Celebrating International Women’s Day with renowned Editor of the Jamaica Observer #EachforEqual #WomenWhoInspire
“Find your niche and become an expert.”
Twenty years since the start of her career at the Jamaica Observer, an Order of Distinction is permanently fixed to Novia McDonald Whyte’s legal name. The award serves as a reminder that NMW’s editorial work feeds her country with food and fashion knowledge. Today, her annual signature events are economic drivers; Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards, Takes Style Out (formerly Fashion’s Night Out - FNO) and Design Week JA. She is an innovator whose column contributions transformed newspaper traditions. On International Women’s Day (IWD 2020), we celebrate the words, wit and wardrobe of a pioneer woman, and it all began with a poem.
NMW recalls her first industry currency. “I guess the writing bug hit when I won a poetry competition in London. Getting the opportunity, however, to help build a newspaper section from the ground up and to complement sections with events made this the perfect dream job.” There were two components she wanted in life: glamour and travel. But she didn’t necessarily know how to attain it. Her leverage was excellent schooling and authentic cultural education. Born into a Jamaican family, she enjoyed the richness of formal and family instruction.
That combination served her ambitions and its easy to see how living and travelling in cities like Paris and Grasse may have helped earn her the description of being Jamaica’s style trendsetter. Her standards are high, which is why mediocrity, tardiness and a celebration of poverty make NMW’s top 3 most hated attributes list. She believes that exclusive content trumps all and that digitisation, which has already been embraced by the media, should continue to be used.
No doubt creativity and originality make up her most celebrated list for she is the creator of the prestigious Table Talk Food Awards.
“I was watching the Oscars and immediately thought that an Oscar night in food would elevate our product and our region. It has!” The late great Norma Shirley referenced as ‘The Julia Child of the Caribbean’ encouraged the idea. Her vision is clear. “To position the region as a culinary destination. We pack our bags to travel to Europe to eat. I want the region to have the same currency as Paris or London. We have taken the Awards to Cayman and Trinidad.”
Celebrity Chef Jason Peru agrees with her and adds, “Anything Novia touches has the potential to pique interest and harness attention from politician, business and citizenry. She continues to be a well-respected woman in the media sector of the Caribbean”
With longevity and consistency, the 21-year-old Awards ceremony displaces cultural food beliefs. “Two decades ago Caribbean people frowned upon ‘cooks’ now it’s considered trendy to be a chef, caterer, food stylist, blogger etc. That has been the success of the Awards. Plus we have afforded over 100 scholarships in hospitality. We also work with the Tourism & Hospitality Faculty of the University of Technology (UTech).”
Since the success of the Table Talk Food Awards, NMW was also instrumental in creating the Jamaica Observer Takes Style Out. The Style Awards is a celebration of all that is haute and fab in the Caribbean.
The Style Icon, who is well known for her trademark white-framed glasses, loves the fact that exquisitely made tailoring is front and centre in current style trends. Meiling, Claudia Pegus, Keneea Linton, Carlton Brown, Greta Constantine, Jessica Ogden and Theodore Elyett are her favourite designers. She protests against fashion over function and doesn’t do selfies - just photos!
Novia McDonald Whyte is our example of a woman who challenges the norm in word and action. Her work is a landmark victory for women whose aspirations in industry are clouded by stereotype and gender imparity. She built an open road into a new area of publishing for one of Jamaica’s most successful national newspapers. People all over the Caribbean now travel that road. In a few months time (Christmas 2020), we’ll have the opportunity to read and learn more about NMW in her new book. Her lesson? Bring fabulous to the table. Bring you to the table.