When Dorothy Robinson was a little girl, she dreamt of becoming an international singer who would someday sing for a president. That dream became reality — only it wasn’t quite how she imagined.
For more than eight years Dorothy has been a room attendant at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, happily singing for guests (and herself) while cleaning rooms, being dubbed “The Singing Housekeeper” along the way.
Dorothy loves to sing “Happy Birthday,” “Happy Anniversary” and a farewell song when her guests depart. She has a natural vibrato and is an astute ad-libber, suiting her songs to specific guests and situations.“Sometimes I’ll see a card in the room that states ‘Happy Birthday’ so the next time I see the guests while taking care of their room, I will address them by their name and sing to them,” she says, adding, “I’m always singing on the floor.”
Dorothy grew up in Jamaica and was always singing at home. Her early musical influences were Tina Turner, Elton John and Donna Summer, as well as gospel music. She says singing is in her genes. “My mom has a nice voice and my sister also sings. It’s in our blood.”
She has lived on Grand Cayman for nearly 40 years and still sings at home, especially while she cleans. Often, she doesn’t even know she’s doing it.
Working at the hotel, Dorothy sees many returning guests. Some specifically ask to stay on the floor where she cleans, while others will stop in specifically to say hello. She could even be considered an Internet sensation. One recent guest saw Dorothy singing on a video posted on YouTube and Facebook, then came looking for her upon arrival requesting she sing to her.
“I love people, and I do it from my heart,” she says.
Darlenis Villarroel, director of housekeeping at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, nominated her for the J. Willard Marriott Award of Excellence. The distinction, which is named after the legendary company’s founder, honours the company’s finest associates for their achievement, character, dedication, effort and perseverance. Dorothy was given the award.
The ceremony took place in Washington, D.C., in May at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, and only 10 people were awarded among 800 submissions. Dorothy was the only room attendant chosen and also the only Ritz-Carlton employee representing the Caribbean and Latin American regions.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, General Manager Marc Langevin says the recognition is significant as Dorothy was chosen from 230,000 Marriott International employees.
“Dorothy has a special talent,” he says. “She knows how to make her guests feel special, welcoming them as she would welcome her family or friends in her home, identifying their preferences and ensuring to brighten their day with her smile, her genuine attention and even using her unique talent as a singer to bring joy. She is a true ambassador and an inspiration for all of us.”
Darlenis says Dorothy’s joyful demeanour and beautiful singing voice have led guests to leave glowing comments about her when they depart, and that she’s a great role model for other housekeeping staff.
“The genuine care Dorothy shows guests is something that you don’t get to experience in every single hotel,” she says. “Through her singing, she embodies The Ritz-Carlton mission and culture. There is no way a leader can train that. The fond farewell song she sings to her guests makes them feel so valued and special.”
Darlenis was right there cheering Dorothy on at the award ceremony and watched as J.W. Marriott Jr., the executive chairman and chairman of the board of Marriott International, Inc., personally presented the award to Dorothy — with a warm hug and a kiss on both cheeks. Dorothy then sang her favourite farewell-to-guests song, a loose version of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” The packed audience gave her a standing ovation for her performance.
Dorothy says she hopes her award will be a motivation for others, especially her fellow room attendants.
“It shows you can do it, even if you’re a housekeeper,” she says. “It opens the eyes for those who feel less about their jobs.… I want everyone to feel special. I’ve taken care of congressmen, politicians — all kinds of people from all around the world. To know people looked up to me and respected me this much … I just want to share this with others and give them some self-worth, and for them to give it their best in whatever they do.”