This month Deaf Beauty Queen and Fashion Graduate Karina Jemmott tells BDN what drives and inspires her.
Some of our keener eyed readers may recall that we recently started a series of interviews with upcoming deaf youths who are achieving big things.
Last time around, we interviewed James Boyle, a deaf entrepreneur with his own clothing label. Now we talk to a deaf youth also making waves in the world of fashion but
on both sides of the camera this time around.
Karina Jemmott started small when she was elected winter prom queen at BDA Youth’s Winter Prom event in 2014. Since then she has entered and won Miss Deaf Europe at Miss Deaf World in Prague, becoming the first black woman to win the award in the process. She is currently competing in Miss Barbados-UK where she is the first deaf woman to enter the competition.
However, Karina’s talents are not restricted to being in front of the camera. Behind the scenes Karina has two degrees in fashion with a BA in fashion design which included being shortlisted for Graduate Fashion Week and an MA degree in fashion pattern cutting. This has led to her current employment as a fashion pattern cutter for clothing brands such as Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Boohoo.
1. We will start with the question set by the previous interviewee, James Boyle. If tomorrow was your last day and you had the opportunity to say one thing to every single person in the world, what would it be?
I would tell people to reach for the stars and never give up.
2. It is clear that fashion plays a very big part in your life- where did it all start?
I think I got my love of fashion from my Nan. Since I was a little girl, I always explored my Nan’s wardrobe because she has a huge collection of clothes and I still do it even today. Sometime she sees me wearing something and says: ‘that top looks familiar!’
3. You have mentioned that you entered Miss Barbados UK to spread deaf awareness – why is that?
I saw an advert in a Barbados newspaper, which my mother buys and I thought that I would go along to the audition. I knew that I would be massively out of my comfort zone
but I hoped it would encourage other deaf people to put themselves out there. The other competitors have accepted me and they are now aware of some signs. For some I am the only person with a disability that they’ve met or had to work with, which will make it easier for the next person with a disability.
4. I know you have very fond memories of winning prom queen at BDA Youth Winter Prom – how did you feel when you heard that you had won and what are your memories of the Winter Prom?
My memories of the winter prom are the beautiful venue with a red carpet and everyone looking amazing like superstars. I was ecstatic when I won prom queen because it has given me confidence. Without BDA Youth Winter Prom, I wouldn’t have applied for Miss Deaf World competition.
5. I see that you have become the first black woman to win Miss Deaf Europe and that you have subsequently entered Miss Barbados UK – is your heritage important to you and how do you think deaf black people are viewed in the deaf community as a whole?
Heritage and culture is important to me because my family was born in Barbados. The Miss Barbados UK competition will help me to learn more about the culture involved. It includes a lot of workshops. In the deaf community, it’s important to promote ethnicity awareness
because then it can be seen that we are being discriminated firstly by our colour and then by our disability.
6. What is your opinion of today’s Deaf youth community? Are Deaf youths achieving big things or do you feel there is a lack of opportunities. Also what advice would you give to them?
Opportunities are slowly increasing in the Deaf youth community. Some are achieving big things but we still have a long way to go to overcome all the barriers. I am determined to ensure that I can fit in and function socially on an equal level as hearing people so that I can access more opportunities. This is my advice. When things don’t go right, try to pick out the things that you have learnt. Don’t see the whole experience as a negative.
7. What is your random question that you would like to ask the next interviewee?
If you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you change?