In the Fall of 2013, Jamaican songstress Tessanne Chin became the first non-US citizen competitor in NBC’s The Voice, the American reality television singing competition. Even with unquestionable talent, there was no way she could advance or win unless she managed to get the most votes and most song purchases in the specified voting periods each week.
Jamaicans went above and beyond to bring victory to our fellow Jamaican, Tessanne Chin. We voted every possible way, bought the songs multiple times, called family and friends to vote, held and participated in real parties and Twitter parties – all meant to demonstrate without a doubt that we would bring out the vote for our girl to take home the trophy. And with our help, Tessanne became the winner of Season 5 of The Voice.
For many, the competition provided a welcome excuse to reconnect with each other across borders, and share our culture with our non-Jamaican friends and colleagues. Hear from #TeamTessanne “Troop” Member: volunteer, Terri-Ann McKenzie.
Where do you live? What’s your connection to Jamaica?
I live in Irving, Texas. I was born and raised in Jamaica, but migrated to the United States as a teenager and have lived here for many, many years. My husband is Jamaican and we visit Jamaica every opportunity we get.
Why did you join #TeamTessanne? When? What did you do to help Tessanne Chin win The Voice?
I joined #TeamTessanne from the beginning of The Voice season. I had never watched a season of The Voice prior to this. I was already following Tessanne’s Facebook page from a couple of years ago. I saw the post announcing her audition on The Voice. I made it a point to watch because as a fellow Jamaican, I planned on supporting her.
Although I wasn’t aware of the #TeamTessanne hashtag until almost halfway through the season of The Voice, I was promoting the weekly viewing of the show and urging friends to vote, vote and vote from the first day. Each week I’d post the number to call on my Facebook and Instagram (Twitter also later on in the season) pages as well as text friends and family. Everyone in my household voted. My step-mom in New York received my weekly text reminders to vote.
Once, I even texted the phone number to my coworker who was on vacation. He voted. My husband, Facebook friends and coworkers thought I was nuts, but they admired my passion and dedication that lasted the entire season of the show. I was asked once if Tessanne was my cousin because of my commitment to promoting the vote.
I also contacted a few local Jamaican restaurants requesting that they host a Voice watch party and ultimately got the agreement of one. The watch party was promoted and held each week as the contest got closer to the finale. In addition to above, I purchased all of her songs on iTunes; even gifting songs to family members who didn’t have iTunes.
What motivated you to help Tessanne?
The main reason was because her voice is amazing! I absolutely believed in her strength and felt she really had a chance at doing well. She also exhibited humility through-out the entire season, which I admired. As I told the person who asked if she was my cousin, I was just a fellow Jamaican trying to help. If she had failed, Brand Jamaica would’ve failed. I had the ability to vote and help get votes, so I felt it was my responsibility as a fellow Jamaican to do so.
We saw that you gave your co-workers Jamaican products as gifts. Why?
So because of the weekly badgering of my co-workers to vote for a singer unbeknown to them, I was compelled to do something nice to show my heartfelt thanks. Did I mention that my co-workers didn’t even watch The Voice?
They were just taking my weekly phone number and dial-ling because I asked. I felt that a gift from my country was appropriate considering that I, a Jamaican, was pestering them to vote for another Jamaican. I gave them each a bottle of Appleton rum with a cocktail recipe attached. What better way to try and capture a little piece of Jamaica? What’s more irie than rum?
Outside of mobilizing support for Tessanne, what other ways have you spread the word about Jamaica – the people, country, products and services? How have those messages been received?
Everyone who knows me knows that I’m Jamaican. I speak highly of my country and always recommend it as a place to visit. I share and discuss the food with co-workers. I talk about the culture. I encourage people to visit local Jamaican restaurants. I talk about the music. I’m the “go to” person in the office and among my non-Jamaican friends for any questions regarding Jamaica.
Being in the airline industry, employees are always seeking new places to visit even on a moment’s notice. Jamaica is ALWAYS at the top of my list. I’m often asked about recommendations for hotels, resorts, restaurants, site seeing, etc. I even wrote an article once about Jamaica that was posted on my company’s internal site and view-able by over 70,000 employees at the time of publication. People just love Jamaica.
As an unofficial ‘Brand Jamaica Ambassador’, what would you like to share with readers about how they too can be unofficial ambassadors?
There’s not much work needed for being an unofficial ambassador. All that has to be done is for Jamaicans or those who love Jamaica to share and embrace what they love – the food, the people, the music, all of the culture – and others will be curious. When they finally get to experience Jamaica, they’ll realize why we love it so much and fall in love too.
Terri-Ann McKenzie is a Senior Financial Analyst at the world’s largest airline, American Airlines Group. A member of the Caribbean Employee Resource Group, she works at AA corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas and resides in Irving, Texas with her husband and children. She holds a Masters of Management from the University of Dallas and a MBA from the University of Phoenix. She enjoys travelling and has visited 29 countries to date. She’s presently pondering where her 30th country to visit will be.