Terri-Karelle Reid: “I was unapologetic about who I am…” | Own words

Host, speaker, author, trained veterinarian and former Miss Jamaica World Terri-Karelle (Griffith) Reid on redefining beauty standards, her journey through her diverse professional roles, and never dimming her light for anyone — as told to Shelly-Ann Inniss

  • Dr Terri-Karelle Reid on compère duty at the Jamaica Manufacturers & Exporters Association’s M&E Awards in Kingston, Jamaica. Photo by Jermaine Duncan courtesy Terri-Karelle Reid
  • Terri-Karelle Griffith at the finals of the 55th Miss World competition (Sanya, China) in 2005. Photo by Cancan Chu/Getty Images
  • Terri-Karelle (right) stands with four generations of her family. From left: mother Donna-Marie Scott, daughter Naima-Kourtnae Reid, and grandmother Millicent Audrey Scott. Photo by O’Neil Grant courtesy Terri-Karelle Reid

I entered Miss Jamaica World in 2005 with an Afro bouncing off the walls. People rooted for me, but didn’t think I’d win because I had natural hair. It’s as if you had to pick a struggle — you can’t be Black or Black with an Afro. 

I went on the stage, rocked my Afro and the place erupted. The newspapers reported a new day had dawned because they had a particular idea of what the beauty standard was, and here comes this contestant who’s gone against the grain presenting herself in her most natural form without any fear of consequence. 

When it was time to go to Miss World in Sanya, China, sponsors asked what I’d do with my hair for the international competition and I said wash it, condition it, and keep it moving. I was the most photographed contestant with my Afro. I also placed in the top 15 and won the people’s public vote. 

When I returned to Jamaica, there was a moment when it was okay to be Black with an Afro. Jamaicans called me their “Jamaican girl” because I was unapologetic about who I am and what I represented.

I have diverse professional roles and it’s interesting when people try to introduce me. I tell them just say my name. I think it’s easier when others call you a media personality than when you call yourself that. I see myself as a TV host and speaker. Certainly, after my TEDx talk, the demand for [me as] a speaker increased exponentially.

After receiving the invitation from TEDx, I wondered if it’s a scam. People audition and hire coaches to audition, but I didn’t. When they emailed, they said [TEDxAstonUniversity in Birmingham, England] was coming up and asked if I’m interested. 

I’m an unscripted speaker so being told to write a script, submit a draft, and other requirements made me want to say no. But even if you’re a master of your craft, there’s always room for improvement. A new level got unlocked and it was uncomfortable, but I did it. 

Imposter syndrome has never been a problem for me. We’re taught to marry our capacity and capability with training or what we studied, although our ability to grow categorically increases when we’re thrown into the deep end. 

For me initially, it was TV hosting because I’m a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. I never went to the Caribbean School of Media & Communication (CARIMAC), but I always jump into the deep end and figure it out. No ego. I’m open to learning. Plus, I know if God gave me an opportunity, He already equipped me. 

Inner peace and doing what I love make me happy. Having a partner who understands the calling over my life and willingly shares me selflessly with others while telling me that my capacity is even bigger than I know makes me happy. It’s a beautiful feeling when you don’t have to dim for your partner. 

Culturally, a lot of ambitious go-getters, movers and shakers, are prisoners of households and partners because of ego. Culturally, we are taught to be second place. It makes a big difference that I don’t have to wear a mask. I don’t have to pretend to be anyone other than myself. To have people understand that, respect it and emulate it makes me happy. 

People say I’m confident and very self-aware. These traits came from my maternal grandmother Millicent Audrey Scott who helped raise me in Portmore, St Catherine — and welcomed my 26 [rescue] pets. She taught me the importance of owning who you are. 

In this life, people will dislike you for absolutely no fault of your own. You don’t have to know anyone or say anything bad or malicious. The mere fact that you’re you, people admire you, and you’re thriving and glowing — people who don’t understand that will have something bad to say. 

Ask yourself a simple question: are you going to listen to them, withdraw and be a shell of yourself, or are you going to step into your greatness? I wouldn’t be who I am, I wouldn’t take on tasks, nor give myself credit or think that I have the capacity to do great things if I didn’t learn to be aware of myself, who I am, and what I stand for. 

My biggest achievement is my daughter Naima-Kourtnae — then TEDx. Everything I do for my daughter my mum Donna-Marie Scott did. She balanced work and attended my recitals, my swimming … everything. She was a flight attendant at Air Jamaica and a straight up hustler, always working, and independent. She showed me it’s important to earn your own money and be the breadwinner, but it’s important to balance expectations as a mum as well. That’s the model I took over into my life. 

With the pandemic, everything got cancelled and I found myself asking “what now” like everyone else … 2020 was to be my biggest year as an events host. I had events scheduled across London, Paris, the Dominican Republic and more. 

Whenever something happens in a crisis — even though it was on a completely different level — I don’t believe you should stop preparing, not in the midst of rejection or disappointment either. That’s when you do more because everyone else is panicking. So, I decided to build my website. 

Website built, jobs came, and people kept asking the same branding questions. I’d respond individually then I realised a cheat sheet on my website would have been more effective. But as I sat there, one page became 11, then 100. I didn’t want to write a book. I just wanted to answer the questions and go about my business. 

At that point, the demand for virtual hosting picked up, so time and my attention started to dwindle. But my accountability partners — my daughter, mother, partner, best friends — asked where’s the book, and in 2022 we launched My Brand Compass: The 13 Cs to Building Your Personal Brand, which had an all-female production team.

My favourite Cs in terms of building your brand are confidence and character. Before you can take necessary steps of becoming a brand that is credible and recognisable, you have to believe in it and believe you have something to bring to the table and you’re unique. You must believe in the power, gifts and talents you’ve been given are for a purpose. We all matter, and the question is how much you believe it. That’s the difference between one who gets ahead and the one who doesn’t. Character is your currency. Your name and your character go before you such that your name is dropped because of who you are.

The more you walk in your journey and not deviate, the right people find you. I’m in a season of harvest and simultaneously I’m getting ready to plant and bear new fruit. I don’t know what role, responsibility and title I’ll get. I just know wherever I’m planted, I want to be someone who can build the community around her and can impact, enable, and empower through service. 

Whatever I do next will always be divinely ordained and true to my brand — Terri-Karelle Reid, your Jamaican girl. 

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.