The days of incredible women being undervalued and overlooked are numbered. In Complex Canada’s new series Hidden Gems, brought to you in collaboration with Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum and Fela, we shine a light on Jamaican-Canadian creatives who deserve to be celebrated. Case in point: Catriona Smart, a Toronto-based serial entrepreneur who’s the co-founder of public relations agency Halo and blogger behind pioneering women’s lifestyle site CocoAndCowe.com. Having done everything from plan album launches for Drake to starting successful clothing lines, she’s been steadily busting gender barriers at home. “For so long, women have been told to be quiet and be small, but there’s no time for that anymore,” Smart says. “Especially with our Jamaican heritage, nobody can tell us to sit in the corner.”
In this episode, Catriona meets with Joy Spence, our host and Appleton Estate’s Master Blender, and a trailblazer in her own right. Since becoming the first female Master Blender in the space, Joy has been shattering the spirits industry’s glass ceiling. Like Catriona, she attributes her achievements to her bold essence, detail-focused mindset, and rich sense of tradition. Both of them also thank their Jamaican upbringing, surrounded by strong women and joyous celebration, for making them the self-made success stories they are today.
Joy and Catriona continue their chat at Diner’s Corner, a warm and welcoming Caribbean restaurant in the heart of downtown Toronto. As both women share a passion for Jamaican tradition, Joy selects a traditional Jamaican dish—a jerk chicken salad—paired with the Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve Mai Tai, which perfectly complements the meal with its spicy and citrus notes. The two connect on their roots and their experiences triumphing in industries where most people don’t look like them.
“It’s all about sending the elevator back down,” says Smart. “I’ve had so many amazing experiences, and now it’s time for me to share that with younger women. I always say if you can edge the door open a little, you gotta kick it open wider for everybody else to come in.”
Watch the latest episode of Hidden Gems above.