Jamaica has hidden gems and Duane Phillips is committed to finding all of them. Through his digital platform, DownDiRoad, Phillips—who also goes by Doofy—shares spots, places and spaces both known unknown on the island. It is in the most literal sense Jamaica by Jamaicans for Jamaicans.
Though Phillips graduated from UTech, he is still a student of life learning and growing through his current employment as a Front Desk Supervisor at one of Kingston’s top hotels, and also through his overall passion for tourism which him and his team translate into DownDiRoad content. BASHY spoke with Phillips about how DownDiRoad started, how its expanding and creating authentically Jamaican content.
BASHY: How did your working in Jamaica's tourism industry change your perceptions of the country that you live in?
Duane “Doofy” Phillips: As a youngster growing up, my views of Jamaica were limited to what was around me in Kingston and what I saw on TV. I have worked in the tourism industry both international and locally, but being exposed to both the airline and hotel industry in my home country, Jamaica has opened my eyes to the impact that we have globally. There are so many moving parts that turn the Jamaican tourism wheel, and being invested in it has positively changed my perception of Jamaica, and opened my eyes to the beauty and rich culture that we offer our visitors.
What do you want to offer people who interact with DownDiRoad?
DownDiRoad was created [as] a simple personal blog that shared the adventures of a Jamaican in Jamaica, but over time it has morphed into its own entity with its own identity. Much of the quality information you find online about attractions in Jamaica has been curated by individuals who have come here from abroad, fallen in love with our country, and had the means to make it their mission to share it with the world, often times capitalizing on our culture. What I want to offer is a source of information for persons interested in finding out about Jamaica and all we have to offer, through the eyes of actual Jamaicans. This is done via our blog posts and via our growing #DownDiRoad YouTube shows.
In the future we will not only offer insight on Jamaica through our website & YouTube channel, but via our DDRJamaicaTours company which we recently soft launched. We also offer freelance photography and videography work via our DDRMedia JA brand, to people who love our aesthetic and want us to curate their image and video projects for them.
What was your reason for creating DownDiRoad?
When I got my first car, I finally had the freedom to explore Jamaica more frequently. Originally downdiroad.com was created as my personal blog where I would write articles giving more backstory and information on the cool places that I visited and posted on my Instagram page. Ideally it was created to be a space where individuals could find out about some "off the beaten path" and unconventional attractions in Jamaica.
Who is part of your team and what do they do?
The DownDiRoad team has grown exponentially since its inception with our many frequent collaborators and creative consultants, but the immediate team consists of four additional people.
I, Duane Phillips, am the founder of our movement and Chief Creative Director. I still write most of the articles and I'm also the head photographer, videographer, editor, and social media manager.
Rik-Andi McLeary is our assistant photographer and videographer, our accountant, and basically second in command. He is also one of our creative directors and is a part of the core team in terms of planning and execution of the DDR adventures.
Channae Reynolds is the Assistant Creative Director and head Ambassador. She is the face and heart of DownDiRoad and one of my main consultants. She is a part of the core team in terms of planning and execution of our adventures.
Tennyson Rhoden is our in-house nutritionist and one of the main consultants where our food content is concerned. Tenny is also a part of the core team in terms of planning and execution of our adventures.
Denmar Daley is currently overseas and on a small leave of absence, but he is still a main contributor in terms of the planning of our adventures.
Yhuli J is our most recent team member. She is a food and lifestyle writer, and has officially partnered with us to make her new Crav'nish food focused brand, a part of the DownDiRoad umbrella. She is the Creative Director of Crav'nish, a writer, photographer, and she is also a part of our core team in terms of planning and execution of our adventures.
What are each of the following series and how do they differ: #downdiroadLIVE, #chippinDownDiRoad and #DeTour?
#DownDiRoad [is] the original 'travelogue' web series where we showcase different Jamaican tourist attractions, experiences, and food. It could be a beach or river in the country you've never heard about, it could [also] be a local cook shop; we try to showcase experiences, attractions and establishments that are uniquely Jamaican.
#downdiroadLIVE [is] a spin off [of] #DownDiRoad where we focus directly on coverage from live events that feature new and upcoming Jamaican artists and creative spaces.
#chippinDownDiRoad [is] a mini series that focuses on soca/carnival-related events. We have recently partnered with the big, bad LucyandVagabond, so we will be offering even more visual coverage for Jamaica Carnival 2019!
#DeTour [is] a vlog hosted by my sisters Danielle and Deanna Phillips, which we record in between #DownDiRoad seasons. It really is a simple format that shows the twins going to different tourist attractions as well [as] just having fun like any young Jamaican does.
What are some common misconceptions about Jamaica as a tourist destination that you're trying to change with DownDiRoad?
The main misconception that we all should know, is that people say we are a violent country that has pockets of beauty which is only offered to tourists. DownDiRoad.com and the #DownDiRoad web series tries to show people that good does exist here, and us Jamaicans can experience the beauty for ourselves at a very inexpensive cost. We always try to share the cost of the places we go, as well as give information on the accessibility of these places. It is our country, and it is our right to explore it and enjoy it's beauty.
We’re premiering the first episode of DownDiRoad’s newest season where DownDiRoad and friends undergo a blindfold challenge eating from the many patty chains in Jamaica.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Cover photo provided by subject.
A wise woman once said, "Man ah di least ah mi problem", and I felt that.