On a journey to help people
Tara Wilkinson-McClean loves a good story.
A voracious reader from a young age, she devoured experiences medieval and modern. Now, she has intentions of writing on history’s pages by changing the way Caribbean men and women view themselves through multifaceted work as a media practitioner, entrepreneur, lecturer in media studies and all-round agent of social change: “I believe that media is the single-most powerful institution worldwide . . . . We have so many damaging stereotypes of race, class and sexuality and I want to use the media to create what I refer to as conscious representation,” she calmly, but firmly asserted.
“These are representations that question established notions of power: that male is better than female, white is better than black. Representations that recognise we are different, but doesn’t assign an unequal value to that difference.
“If we could get young people to understand that your choice to be a man does not have to be this stereotypical representation that you see . . . that I can show you options; that is how I want to work . . . These boxes that people create are not the only things that are available to them.”
The 28-year-old believed this was possible, one person at a time, propelled by a purpose-driven life. Therefore, doing what made her happy while making others happy became Tara’s modus operandi.
“If I love it and I can help people, let’s do it!” she repeated a few times during the casual chat. It was an example set by her mother, Morita Wilkinson.
“When I was growing up, [my mother] was always an entrepreneur; I don’t remember her doing anything else. She would always be sharing with people and helping people. Many days I had to give up my bedroom for others, because there would be people she would meet [who] wouldn’t have a place to stay. She would take them home, and I would have to sleep with my sister,” she recalled with a smile. “Growing up in an environment like that impacts you.”
Tara started the Media Playhouse a year ago, a place where young children were encouraged to create their own stories. Children can learn coding, animation, videography and photography.
“The pilot went well and hoping to do a full programme in the summer . . . at Artsplash in Hastings,” she continued.
The idea was born out of her PhD thesis – which she has successfully defended, which explored construction of masculinity as influenced by men’s lifestyle magazines from Europe and North America. The five-year work was undertaken one year before she founded TWC, a public relations consultancy. Add to this already full plate, lecturing part-time in media studies at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill as well as in the mass communications programme at the Barbados Community College.
And even though living her dream was important, Tara revealed it was not without its challenges – especially with public perceptions.
“People would ask me why I was doing [it] or people would stop me on the road and ask me if I still at UWI after all this time,” she told EASY.
“When people are saying those things over and over again, you question what you are doing and wonder if you should be doing something else. Then, when I saw those red scribbles on my thesis, I [would] think, ‘I have been doing this for a while, which means that I have been working full-time for a while and every time I give my all, it comes with a bunch of red scribbles.”
In those days, the Deighton Griffith alumna found solace and support in her two dogs and husband/fellow entrepreneur Corey McClean.
They shared domestic responsibilities (although Corey did most of the cooking!) and cooperated with each other in their business ventures when needed. Guided by the example of her parents Morita and Keith Wilkinson, Tara knew the help of a partner made life easier for busy women. In fact, dad Keith was Tara’s childhood hairdresser. The petite beauty has also decided to create a forum for women to provide support for each other, aptly named The Lean In Circle.
“It will be a space that encourages women, showing them that you don’t have to be all and end all for everyone. Sometimes it just has to be you and you . . . . If you grind me [as the woman] to the bone then I am of no use to myself . . . eventually there will be no me, and what is the point of that?”