As the face of the Cayman Islands new romance ad campaign, Grace and Trai Byers are putting their love on display to help market the destination for lovers that want to have a romantic island getaway or wedding. As a native of the island, Empire’s Grace Byers was an easy choice for this campaign to come alive.
No stranger to the enchantment and beauty that the destination features, co-stars Grace and Trai Byers tied the knot last year in a secluded, secret Grand Cayman beachside wedding among some of their closest family and friends. Now she is encouraging all those who want to have a romantic and unique, yet authentic island experience, to come out and see why the Cayman Islands is held so close to her heart.
Here, she shares some of the details of her Caymanian wedding, why it’s perfect for lovers, and some of her favorite places to eat, play and stay during her trips back to the island.
ESSENCE: It’s definitely a natural fit to have you apart of the Cayman Islands new romance campaign. For romance and weddings, what makes the Cayman Islands different from other Caribbean countries?
Grace Byers: "It means so much to me [to be as the face of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism’s fall romance ad campaign with my husband Trai Byers]. My Caymanian roots are dug very deeply within the country and culture; I consider Cayman my home. Although I was born in America, I am biracial and multicultural (my father is American and my mother is Afro-Caribbean, from the Cayman Islands in particular, and all of my mother’s family is from the Cayman Islands). When my parents divorced, my mother, sister and I moved to the Cayman Islands, (I was at two years old at the time) and we grew up there. Cayman was my entire childhood, my only home and the entire culture that I knew, until I moved back to America at 18. It was special when I took Trai [Byers] back to the islands. Since Cayman comprises such a large part of who I am, it was important to share it with Trai. When he was there, he saw how stunning and gorgeous the island was, but more than that, he noticed how I shifted - that I came alive in a different way when I was there. When we were talking about our wedding, I didn't want to monopolize it by 'strongly suggesting' that the wedding should be in the Cayman Islands, but it turns out, I didn't even have to do that! He was the one who was sold on getting married there. It was such a gift and truly a wonderful time for us. Instead of mass amounts of flowers and decor, our backdrop was literally the Caribbean Sea. Trai said, 'I don’t even want to detract from that. The island itself is stunning.' Hey, when a man's right, he's right! After that experience, we were thrilled to partner with DOT in order to introduce that luxurious aspect of Cayman to the world. It's a small island of only 100 square miles that if you blink while looking at the map, you might miss us! And that's why I'm thrilled to be apart of bringing more awareness to the sublime beauty and natural intoxication of my unique country. It's an experience NOT to be missed - not even with a blink."
ESSENCE: Why is it perfect for lovers?
Grace Byers: "It depends on what you're going for. That’s why I really love the island —because it’s so versatile. Some people want a beautiful beachside wedding —that was the kind of beauty that we were going for— and goodness, did we have that! Our water is a crystal clear blue and our sands are a fine, powdery white. Just perfect. If you want something more cultural or more historical, one of the most popular sites to get married at, is our Pedro St. James Castle. Not only is it still standing as the oldest building in the nation, but it served its purpose in our history as a courthouse, a jail, the birthplace of our democracy, so many things! It's a true historical part of our culture formed in a gorgeous building that creates a stunning reveal for brides and outstanding backdrop photos. Our hotels like the Ritz, Kimpton, Marriott and Westin also have stellar accommodations for the most beautiful of weddings. In addition to an unlimited amount of stunning Cayman sites to get married on, we are considered the culinary capital of the Caribbean. The food overall on the island is outstanding. We have a melting pot of different chefs, born and raised in the Cayman Islands, as well as from all over the world. The fusions that are created because of that, are so decadent and delicious. That was a big thing for Trai and I too —we are such foodies! The wedding food had to be nothing short of mouth-watering. Not to mention, you're looking at pretty much perfect weather - year round. Rainy days are few and far between!"
ESSENCE: Where is your favorite place to eat, play and stay in the Cayman Islands?
Grace Byers: "To eat, my favorite kind of food is Caymanian food, of course! So to get that local fare, I would have to say Miss Vivine’s Kitchen in East End (which is among my top favorites)! There's also an amazing Italian restaurant called Casanova's, and it is so good. Everyone on island knows it. Trai and I have been to both Venice and Rome and the Italian food at this restaurant beats them both! It's an island go-to spot, and you're guaranteed to have a superb dish there. As far as play, right now, Camana Bay is my favorite, which is smack dab in the center of the island. It’s an outdoor mall kind of vibe. There are a bunch of really great restaurants there, a bookstore, shops, movies, ice cream/gelato, everything! You could literally spend the day at Camana Bay and stay entertained doing a plethora of different things. Another thing too, it's in walking distance of other attractions on the island. I used to stay with family, but now that we’re married, we stay in hotels. Ha! So for us, it’s between 4 places. Our top place would be the Kimpton, it's really wonderful. It’s right on 7-Mile Beach, and the accommodations, service and food are so good. It's just a really luxurious place to stay. The Ritz Carlton is also really well done, and the other two are Marriott and Westin. The thing that I love about those latter three, is that they have a lot of local employees, which is what I adore. A big asset of the island is our people. To have that 'Cayman-kind"' is our essence. The people back home are the kindest, sweetest, most thoughtful people that you will ever meet and come across. It’s important for me to meet and be serviced by people who live in and know the country like no other. So, that's why those are my top four places to stay."
ESSENCE: Have you brought any of your Empire cast members down to the island (besides your husband)?
Grace Byers: "We haven't brought anybody down (yet!) but I know that Yazz has gone, because he went for Winter Music Fest in December. He asked me about accommodations and restaurants —I was thrilled to assist! He had an amazing time. Terrence [Howard] has also gone a few times and we've spoken about it a lot —he’s a big fan of Cayman!"
ESSENCE: How did you feel when you learned of the devastation that faced other islands in the Caribbean because of the recent hurricanes?
Grace Byers: "The wonderful thing about the Caribbean, is that we all are one. Bob Marley's 'One Love' was not a hyperbole. When people from Caribbean countries meet each other, we consider each other family. In about 2004, Hurricane Ivan hit the Cayman Islands and demolished the country in a terrible way. It took the island about ten years to rebuild back to a state of normalcy. To have that personal experience and to see what’s happening now, it affected me and everyone I knew very deeply; sympathetically and empathetically. I have friends from Dominica and St. Maarten who I've checked in with: 'Have you checked in with your grandmother? Or with your aunt?' Thankfully no one that I knew had anyone that passed away. But the ravage of these islands by the onset of hurricanes has been a devastating thing. I'm just really proud of the true Cayman-kind efforts of our island in these dire situations; Cayman has sent donations, supplies, water and support to our fellow islanders in need and that's what makes a significant impact. To continue to show love by what we do; as a people and as a country."