When you’re having a conversation with Kerra Denel it doesn’t take long to figure out the secret to her success. Her eagerness, determination and confidence are hard to ignore. These traits coupled with an admirable work ethic has led her to create an impressive list of accomplishments, as well as become a well recognized figure in the Caribbean cultural and entertainment industries. Based in my hometown of Toronto, Canada I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing her meteoric rise to success, which continues to inspire me each day.
Armed with an infectious smile, Kerra is much more than a pretty face. She’s intelligent, passionate about life and most importantly beautiful both inside and out, Kerra Denel is this month’s inspiring Island Muse Spotlight.
Tell me about yourself and the journey that led to your current career as an event planner/ media maven.
Before delving into event planning, I worked in the corporate world for years. When I lost my job as an event planner for the City of Toronto, I realized that there’s no stability in working for someone else. Luckily I always knew the importance of having multiple sources of income, therefore modelling was another successful side hustle of mines. Earlier this year I teamed up with my business partner to coordinate and plan our first major event; Winterlicious which was held in New York. The success of that event boosted my confidence and since then I’ve been blessed to plan events for major Caribbean brands such as Krave the Band and Carib Style Week to name a few. Apart from event planning, I love to travel, experience cultures and meet new people. My true passions have always been children and people.
You recently joined the world of philanthropy with your latest venture Kerra Loves Kids. What inspired you to launch this and how can people get involved?
Kerra Loves Kids is truly dear to my heart. When you are born and raised in the Caribbean-like I was, you know the importance of community. My grandmother has always been a major source of inspiration for myself. She was well known in her community and had a passion for volunteer work. When she passed away I felt that I had to do something to honour her legacy and give back to the Trinidadian community. Hence the idea for Kerra Loves Kids was born. The organization currently serves less fortunate children and I’m working on building the platform into a not for profit. Over the years I’ve learned the importance of reading in the development of children. Therefore, literacy is at the core of what Kerra Loves Kids is all about. I believe reading not only provides an escape for children, but fuels creativity and feeds their imagination. This year we hosted two charity events along with our book drives. We are always accepting book donations.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about yourself?
Hmmm. I believe the biggest misconception about me is that my success comes easy. People see the frequent trips, the parties and the nice hotels, however they don’t see the hard work I’ve put in over the years to attain the success I now enjoy. I’ve been working since I was fourteen, so I’m no stranger to hard work. Also, my success didn’t come overnight. I’ve dealt with job loss, disappointment and I’ve been told “no”, but I refused to give up. Life experiences have knocked me down, but I always knew that God had a bigger plan for me. I just had to keep doing my part and working hard.
What advice would you offer women wishing to pursue a career in the Caribbean entertainment industry?
Be yourself, step out of your comfort zone and most importantly be confident-as the industry is still predominantly male. Confidence is key because it sells. Even if you’re unsure about your next move or a project you’re working on, no one needs to know that. My confidence allows me to pursue new opportunities that I may not always have complete experience in. Also, people love and are attracted to persons who exude confidence. Finally, there are men in this industry that will try to take advantage of you and not always in a physical way- but monetarily as well i.e. not wanting to properly compensate you for a job you’ve completed. There will be tough days but don’t be discouraged. Stay focused and always believe in yourself and your dream, because that’s all you truly need.
How has your cultural background impacted your outlook on life, success and business?
My culture plays a huge role in my life. Growing up in Trinidad, the morals and values instilled in you are different from North American ones. Those morals and values are with me everywhere I go. Also, the Caribbean is very family and community oriented, so I involve my family in everything I do. I find that I crave contact with “real” people. People with substance, morals and people who genuinely want to make a difference in their communities. Our coat of arms reads; “Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve”, therefore I strongly believe in unity and love. I also know that when people come together they can achieve anything.
How do you keep your self motivated?
My mother is my motivation because she is a strong woman. As a single woman, she bent over backwards to take care of my brother and I. I work to make her proud. Also, seeing other women shamelessly pursue their goals inspires me.
Favourite place to visit when in Trinidad
I have a few (laughs). Mount St. Benedict; it’s a monastery way up in the hills of Tunapuna, Trinidad. There, you can find solitude, grace and peace. My favourite beach is Pigeon Point in Tobago, I just love the water at that particular beach. Finally, my father’s house is in the country. It’s quiet and peaceful. I go there whenever I want to relax and get in touch with nature.
If you had a few words of wisdom for Caribbean women, what would they be?
I wish Caribbean women knew how beautiful we are. We are artistic, creative and we love hard. Sometimes, we need to stop and look in the mirror and realize this. I believe if we did this, our confidence and relationships with both men and our Caribbean sisters would be better for it.