Published: Sunday | October 5, 2014 | The Jamaican Gleaner
Terry Brown's inner strength
Internationally renowned fashion stylist, certified Bikram Yoga Instructor and Entrepreneur Terry Brown and her two siblings were raised in Portmore, St Catherine. "My parents were very strict, they didn't want us to play outside too much, and taught us to rely on each other's company instead of going outdoors'. Brown was the middle child and when she was 10 years old, her mother migrated to Canada leaving them in the care of their older sister, Michelle, who assumed the maternal role. "I now realised why my mother taught us to rely on each other," Brown tells Outlook. "She wanted us to have an unbreakable bond to prepare us for when she would not be around."
In her mother's absence, Brown discovered her true love. "When my mother migrated to Canada, my aunt would take us with her when she went to nearby street dances. It wasn't uncommon to see neighbourhood children at night dances back then, because there wasn't an age limit to go. That's when I fell in love with fashion - when I saw how much effort men and women put into their clothes and how much it was a form of expression of who they were. They didn't follow rules, but pushed the envelope and, in doing so, set the trends." She described to Outlook an era where men were clad in iconic Michael Jackson red 'Thriller' jackets and when women wore tasteful micro minis in bold polka dots.
Brown's grandparents, who lived in Manchester, were devout Christians and frowned upon the life the children were living, visiting local street dances and not attending church regularly. Their desire was for the children to have a solid foundation in the church, so one summer, they moved the children from Portmore to live with them in May Day. Brown admits that their grandparents' house was crowded - with 13 grandchildren living under one roof, Brown remembers sleeping in a bed of six. But it was full of love. "I appreciate that era in my life, because it taught me to appreciate everything in life and to not take anything for granted." Being raised by loving grandparents who taught them about love for The Lord and love for others was something that never left Brown. Later on in life, Brown would call upon her faith to carry her through a dark period.
A few years later, the children followed their mother's migration to Toronto, Canada. Enid Young was a single mother caring for three teenage children, and times were hard financially. In an effort to help with expenses, like most teenagers did, Brown took on babysitting jobs. She was hired to care for the children of a wealthy Russian immigrant woman, who owned a high-end luxury boutique. Realising that Brown was drawn to fashion and had a natural flair for the industry, her thoughtful employer taught her about fashion. Most important, she encouraged Brown to work hard, save her money and to buy quality pieces which would last forever. On weekends, Brown was asked to style private clients at the up-scale boutique, and from there, Brown built her career as a personal stylist.
A move to the United States lead Brown to complete college, get married and play her most prized role as mother to her son, Adrian, (named after her younger brother). Brown lived a fast-paced bi-coastal life between Florida and California. During this time, she held high-ranking positions in the fashion industry with The Gap Group of Companies and Burberry International. Everything seemed perfect - she dominated an industry she loved, made good money to afford the life she dreamt of, had a son everyone adored, and a faith that could not be moved. But all that was soon to change.
In slow, haunting words she tells Outlook, "I remember it like it was yesterday. The Priest, the school's principal and my son's teacher came into my store with Adrian's school ID on a chain. Tearfully, they said, 'we have something to tell you, please sit down." That dreaded moment when someone hears bad news is forever ingrained in their minds. "I will never forget it," she tells Outlook. Her was the victim of a fatal car accident. While riding his bike an 85-year-old driver accidentally ran him over. She admits that mourning the loss of her 12-year-old son was a very dark period for her. Like it was when she was young, it was the closeness of her siblings and parents that helped Brown escape the abyss of mourning.
Like so many before her who have lost loved ones, the pain is the same. Through her faith, she gained the strength to survive the death of her son and a divorce. "The loss of a loved one teaches you to appreciate life more and to value every minute. There are women who yearn for children and can't have them, I am grateful that the Lord blessed me with 12 years with Adrian and I hold on to those years forever."
Brown centres her life by keeping her focus on God, and maintaining a strict routine of practising and teaching yoga. Some notes that when some people see her with her designer bags, they think that's all she is. "If I was stripped of all the designer bags and shoes, I would still be the same person. Those things do not define me. Yes I have an appreciation for nice things and I work hard to buy them, but they do not define me. I could be comfortable sitting under the bridge with a homeless person and I would be just as content as attending a State dinner at the White House. I don't judge people; because underneath all those labels and fancy clothes we are all the same."
1. How do you spend your weekends?
On my weekends, I lead a pretty normal life, when I'm not travelling for work, I practise yoga and I go to church.
2. Where is your favourite vacation spot in Jamaica?
I love the serenity of the beaches of Black River.
3. Where is your dream international vacation spot and why?
I would love to go on an African Safari to experience the true wild life.
4. What is your favourite book?
You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt. This book is a very good read, it teaches you 11 keys of how to live a fulfilling life.
5. What is the best advice you have ever received?
My grandparents told me to always put all my trust in Jesus Christ. I've learned that when human beings fail you, Jesus Christ will never fails you.
6. What is the charity that means the most to you?
The internationally known Boys and Girls clubs they can be reached at www.bgcbc.org
CREDITS: Shot on location: South Florida
Clothing and Accessories: All model's own
Photographer: Marica Mitchell
Make-up and Hair Stylist: Tamara Xavier