On September 1, 2019, Hurricane Dorian plowed through the Bahamas, particularly causing a devastating amount of destruction to the Abaco Islands. Dorian’s winds, reaching 185mph, became the highest ever recorded to hit landfall on the Atlantic side. Structures were leveled, lives were lost, and the rebuild is too overwhelming to even comprehend at this moment.
Going into our recent interview with model Chase Carter, a native Bahamian, we knew very little about Hurricane Dorian’s impact. Pop-up news bulletins only tell us as much as a headline really can, and though we were aware of the hurricane’s upward path along the East Coast, there was a naive understanding of what really happened on the first of the month in the Bahamas.
Our meet-up with Chase started with the usual catch-up questions, as we asked her how NYFW was coming along. Was her schedule crazy packed? What’s new in her world? But as our conversation continued, Chase raised her concerns about the place she calls home and hit us with facts that no news outlet was distributing to the states. What we learned was too daunting not to share with others. Getting the right information out there was important to her, so it’s important to us.
Yes, we spoke about how she got her start in the modeling industry, how she picked her Insta handle and her sports of choice. But first, we wanted to dive into high-level issues...
When did the hurricane touch down, in the Bahamas?
It was over the Bahamas for about 72 hours. It was the slowest moving hurricane, it moved one mile per hour. At a snail pace. It actually stayed over Freeport Grand Bahamas’ second island for... I would say two days. 36 hours to the exact, but I mean it was crazy. It hit Freeport at a category 4, but like I said, moved at a snail pace. It hit Abaco, which is pretty much, our second main-populated island at a category 5 to 220 mph winds. So, that’s unheard of. We haven’t had a hurricane like that since 1934 ever documented in all of our lives, and to touch landfall. So that was the biggest hurricane to touch landfall in our generation at least since 1934. Category 5. It literally could be a category 6, but you can’t get higher than a category 5.
And, what part of the island are you from?
I’m from Nassau, so those are the two northern islands that got hit. Basically, Nassau, Freeport, and Abaco are the three largest economies in the Bahamas. A lot of people have family and family friends in Freeport actually, but Freeport’s 80% underwater and they do not think that it will be able to recover, and they’re giving the estimation for Abaco to get back on their feet four to five years. They even estimated at $82 billion dollars to make it like how it was before this hurricane.
So, your family’s okay. But they’re doing everything they can to help?
So, my family is okay and everybody in Nassau is fine, which is our main city as you can put quotation marks on city. But our main Island in the Bahamas. They’re doing fine and I have never seen the community come together in my life more than I have seen these Bahamians. Everyone has… when I say have put their lives on hold and have dropped everything in this last week because it just happened over last weekend. I mean, I’m saying people have shut down literally their businesses to be there day in and day out. 5 a.m., they go until 2 a.m. And now that Bahamas Air (which is our Bahamian airline company) has gone to Abaco and Freeport to, well mostly Abaco because that’s the only runway that’s kind of open right now there’s only one runway on the island. They’re evacuating about to 500 people each trip. So yesterday, they made three trips and the last trip was at 1 a.m. in the morning. So, all those volunteers are there to get these Bahamians off the planes and greet them. They have to get registered because our government’s made it that way.
Then once they’re registered in the system, if they’re with family... or if they’re getting relocated they get to stay at a hotel, which is one of the hotels–Breezes–that these charities have put together money to buy rooms for these people. But, this is short term I’m talking only up to a week...
Right, because then where do they go?
Exactly, so what we’re working on is, there are a lot of organizations in the Bahamas but mainly I haven’t had the name for them. They’re not official yet but they’re coming out. It’s going to be just housing for them long-term. Because you know, up to a week, that’s great but then where are these people going to go? No, it has to be up to six months to a year for everybody to get back on their feet, and that’s why I open my own fund because I know the people who are in action at the moment, doing stuff on-ground. Volunteering all their time and all their assets, all their own personal boats and busses, with their companies and people and employees. Everybody who just donated so much effort. It’s truly amazing.
So I’m going to get down there next week and I am going to go to Florida first, stock up on the essentials. Everyone actually has been so generous and so amazing with getting supplies down there. I mean, there’s more than you can ever think of already–food, water, generators, and supplies and the basic necessities, but these people are coming off of these planes with garbage bags full of… that’s their suitcases and it’s like nothing, some people don’t have anything. They’re coming off without shoes, without bras, without underwear, and these kids, when they’re coming off the plane they are cleaning all of the children because they have open wounds and all that kind of stuff. Making sure they get the instant medical attention that they need. Because these people are in toxic environments for up to a week now, and we just don’t know what kind of damage that could do long-term. They’re getting medical attention literally as soon as they get off the plane. And then there’s another organization who’s moreso handling getting fuel to these islands because there are some islanders that still want to stay on the island. Very few, but there are some. The government is not really covering what is really going on, and I’m happy that Billy-Rae Cyrus came out with that tweet about… one sec, let me make sure I get this.I’ll get the exact tweet for you. Here it is. So, he came out with this tweet: “HELP @realdonaldtrump can you please call the Bahamian government and have NEMA cut red tape and let planes with relief land in Abaco. Tried for 2 days to send doctors and supplies and couldn’t get clearance! This is a life or death situation.”
So, I’m not going to talk bad about our government, but since there were so many people chipping in and helping out, air traffic control went crazy. They weren’t like, you can’t clear. We have one runway open in Abaco and we are trying to evacuate all these people. People are sending supplies for the people still on the island but our main priority is getting these people off the island. Because, like I said, it is a toxic environment and nobody can really live there. And the other island is 80% underwater.
I was wondering… that’s gone?
It’s gone. Unfortunately, it’s gone. So they’re mainly focusing on Abaco which is unfortunate for people of Grand Bahamas Freeport. They’re getting those people out and into Nassau... they’re relocating them to their families and that’s why they have to register. So the government has red tape, meaning they’re not allowing any other traffic control to approve any of these people who are trying to come in and help. And like they said send doctors and actual aid. So the American government is stepping in and you know I’m just grateful for the help that we are getting from all ends, but what people really need to understand and know is these huge organizations that are incredible. I am not ever going to talk bad, as like I said, wherever you donate will go to the Bahamians and will help the Bahamas. So I can lead you in the direction if you want people and your money to go to something that’s doing something now. Then I can definitely tell you who those people are and are being stopped by big corporations because everyone’s being held off, and it’s not these corporations’ fault or organizations. Let’s say for example the Red Cross, it’s because there are just so many of them coming in. They’re having a hard time dealing with it, and kind of weighing out all this love and divvy-ing it around as best as possible.
Also, another thing is some of these islanders don’t want the supplies. When they bring supplies to these islands they say, “No. We don’t want them.” Because it has become so dangerous on these islands. We’re talking about life and death situations. These people are fighting for their lives regardless of who they are where they’re from or whatever. Whoever was in this hurricane are fighting desperately to stay alive. Even if a house has a roof over their head or has no roof but windows and walls, every house is destroyed. They said 13,000 houses are gone. But 17,000 up. It was a total of 17,000 house in Abaco, 13,000 are gone. Okay, but the 4,000 remaining ones are either roof no windows, no door, no protection. And then the other ones are walls, no roof. So, no power for three months. That’s the destination time of even getting power back. So when people are bringing supplies to these islands, they’re turning them away for their own safety. They don’t want anybody to get word that they’re the ones who have supplies and put their lives in vain. There’s a lot of looting going on. This actually came at the perfect time because I knew a lot of this information, but it was more inside information you weren’t allowed to share but now finally [can]. I just saw something on CNN and Daily Mail came out with the looting thing. I’m very happy they did because then I have more freedom to be able to talk about what’s really going on via my social media. At least letting people know and be aware of how dangerous these islands are. There’s a voice note that was shared with me, and they told me to spread this voice note around. It was a Bahamian saying that he was in Abaco after this hurricane 5. He said, “Bull-curse word.” And then he said, I walk the streets trying to find my family. There are two thousand people dead, the morgues (11:13) are full, over packed. All the places. America has sent about, I think it was a thousand 15 by 40 cold containers to put these bodies in and they are only saying that five are dead. That’s so bogus. That’s just completely bogus information. This guy also said on the voice note, because he wanted to spread awareness to the Bahamians of Nassau, the island I am on, to let them know how crazy it is. This is a toxic environment. You walk by, oh 20 dead, 5 dead. You walk down one street you can see dead bodies literally floating around, as the picture sent on my phone. They ask for people to help.
Photography by Jamie Girdler
Photography by Jamie Girdler
It’s like Hurricane Katrina.
Yes, but worse. But isn’t that crazy, this was worse than Katrina? The winds and all of the destruction and how long and how slow it moved. It’s just so crazy and nobody is understanding. It’s funny because a lot of people with these charities have told me, “Chase this is great for now but you have to keep people aware in two months to come because that’s the problem.” It just lasts for a couple weeks and then people move on with their lives, and then it’s the next dramatic story. But we are talking years and years. It gives me goosebumps still to this day, but even with fashion week going on... it’s like, “Okay it happened last weekend, and in two, three days you get to start all over. Okay, now get back to posting get back to this, get back to smiling.” No. Until I’m down there to physically help and do whatever in my power I possibly can and as Bahamian myself and with the help of all the... I mean I am happy. I have dual citizenship and I am happy and proud not only to be a Bahamian because of how everyone has just come together as a community, but I am proud to be an American too because how many Americans have stepped in, used all their resources and everything it’s just amazing. Honestly, I always knew that we were kind of a part. We are so close to America always, and a lot of people go there for vacation.
I went there for my senior trip in high school. I loved it.
Exactly, everyone has great memories in the Bahamas. I can go to a place and visit, and then maybe you know, a natural disaster happens and I promote it. But the amount of action being taken by everyone in America as well as the Bahamas it just brings tears to your eyes because everyone’s coming together as one big... just like when they stepped in with Puerto Rico too, I guess. And we are definitely feeling the same love and appreciation.
Can you quickly just tell us just growing up in the Bahamas, what that experience is like for you, and how it stays in your heart, and what it means to you?
Growing up in the Bahamas really gave me a better sense of being brought up with manners. Not only that. If you walk into a room and you do not say “Good Afternoon” or “Good Morning” you are sent out. Respect. Respect and how to talk to anyone, everyone, all different ages, and how to hold yourself and hold your own. The main thing about saying thank you, it just really goes a long way. Or “Hi, how are you?” So, when I moved to New York it was kind of a little bit of an adjustment because I’d be in an elevator, I’d be on the street. I’d be used to going to the food store and seeing everyone I knew. Cousins, uncles, family friends, people I’ve known for my whole life and then you go to New York and even when you didn’t know someone in the Bahamas you’d walk by and say “Hi. Good Morning. How are you?” Just walking by with acknowledgment. And, so when I go to the food store in New York, or in the elevator I’d say “Hi. Good Morning” and then they are like what’re you doing talking to me? Like, oh my god go away. And I’m like, oh my god it is so different! So I would say it’s fun growing up with, like I said, everyone’s your cousin. Everyone’s your family. Everyone’s your friend. I think the scariest part about growing up in the Bahamas was thinking you might date your cousin.
Because everyone’s kind of related, sort of.
Oh, and you’re my third cousin, you’re my cousin’s cousin. That means we are related. I swear if you go around the Bahamas, everyone is your cousin. Like you would have to date a foreigner just to make sure they are not your cousin. But it was also fun because in high school, I had a homeroom of nine people but it depends which school I was at. I went to two schools. One for primary and then I transferred from that school where I had like 6 people in my class to a bigger school where I had like 32 people in my grade. Which is not a lot in America. In my whole school, there are 800 people, but that’s from kindergarten to grade thirteen. You know everyone so that was very fun but it was sad when you got to the age of 13-14 because everybody went off to boarding school. And I was going to go to boarding school but then I got scouted as a model when I was at the airport at about 13.
Yeah. So tell us about that. Did that feel like, “Cool! I would love to do this.”?
It was interesting because it was not like we hadn’t talked about maybe modeling before. When I was like, seven. We did a little thing for Lily Pulitzer. It’s really cute actually. With one of my primary school friends growing up. I think we were eight years old and got fake moms and went to Paradise Island. In the shoot, we got like fake moms who were gorgeous and we got club sandwiches and ice cream. And we got to prance around and look in a little telescope. It was such a fun day for me and Julia! But, it wasn’t as if I was told my whole life I should be a model and me, the biggest tomboy in the entire world. Sports fanatic! I was like, there’s no way. Not for me. Nope. Next. So, I was in Australia and my mom’s from Perth. We had a layover in Sydney. And my mom was like, “I need to walk around because I don’t want my feet to swell because of the travel blah blah blah”. It’s 32 hours. It’s a long flight from Perth to the Bahamas. So I was like, okay whatever mom leave me. I was thirteen and I was on Facetime with my friend because I was coming home when school was starting. We get one or two new kids coming from the embassy, like the American embassy. They would come for two years and I’m like, who’s new? Anyone? Any new friends?
So, we were talking about that, and this woman named Jaz Daily heard me talking about the Bahamas. One of her models, Bamby... which is so funny, I know Bamby now and it’s just such a small world. I love Bamby! But anyways, one of her models was Bamby and she was shooting in the Bahamas. I saw her looking at me and I told my friend, “There’s a woman looking at me really weird.” She had two BlackBerrys in her hand and an iPad. Back then I was like, this seems very extra, but now I’m like, oh she’s definitely an agent. If I were to ever see someone with two phones and an iPad and looking at all the girls, they can look at–they’re an agent. They’re a scout. So she approached me and she was like, “Oh, I’m so sorry but I overheard your conversation that you’re going to the Bahamas” and I’m like, “Yes!” And then she goes “Are you shooting in the Bahamas? Are you a model?” And I go, “No, I’m from the Bahamas. I’m not a model. And she’s like, “You’re not a model?” And I’m like, “No I’m thirteen.” And she’s like, “Where’s your mom?” And I’m like, “I don’t know. She should be back very soon I hope.” But anyways, my mom came back and then they started talking and obviously they hit it off. She was going to New York Fashion Week, and she was not with an agency. She was just a person who was very well connected. And she says, “I want to introduce you to five different agencies in New York. When can you go?” And my dad’s like, “It’s a scam. She’s a scam. No no no.” And I was like, “I can only go in October because that’s my school break and that’s when soccer season starts.” And I was now doing tennis this year. I was sports focused. And nothing was going to mess with that. If you wanted me to go during me throwing the javelin, I would have said, “No. I’m not doing that.” And so, we went during my October break. I saw five different agencies. This is the most hilarious story. I was thirteen. This is how the industry was back then and how much it has changed now. Oh my goodness.
I went to Elite, Valentina, Ford, one other one and IMG was the last one. Literally IMG was the only agency interested in me. I would be lying if I said I had all the options. No. Thank goodness. Now I look back and I was just blessed that IMG was the one that saw something in me.
I went into my first one so excited. I was kind of nervous. You know, I’m thirteen years old. I’ve never even worn jeans before because I hated them. I thought they were so uncomfortable back then and I was in Nike shorts and my dad’s t-shirt. I’m telling you, there was nothing. No makeup done or anything. I went into the first one and I was 13. Can we like picture this? I was thirteen years old. First one, I went in. I am Chase, whatever, with my personality. And they were like, “Hi, um….” And they brought me away from my mom and they go, “How tall are you?” And I’m like, “Oh, ah I don’t know.” I didn’t know how tall I was. I only knew I was the tallest in my grade. I don’t know. Really tall? But apparently not. So they went and measured me and I was 5’8’’ 1/2. Okay. I was 13. I’m 5’10’’ now. Obviously I didn’t complete my growth spurt at 13 years old. What do you expect from a 13-year-old? Anyways, she goes, “You’re too short. Maybe when you grow a little we can reconsider this. Thank you.” That’s it. And I was like, “Oh, okay.” And I walked out and I was like, what was that? Come back when you’re taller? What was that? Excuse me. Anyways, I said, “Ok, I will!” And I just walked out.
Next one. The woman sat there and she looked at me and she was dissecting my whole face! She was like, “Your nose is too big, but I think you will grow into it when you mature. How big are your hips? 35.5, that’s way too big.” I was 13 years old. A 35.5. You know how small that is? I’m like, I don’t even care. My mom promised me we would have a pretzel and ice cream after this, am I not supposed to have that now? I’m like, so confused. I don’t even want to model. I grew up in the Bahamas where I would just run around, and they were like, “Where does all your food go to, your big toe?” They called me skinny my entire life. I threw the javelin at this Caribbean event and they would grab my arms and be like, “High jump or long distance is over there,” because I was always smaller. Anyways, she was like, “You’re going to have to lose weight.” I was appalled at this point. Never in my life have I been told about my weight. So first of all, doing that to a 13-year-old kind of really messes a kid up. I was very lucky to have my mom as a huge support and my father as a huge support. My dad being in sports and my mom actually, she left the house when she was 15 years old and traveled as a dancer. So, she went through this whole process herself but in a different way. They kind of guided me in that direction. I was always athletic, so it wasn’t like, “We have to get her to start working out now!” I always worked out, so that wasn’t an issue. But it was more so, my mom cut milk out of my diet–which is so funny because I’m lactose intolerant, as I now grew up to realize.
She said when I was a kid, like 3-8, she would just have to force me to eat because I just didn’t care. I would run around and play, and then she asked me one time, “What do you want for lunch in your sandwich?” I said, “Bread and lettuce.” Why don’t I have that diet now? Now I’m like, “Shake Shack and fries.” Like I said, I was never pressured or anything to be a certain height, a nose size, or a weight in my entire life so it was very bizarre to be told that.
The third one I went to said the same thing about my height, about my skin being too tan…My dad’s brown. I’m mixed. This is my skin color. “You’re way too tan.”
Cause when she saw your mom she thought, "Oh she must be white"?
Yeah. “You need to lose your tan.” Back then I was like, “My dad’s black, I’m black.” They were like, “It doesn’t matter, you need to lose your tan.” This is my skin. I’ve always been like this. This is how I came out. I was like, I promise I’m kind of pale right now. It’s October, the sun’s really not out as much. It’s only 75 degrees outside. But yeah. I was like, “Next.” Then after that, literally IMG was my last one and I said to my mom, “I’m over this. I just want to go home. This is not my thing. I’d rather be an athlete. I do not want to do this stuff.” My mom’s like, “Okay. Do you want to give IMG a shot? I mean we might as well, it’s the last one. You know IMG owns a sports division, IMG sports.” So I knew they were very into sports and I go, “Oh. I’m an athlete maybe they’ll send me as an athlete!” I got excited. We went in and I was treated like… they rolled out the red carpet. I had three agents in the room with me. Two from development and one from Women’s. And I know all of them still to this day. They’re still there and so amazing to see that they saw me when I was 13, and now I’m 22. I’ve been with them ever since, never been with another agency. Don’t have different agencies abroad or anything. I’m just IMG worldwide since I was 13. It was just meant to be. We talked for an hour and pretty much done, done, done, and dusted.
Photography by Jamie Girdler
These people are fighting for their lives regardless of who they are where they’re from.
That’s crazy. Starting out in the beginning of that day was just a shit show, horrible, and then at the end how did that change your mind about everything?
They didn’t even ask me, “How tall are you?” I just stood up and they realized I was tall. They looked at my nose, they realized I was probably going to grow into it. Just kidding. It was just so stupid how that woman said that. And then they looked at my body and they were like, “Fit. Thirteen. Fit. Good.” And nothing was said about my appearance. They talked to me. They got to know my personality. We hit it off. And that was just meant to be. The stars aligned and it was just amazing.
After that, I did direct bookings for a long time until I was 16. Then I went for my summer as a 16-year-old. Then I had to make the decision around that age if I wanted to go to online school. I really wanted to go to boarding school. After I was signed at 14 they told me I can’t really go to boarding school because if I get a direct booking job it’s easier to go to a school in the Bahamas where you can be like, hey I’m traveling for this and that. And boarding school, if I were to go I would be on a scholarship for sports and I wouldn’t be able to go hey I’m going to miss this practice I have a job. Like you can’t do that. So that was a big thing for me not to go to boarding school because I thought I was missing out. Now I’m really happy because it’s like I’m at my boarding school. Then when all of my friends started going to college and I was full time working then. I was doing online school. I graduated and then by the age of seventeen I moved to Australia for two months. I lived in LA for a couple of months and then I moved to New York now for about four and a half years.
The first two years of my friends going off to college, I always thought I was kind of missing out. And definitely when I was graduating I 100% knew that I kind of turned against modeling in my mind because this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be someone in sports. I wanted to do all of this kind of stuff. I wanted to be a personality. I started to grow more as a person. Sometimes I wanted to be a Prime Minister. Sometimes I wanted to be a lawyer. I don’t know, at 16 or 17 years old. Who knows. But I would say this year or the last two years has really grown for me. I feel like I’ve had to go through all of those things in my life and be signed at a young age and be from the Bahamas from a small island. And be worldly in the sense of my mom being from Australia and me always traveling every summer anyways. Being able to talk to adults of any age just being from the Bahamas and talking to people’s parents and talking to just anyone. So that really helped me. And then being from such a tight small community.
At first, I was kind of bullied in high school. Definitely was bullied in high school–that’s not a “kind of”. So, I had negative energy towards that and I surrounded that sense of my high school experience with the island I grew up on, which is not fair. Since I’ve grown up, and when I go home, I have never been more blessed and lucky to call myself a Bahamian. But yeah, it took until like 22 to find myself and get over teenagers. I feel bad for teenagers. With social media and everything. If I had that back then, I don’t know what I would do. I didn’t get an Instagram until I was 17 because my agents forced me to get an Instagram. And I shared an Instagram with my friend for the longest time. Yeah, it was called Chase and Brennan. And then my agents were like, “You’re working. You have to post you’re working!” And I was like, “I don’t want an Instagram. I’m not good at this.” By the age of 18, I got my own Instagram and I hated just Chase Carter just as my name. I’m like, “No. I need to show my personality more.” And then I met Jordan, Jordan Barrett, who is the first male model I met. And his Instagram name was @Iblamejordan, which is hilarious because if you have ever met him… Yes, it is so funny because it is so true. I was like, “I need something like that!” That’s how @lilbabycheezus came into place. Then I went on a job when I was 18 with this client I will not name, but it was funny–one of their head people said, “Uh, @lilbabycheezus. That’s never going to work. No one’s ever going to be able to find you and no one’s gonna like. That’s horrible for your industry because they won’t be able to see what you’re doing and no clients or anything will be able to locate you and it won’t catch on.” And I said, “Whatever. I’m keeping it. I don’t care.” And Boom! So now maybe she can eat her words. But I was like I’m just going to stay true to myself and true to this and trust the process. Yup. And it’s all been very good.