Akhenaton "Ken" Simmons has been a popular voice on the radio airwaves for years. Now, in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is not only providing quality entertainment but also leading the charge for healthy lifestyles.
Simmons and his wife, Darcell, do a fitness programme on CNC3 Television called Qurantine Grit Pump–the journey has been long and tough but, most of all, gratifying.
Simmons grew up in the hills of Prisgar lands in Laventille. His father, Phil "The Thrill" Simmons, was a well-known radio personality in those days.
But although it was a blessing, it became a curse in disguise.
"As much as there are good in Laventille, there are also negatives. Being the son of a media professional back then, people had the idea or the concept that I had money because my father was on the radio, so I was picked on and I was not respected as some of the fellas on the corner."
Simmons said he always had to prove himself to fit in and by doing that, he fell into the wrong crowd and started doing wrong things.
"So I start to rebel against my parents."
When he was 14 his parents took the decision to leave the area and the family moved to Arouca, but even in that community he found himself surrounded by negative people.
He said one guy taught him how to make weapons.
"I was carried on several robberies, did a lot of foolishness. In 1998 I was charged with malicious wounding."
Because of who his father was, it made the news.
Simmons explained that he was heading down a path of destruction because he felt that was the way to get attention.
His parents still showed up at court and he noticed his dad with patches on his head which looked stress-related.
"When I saw my mom looked like she hadn't slept, under her eyes had a lot of bags, I felt it. Even though I was into the bad boy/rude boy...I had a good relationship with mom so that propelled me and caused me to check myself."
His girlfriend at the time encouraged him to go to the church that her mom attended, which he did.
"And when I went to the church the minister was speaking exactly what I was feeling inside not what I was portraying on the outside. I was moved with compassion and a bit of tears, and at that point in time, I made the decision to give my life to Christ."
That intervention, he said, "caused me to still be alive today."
Simmons on the radio
Simmons grew closer to God but was still looking for his true purpose in life.
"People were telling me 'you have the gift of your father, you have that voice, don't let it go to waste'."
In 2006 Jamie Thomas allowed him to be a part of a gospel programme on i95.5 called the Perfect 10.
"Even though I had the voice and everything, I was nervous."
His career started to take shape and soon he began doing a gospel programme on Synergy TV called Gospel Sundays as well.
As time progressed, however, "I felt that I was being treated unfairly and my talent was being stifled and I thought I needed to experience more."
So he decided to expand outside the gospel arena.
Almost immediately he was drafted to do the morning show on urban frequency 94.1 FM and after a year moved to Ebony 104.1 FM.
He spent several years there before landing a job at Vibe CT 105.1 FM where he remains.
His shift vary in nature from retro to reggae to slows and soca.
"You can't box me into one thing...I just love radio and I think I am adaptable to what is required because I put a lot of thought and emphasis before I go behind the microphone."
Simmons said he thinks about what his listeners want.
"I think they feel the energy and the positivity that comes out in what I do regardless of the format. There is connectivity so that they feel the passion that I am prepared and I am not just winging it."
Most recently, there is a viral clip of him wining in studio.
"I was doing that long before I actually put it out on social media...my wife knows, so sometimes I would be in private, but it's a matter of feeling good."
Not to mention, he said, "it is also healthy."
The fitness journey begins
In late 2012 Simmons was preparing to get in shape for Carnival 2013 and the then owner of CLX gym told him he could do well in a new category in bodybuilding called men's physique.
"Somebody saw potential in me and I believed it and I decided to work on it. From that time up until June of 2013 I worked on getting my body in a particular way and I competed the first time at the National Junior Bodybuilding Championships and I came second in the country."
He said it was an interesting journey, both physically and mentally.
"It took a lot of discipline and what motivated me was the idea of getting a prize or being recognised nationally."
Two months later he competed at the Senior Championships and came second as well. He was then given the opportunity to represent his country in the Central American and Caribbean Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships in Santo Domingo.
"It was a great feeling putting on that red, white and black tracksuit."
It made him reminisce on how far he had come.
He continued bodybuilding for a few years, but in 2015 when he noticed some of the practices of the bodybuilding industry, with the use of illegal substances, he opted out and registered his fitness business.
Grit Fit is born
In 2017 Simmons started recording videos of himself getting back in shape.
Soon clients started to register, so much so that at the end of that year he and his wife officially launched the brand.
"The goal, the vision and the focus of Grit Fit are to make quality fitness programmes more accessible and affordable for people living in communities."
A majority of their clients are women.
He explained that before they start with a client a consultation would be done and measurements are taken.
He said even though most of the training is grouped, they try to give as much individual attention as well.
The company also provides nutrition plans through his wife, who is a certified chef.
Quarantine Grit Pump
The business began to boom but hit a major stumbling block when the coronavirus arrived on our shores.
"Immediately all of my income stopped," Simmons said.
Initially, notwithstanding this, they started doing free training for their clients online via Zoom.
But then he told his wife, "baby, we have to find an avenue to give. In this time where there is a drought, let's find some way to give because the principle of giving, the law of compensation is that it must come back."
The couple then took their free workouts to Facebook live.
They did it from Monday to Wednesday.
He said it got a lot of attention and people appreciated it.
Soon he got a call from CNC3 indicating that they wanted the programme.
"I couldn't believe the excitement and joy knowing that we did something in faith with a good heart to help people and it came back, and we got an opportunity to take it to another level."
He said so far the feedback has been positive.
"Out of this, we show people the excuse that we had all the time, it's not valid because we are bringing quality workouts right in the comfort of your own home."
He said the workouts are tailored for newcomers as well as advanced level fitness and also has a local feel to it.
Simmons is convinced that this product has the potential to be long-lasting and to be one of the most viewed programmes on television.
Simmons' Health Advice
His is also advising people to pay close attention to their health and don't wait for doctors to paint gloomy pictures before getting serious.
"We don't want to be motivated by fear, we want to be motivated with the understanding that a strong and healthy body is a temple of the mind. So you want to be able to function, to have the energy in life to do whatever your heart desires but you need a healthy body to do so.
"I know this sounds cliche, but your health is your true wealth, self-care and self-love are never selfish."
Quarantine Grit Pump airs on CNC3 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:30 am and 4:30 pm. It is also broadcast live on Facebook.