes, she get pregnant early but she is not the first’.”
While she has received much flack for promoting her decision to ‘tek people man’, Francis remains adamant that she did what she had to do to survive, and said she has no regrets.
“Everybody entitled to them own opinion, but who feels it knows it. You can talk say how she was a bad child, but there was something behind it. Mi did have fi bad because mi never have a mother’s love. If mi want love inna life and my own mother don’t love me, weh me fi do as a child? Everybody deserve love, everybody deserve some form a tender treatment — and me just find myself where is man a give me that. And it so happened that mi [get] pregnant and mi don’t regret it, because now me have a son.”
Francis, though, said she does not hold a grudge against her mother.
“With all a what happen to me inna life, mi not blaming it on my mother, but mi believe say if she did grow me as a daughter and talk to me more, make we have a mother-daughter bond, I wouldn’t have to go through what I go through. ”
In the meantime, the young mother said she is trying to nurture that bond with her son.
“Now, me not really seeking no love. Mi just a try love my son to the extent where my mother never love me. I try to have that bond with my son. I am not going to say mi try 90 per cent of the time but, I tell him ‘baby, anything that anybody do to you and you don’t like it, tell me’. I try to make him have that, and because a that now, as him see mi him start tell me everything,” she said.
The social media personality also said she wants to develop her talent for making people laugh and hopes to attend the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
“I am a comedian, so I am just working towards being on a platform and have a audience a watch mi. I am always trying to be happy, to be that jovial girl. Mi like see people laugh, probably because me never laugh as a child. Me want weh me never get; me want see other people have that,” she said.
Francis said she draws inspiration from media personality “Miss Kitty”, who was her childhood role model.
“When mi did little, mi used to have Miss Kitty as my role model. I think I shoulda have my mother as a role model, but Miss Kitty was my role model. Everyday when Miss Kitty used to work pon RJR, mi run go listen the radio because mi just did want [to] hear her. She always a say some encouraging things and mi did like her, because she was a lady and she nice and full a vibes and joy. She used to just make my day.”
“Whatever mi put my head to, it is going to happen. Every disappointment to a human is an appointment to God, so who is me fi have regret? Mi no know what the future holds or what plans God have for me in the next two months, one year,” said Francis.