How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I’ve been on the sales and distribution side of the wine business for over 10 years now. Prior to this career pivot, I had a diverse work history that included pharmaceutical sales, and front of the house management in the restaurant industry. I’m a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, WSET Level 3 through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators. I’m currently the Senior On-Premise Manager for JUSTIN, Landmark, JNSQ Wines & FIJI Water covering the states of Georgia, South Carolina & Tennessee. In 2017 I founded The Lotus & The Vines to redefine wine culture, by sharing the soft skill of wine knowledge and etiquette empowering individuals to put their best personal and professional brand forward. For me, wine is about community. I believe that by breaking down the enigma of the wine world with education, the wine industry will look more like my community.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
My “aha” moment came during a sales incentive trip I earned to go to Napa and Sonoma in 2012. It was so beautiful to see the areas I had previously only read about. The vineyards were so expansive and rich with history. It didn’t hurt either that we were treated like royalty. During that trip, I had an epiphany and I committed myself to learn as much as I could about wine.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love the relationships I’ve made over the years. Some of my closest friends have come from my career in wine. My job combines sales and relationships. Building authentic relationships has truly been a gift. I also love seeing people have their own “aha” moments with wine because of something I shared with them!
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
I must say that being a Black Woman in this industry has been an amazing journey, even with its challenges. I have mentors and a community of wine sisters that consistently pour into me and keep me going. Sadly, I’m sure that I’ve experienced more prejudice than I’m even aware of. I’ve definitely experienced, on more than one occasion, the classic look of surprise when it’s realized that I’m the presenter at a wine dinner or wine event followed by compliments of how articulate I am. Why would a Black Woman talking articulately and confidently about wine be such a surprise? It’s a reminder of the much-needed diversity this industry still needs. There wouldn’t be a surprise if there were more people that look like me in the roles that I’ve been fortunate to have.
Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and are often more judgmental of other women as a result. How can we as women become more aware of our own prejudice towards each other and change that behavior?
It starts by looking in the mirror and acknowledging our own insecurities so that we don’t project them onto each other. I have two dear friends in this industry who always say, “all ships rise with the tide”. There’s room at the top for all of us. We must all collectively decide to get out of our own way with preconceived notions, stereotypes, and judgments. By encouraging each other, we will create shockwaves throughout this industry that will implement real change.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
A wine industry that better reflects the world we live in including women, people of color and other marginalized communities will create incomparable growth. It’s also simply the right thing to do.
What changes do you hope to see in regard to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I look forward to seeing more women and people of color in the boardrooms and in positions of influence. I look forward to seeing more inclusive marketing that authentically engages different communities through an active and inclusive approach to sales, marketing and distribution.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
One of the first things I learned in this industry is that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. So, SQUEAK! Study to show yourself approved. Be excellent. Find a mentor or two and be an engaged mentee. When you see an opportunity, go for it. Make sure you reach back and bring someone up with you!
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
No longer being “the only one” in the room.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
Through The Lotus & The Vines, I am committed to give individuals the tools needed to feel comfortable in their skin and less intimidated when it comes to wine knowledge. Wine is factual and a little bit of knowledge can go a long way. Through education I can help level the playing field.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Bold, authentic, fearless, takes no BS, always reaches back for her fellow sisters, and helps to elevate their voices.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
There are many, which is a good problem to have. In no particular order, the women listed below have poured into me in some way shape or form, and I truly hope that I’m able to return what they’ve given me with interest. To me, all of these women truly embody what a Wonder Woman of Wine is. Wendy Lavoie, who is now retired took a chance on me and hired me for my first Supplier role. I am where I am today in this industry because of her belief in me. Sukari Bowman @thecolorofwine- Founder and owner of the Color of Wine podcast highlighting people of color in the wine industry. Julia Coney @juliaconey - A force. Dorothy Gaiter @dottieandjohn - A living legacy and national treasure. Shakera Jones- @blackgirlsdinetoo – My guide to all things fine dining and fine wine. Kelly Mitchell @kells01- My fine wine sister and “plug”. Regine Rousseau @shallwewine- My entrepreneurial inspiration. Jameelah Lewis @the_wine_lady- Knowledgeable, funny, and selflessly helped me pass WSET 3. Jordan Traylor- My partner for The Perfect Pairing. We have literally laid eyes on each other in-person once, but she answered my late-night text with a crazy IG Live idea, and we’ve been clicking together ever since.