Meet our latest #goldeneditgirls muse, Keysha Cosme. Born in Puerto Rico and growing up in Germany, Keysha is no stranger to travel, in fact, it’s very much in her blood. As the marketing manager of Rockhouse and Skylark in Negril, she now splits her time between Brooklyn and Jamaica. We’ll let her tell you more about her journey, but it was a bit of serendipity, a bit of luck, and a lot of hard work.
I visited Jamaica two summers ago and completely fell in love with the Caribbean country’s breathtaking beauty, the local cuisine, and its warm, joyous people. It’s like the island comes with its own soundtrack (Reggae, of course). Rockhouse Hotel, on Negril’s West End, is one of the most magical places on earth. Perched on the top of volcanic rock cliffs, the property is a lush, laid-back heaven. The hotel is designed to fit organically with the environment, each villa settled snugly into the preexisting cove formations and rock cliffs, overlooking turquoise waters. Developed in 1972, guests in the 70’s included artists like Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. The property was purchased by a group of Australians in 1994, who since then have continued to reinvest in its evolution and expansion while maintaining the original vibes.
When in Jamaica, Rockhouse is where Keysha calls home. We spoke with her about travel, the most rewarding part of her job, her passion for cultivating meaningful experiences, and well, all things Jamaica.
Happy reading! Florencia x
FIRSTLY, TELL US ABOUT YOUR UPBRINGING
My family is from Puerto Rico; I was born there, but I grew up in Germany because my father was in the military. I lived in Frankfurt and then mostly in Mannheim. We spent summers in Puerto Rico but most of my childhood was in Germany, which was magical and beautiful. It was at times quite a complicated existence as most of our family friends were German and no one we encountered on a regular basis looked like us. Despite that, people in Germany were warm, accepting and curious. My parents always had a strong cultural tie to Puerto Rico so having a sense of pride around that was pretty big in our family. I always looked forward to our trips back to Puerto Rico and seeing our family, spending time in nature, at the beach, and eating my favorite foods. When I was about 12, we moved to Puerto Rico for a year and then Florida where my father ended up retiring. Looking for more excitement, I moved to Miami for college. I went to the University of Miami and ended up staying for almost eight years before moving to New York. I guess you could say I have a wandering spirit.
HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR DREAM MARKETING ROLE?
In college, I thought I would end up going to law school, but a mentor at the company I was interning at encouraged me to really think about what I wanted to do and I ultimately realized that a law career was not for me. I fell into working in fashion and worked for Diane von Furstenberg for a few years. She was amazing in so many ways and I will forever credit her and my time at her company for helping me hone in on the woman I wanted to become and for encouraging me to accept who I was. After I left DVF I was looking for a more flexible job that would allow more work/life balance and time for travel. I ended up bartending at Miss Lily’s in Soho and that’s where I fell in love with the hospitality world. I ended up leaving Miss Lily’s but everyone is like family there so when they decided to open in Dubai, Serge Becker asked me to go and help for the opening. When I got back from Dubai I ran into one of the owners, Paul Salmon, who also owns Rockhouse and Skylark, and I ended up where I am now. What I love most about my job are the company’s commitment to caring for its people, the community, and Jamaica. We have a foundation, Rockhouse Foundation, where we build schools in underserved communities. The hotels and their owners, and Miss Lily’s underwrite the expenses so every dollar donated goes to the foundation. We just built the first special needs integrated model school in the region! I love the amazing people from all walks of life that my job affords me the privilege of meeting and I really love Jamaica. In so many ways it feels like home and being able to spend extensive time in such a beautiful place fills me with gratitude.
DID YOU SEEK A CAREER THAT WOULD ALLOW YOU TO TRAVEL, OR WAS IT A HAPPY COINCIDENCE?
Travel is something that is really important to me. It feeds my soul, gives me perspective and helps me grow. It is truly what I am passionate about and my greatest joy. I didn’t necessarily seek out a job that would include travel, but I definitely dreamed about it and was lucky enough to land where I am now. I am also extremely lucky to have a job and boss that allows flexibility for personal travel. The world is a big place and life is short (or long!), and I want to see as much of it as I can. I love the experiences and growth that travel gives you if you are willing to be open and adventurous. I think growing up in Germany and having the opportunity to travel around Europe as a child really instilled a value on learning about people and how they live.
WHAT DOES YOUR IDEAL SUITCASE LOOK LIKE FOR A TRIP TO SUNNY JAMAICA?
Swimsuits... lots of swimsuits! Sarongs, anything flowy and comfortable. Being in Jamaica inspires me to wear bright colors and patterns. Beach sandals and a nice pair of sandals for dinner. Slip dresses are my new favorite thing. Sunscreen is a must and a heavy conditioner to tame my big curly hair in the heat and humidity. I mostly keep my hair in a braid or tied back to avoid it frizzing and tangling so head ties are a fun way to keep my hair back. Some of my favorite Golden Edit pieces are the Crochet maxi dress, Territory dress in berry, Tulip head tie and Strapless midi.
IF SOMEONE WAS VISITING JAMAICA FOR THE FIRST TIME, WHAT ARE THE MUST-DO'S YOU'D RECOMMEND?
Definitely a stay at Skylark Negril, our newest hotel on the beach. We just opened a Miss Lily’s there and we have a great Wednesday and Saturday night party. The pool and spa at Rockhouse are my happy places. I also love Murphy’s and Presley’s for dinner – both are amazing local restaurants where the food is cooked with love and pride. Zimbali is a great dinner experience up in the hills. Having a “patty” on the way up from the airport is a must; Juicy or Tastee are the spots to grab one. Island Strains is a great spot to get your medical marijuana license and pick up some great joints. I love rum and Appleton’s 21 year is my favorite, so a trip to the Appleton Distillery is super cool – they have one of the only female master blenders in the world, Joy Spence. The YS Falls or Mayfield Falls are stunning. Pelican Bar is so cool, it’s a wooden bar built out in the middle of a sandbar. Stush in the Bush is a vegetarian, farm to table restaurant I have been dying to try; its location is beautiful and the food is known to be the best and most inventive on the island. David Pinto is an amazing artist and potter and runs some really cool pottery workshops worth checking out. Also, touring one of the schools and hanging out with the kids is a super meaningful experience. These are all in Negril. Kingston is the largest city and a pretty cool, happening place to explore as well.
FOR THOSE OF US WHO CAN'T ESCAPE TO JAMAICA, DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE SPOTS IN NEW YORK THAT ARE A SLICE OF CARIBBEAN HEAVEN?
Miss Lily’s in Soho and East Village will instantly transport you to the Caribbean. Anywhere that Max Glazer, one of our Skylark Partners, is spinning is sure to be an amazing reggae party. The Hoxton in Williamsburg always feels tropical to me. Di and Di (in Greenpoint where I live) reminds me of being in the Caribbean even though it is a Vietnamese restaurant. Adela’s in the East Village is a nostalgic trip to grandma’s kitchen – the best no frills, Puerto Rican food and it’s BYOB. Rum House if I am feeling like indulging in rum and being fancy.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU ABOUT TRAVEL?
I am inspired by local, cultured, meaningful experiences. Being able to meet new people, explore a different way of living, eating great meals and exploring the architecture of a city. My trips have usually been influenced by friends who have been willing to share a part of their cultural identities with me, like a recent trip to Mumbai and Crete. Seeing a city and country through the eyes of someone who has a deep connection to the place makes all the difference, it sometimes feels like the only way to really scratch the surface and experience the true magic of a place. I’ve been really into pole dancing for the past two years and that inspired a trip to Bali recently where I went on a retreat with Indi Pole Retreats, run by a beautiful dancer and friend India. The ability to learn from amazing dancers and connect with other women who love such a beautiful and empowering sport, and unfortunately still kind of taboo dance form, was beyond inspiring. If I’m traveling spontaneously to a new country with friends and don’t know anyone, I often ask friends to connect me with anyone they might know there even if it’s just to get coffee. I’ve had some of the most interesting and meaningful experiences that way. I truly feel that cities, countries and the trips I take are all about the people.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE SUMMER?
This is a hard one, but I would have to say my summer in Crete was one of the most memorable. One of my closest friends, Roula, is from there and goes every summer for three months. Two summers ago she invited me to come along, I was meant to go for seven days and ended up staying for three weeks! It was shortly after a painful break up and it was one of the first times I truly felt happy and free. She hosted me with her family and although I couldn’t speak the language, her family was so loving and accepting and really made my time there magical. Crete itself is stunning! Just driving and taking in the vista was sublime. Roula, her sister and a friend took me to so many different beaches, each one more beautiful and surreal than the last. The food, wine, hospitality was truly amazing. I remember we went on this eight hour hike through a mountain gorge. I put in my headphones and listened to classical music most of the hike, then half way through we stopped and enjoyed a beautiful Greek lunch we'd packed and at the end of the hike we ended up on this black sand remote beach. That day and that trip brought so much joy to my heart. I will forever love Roula for opening her home and country to me.