Tessanne Chin was awarded the Gold Medal of the city of Kingston, Jamaica yesterday. This is just one more of the many accolades Ms. Chin has received since first appearing on the TV show, The Voice in September of 2013. In hindsight, her success may seem logical. But the weight of uncertainty and risk is easy to overlook when you know that in the end, it can be overcome.
The reality is that last year, it would seem unlikely that a Jamaican would win one of the most popular singing competition shows in America. Added to the mix were not only possible external struggles, like her eligibility to even be on the show; but potential internal struggles as well….such as emerging from the shadow of her Jamaican superstar sister, Tami Chynn; and needing to sweep aside widespread stereotypes such as the idea that “a Jamaican” is a person of African decent with long dreadlocks on their head.
Sadly The Voice has not been known to launch their winners into superstardom, like its competitor American Idol. But who knows, Tessanne may be able to break that mold as well. Even so, there are 4 great lessons we can learn about her success so far:
1. Don’t be afraid to try out a unique path to success. Jamaica has a really rich musical culture. In fact, the island releases more recorded music per capita than any other country in the world. However it is mostly a domestic product; distributed and enjoyed by the Jamaican diaspora, and then every once in a while, a non-Jamaican musical act, record label or concert tour may choose to feature you. Tessanne opted to embark on a completely different path. And it worked! This goes to show you, do not be hesitant to try a different approach simply because no one has ever done it before.
2. Find the courage to emerge from the shadows. Tessanne’s sister, Tami, has been a popular singer in Jamaica for almost a decade. Although there are definitely examples of successful younger siblings who have made names for themselves (i.e. Janet Jackson, Charlie Murphy and Mark Wahlberg for example); there are many others that try…and then fail. The key is really to embrace yourself and your own unique talents. Use the success of those around you for inspiration, and not as an obstacle to overcome in a competition. Nurture healthy relationships with those who are close to you and successful. Embrace them as a mentor is possible. And never, ever let jealousy cloud your sight to your own dreams and goals.
3. Don’t let the ignorance of others deter you. Since Tessanne’s appearance on The Voice, I’ve heard more than a few comments from others about their surprise that there are non-Black* Jamaicans (*-Tessanne actually does have some African ancestry via her mother’s side). Being descended from East Indian Jamaicans myself, this sentiment wasn’t new to me. What was new was the sheer scope of the exposure. Tessanne’s appearance would be presenting a big cultural anomaly to millions of people not only in the United States, but around the world. How much Tessanne hesitated due to this, we won’t know. What is more important is that in the end, she didn’t let it stop her. A true inspiration to those of us who have to consider the racist, sexist, ageist, and homophobic stereotypes that we may encounter along our journey to bigger and better things.
4. Enjoy and embrace the opportunity; even before you know that success will happen. Since her appearance on The Voice, Tessanne has really taken to social media. I’m following her on a few networks, and she really is a joy to follow. She candidly admits her struggles and is always very gracious and thankful. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her post anything completely negative or critical!
Appreciation is the key. Appreciate, enjoy and embrace the opportunities that come your way. Even if they don’t turn out the way you want them to in the end.
So thank you Tessanne; thanks for being an inspiration and an absolutely fabulous “unofficial ambassador” for Jamaica. May you enjoy much more success in the future!