South Seas Island Resort is serious about quality staffing - and for born-and-raised Fort Myers girl Carolyn Hudson, accepting the new position of Community Relations and Special Events Coordinator at SSIR is an exciting bonus to being back home.
After years of experiencing the marketing world beyond Southwest Florida - from Miami, to New York and, most recently, Los Angeles - Hudson views her move back home as the conclusion of a phase in her life and the beginning of a happy new one.
"I've been back in Fort Myers now for about six months," said the second generation Floridian, noting that she's been learning the ropes at South Seas for the past month.
Singer/songwriter, artist and South Seas new Community Relations and Special Events Coordinator, Carolyn Hudson. Below are pieces from her jewelry line, Cleo VII, available at Arts for ACT in Fort Myers and South Seas' 2 Islands Gallery.
"I grew up coming out to South Seas. This job opened up and I thought, how great to get to work everyday where I grew up," she said.
Hudson keeps many photographs on her desk in her new office. But there is one particular picture - a snapshot of a smiling little girl sailing into South Seas' harbor - that holds special meaning, and best symbolizes Hudson's return to Florida.
"This is me. This is the girl I'm getting back to. And I just feel that the girl inside me missed home," Hudson said, adding that she's relished reconnecting with family, old friends and, perhaps most importantly, herself.
After getting her degree in journalism from the University of Florida, Hudson went straight to work as an assistant press secretary for Senator Connie Mack in Washington, D.C.
She then moved to Miami, where she held positions as an income development representative for the American Cancer Society, a senior account executive for an international public relations and marketing firm called Kreps & Adams and a senior consultant for Accenture.
While working for Accenture, Hudson moved to New York City during the company's transitional period, where she became senior marketing manager and experience both professional and personal change.
"I was three blocks away from September 11. That really affected me, and I think it held a lot of bearing in my deciding to eventually move from New York City," Hudson said. "I felt like I needed to stay there after September 11 and be a good New Yorker, but it took a toll [and] I was ready to leave corporate America."
Always a creative person, Hudson discovered a more soulful side to her artistic tendencies and discovered a new talent during her New York days.
"When I moved to New York, I was still corporate America, but I started meeting all these amazing musicians, producers, directors, actors, photographers, and I'd never really been in that world before," Hudson said, explaining that her parents had instilled in her from a very young age a fervent love of the arts and culture, but she'd hidden away her creative nature in order to focus on making it in the business world.
"I literally woke up one morning and said, 'I think I can sing,'" Hudson recalled.
After receiving enthusiastically positive feedback at a Soho workshop, acting as lead singer in a band and dabbling in writing her own music, she decided to take her newfound talent to the next level by releasing a jazz/pop album called "Living In My Skin," which ended up as a "Top 20 Album of 2006" on Indie-Music.com.
"I feel very fortunate because it helps me breathe. Music is air. It's my passion, I've discovered it and I feel so lucky," she added.
Hudson, while working hard on her album, was still working just as hard at Accenture when she decided she was burning out and was ready to get as far from New York as she could.
This decision brought her to Los Angeles, where she took a risk and started her own marketing company, Box of Bees Media, and began work on her second album.
But after spending three years there, she began to feel that L.A. wasn't where she needed to be.
"I was having fun, but I just didn't feel like it was home. New York felt like home. Miami felt like home. I said, 'I need some grounding. I've been gone for 20 years and I've really been working hard, [but] I really want to touch down," Hudson said.
After deciding to move back with the hopes of reconnecting with her roots and brining her whirlwind career full-circle, Hudson returned to Fort Myers and almost immediately found a job at South Seas.
"I'm ready to stop running. I want to slow down. It's like the old adage, 'stop and smell the roses.' Well, I'm stopping and looking at the egrets... I'm stopping and smelling the hibiscus," she said.
Hudson also noted that she's excited about her future at South Seas and is anxious to spread the news as the resort revamps it's image as a family-friendly and nature-conscious destination.
"I really want to get the word out about who we are and what we do," she explained. "My heart is in it. It's more than a job. I grew up here and I want people to know how special it is."
While she is continuing work on her second album, Hudson's latest foray into creativity has unearthed a special talent for jewelry-making.
Her pieces - more art than neckwear - are exhibited under the name "Cleo VII," an homage to the infamous Egyptian Queen Cleopatra.
She describes her work as designs for "the sensual modernist who draws attention" and relies heavily on architecturally interesting organic shapes (like shells) embellished with bits of classic accents, including pearls, rhinestones, glass, silver, silk and suede.
Cleo VII is on display at the Arts for ACT gallery in Fort Myers and also in South Seas' own 2 Island Gallery.
For more information about Hudson, her jewelry and music, visit www.carolynhudson.com - or just pop into South Seas for a quick hello!