Tue | Mar 19, 2019

Profile | Tara Playfair-Scott - Making bold moves

Published:Sunday | February 17, 2019 | 12:09 AM
Tara Playfair-Scott

Tara Playfair-Scott is a powerhouse. Not only because she climbed the corporate ladder on her own terms and views challenges as opportunities to rise to the occasion, but mainly because she was born that way. Unlike many of us who lost the guts to follow our intuition, somewhere between childhood and adolescence, only to spend a great deal of our adult lives relearning how to do so, Playfair-Scott fearlessly followed hers into the present moment where she is, undoubtedly, one of the most well-respected humans in her field.

A titan in public relations, marketing and artiste talent management, she is notorious for having a no-nonsense approach to life and business. To her, reputation is important and hers is formidable. Exceeding expectations, going beyond the boundaries of her job description and delivering on what she says she can do are mandatory. Having worked with power CEOs such as Debra Lee of BET fame, Playfair-Scott, is one to walk her talk. Although she may come across to some, as cold or aloof, she maintains that it is her insistence on demanding and expecting the best from herself and others, which may be misunderstood. The word 'Can’t' is not in her vocabulary; she is a relentless visionary who scoffs at excuses and has an uncanny knack of bending life to her will.

The only child of Peter and Yvonne Playfair-Scott, Tara was born in Kingston and attended Vaz Preparatory School. She enjoyed an idyllic childhood, growing up with friends and cousins, reading, drawing and nurturing puppies. She believes she embodies the best of both her parents. Her father, then a Lieutenant in the JDF, a dog breeder and outdoors life lover, taught her self-discipline, a love of dogs, adventure and music, the importance of routine and solving crossword puzzles, which she still does to this day. Her mother, she says, 'paved her approach to life through action' and instilled in her a lifelong love of reading, the value of relationships and the importance of independence.

 

Virginia:

Life began to change around the age of eight, when her parents split. In one of the boldest moves by a woman of her time, Yvonne Playfair-Scott, leaves her comfort zone to become an independent single mother in a foreign land. This boldness in action is one, which Tara would adopt and repeat throughout her own life. Accepting a job with the World Bank, Yvonne migrates to Mclean, Virginia, USA, while Tara stays behind to finish prep school. A year later, she joins her mother in a remarkably different cultural space.

There, she encounters an all-white community in Burke , VA; experiences “massive culture shock”, and has her first brush with racism when she becomes one of a handful of eight persons of colour in her entire school. Tara recalls one day riding on the school bus and hearing: “There’s a n*gger on the bus”. It was her first time hearing the N-word, so she goes to the school library to find out what it meant. She then learns she is the subject of the comment. That day, she didn’t take the bus home. Instead, she walks all the way, sits on the steps, waits on her mother to arrive and tells her she wants to go back home to Jamaica.

At such a young age, she finds the experience “overwhelming”, but never one to back down, Playfair-Scott, rises to the challenge. Upon the advice of her then best friend, Gillian Hodges, she trades pigtails and ribbons for curling irons and American style. She transforms herself into a new persona, which would attract fewer stares. Her innate resilience, and biannual visits to her heartland, Jamaica, kept her going through an experience, which, she believes, radically shaped who she has become - “someone who knows how to morph and deal with different types of people and personalities.”

 

University:

Life after high school was more dynamic and Tara made sure of this. Time spent with her cousin Kelly, who was attending Howard University at the time, sealed her decision to be a part of a movement, which she says, 'blew her mind'. The predominance of black culture rising from strong African-American, Jamaican and African communities made Howard feel like home away from home. With no intention of leaving this move to chance, Tara applied to several universities but burned every other acceptance letter, which came in the mail, except the one from Howard. Her parents were left with no choice but to send her to Washington D.C. where she studied Political Science under her father’s encouragement.

 

From there, she moved on to Miami, Florida, to study Mass Communications at FIU and intuitively moved around in the corporate arena gaining a wealth of experience. After getting her feet wet at her dad’s import/export company, she branched out, soon forging friendships, winning the hearts of mentors and establishing strong connections because of her incredible work ethic. Mentors like Jamaican-born Helen Chisholm at John Alden Life Insurance, taught her that “showing is telling” and a fantastic work experience at PBS, renowned for its original and unbiased programs, under the guidance of Cassandra Metzger, who taught her to be authentic and unbiased. Invaluable time spent at BET, where she worked on the launched {Block Party} in Harlem for the iconic 106th & Park show, reaped massive exposure and expanded her range of skills, venturing into PR work for artistes like Tank, Jaheim and Angie Stone. Sometime later, while working at the Discovery Channel, under TLC {The Learning Channel} she spearheaded the PR & Communications birth of the at little known show at the time the popular home design show 'Trading Spaces', turning it one of the first must see TV reality shows in the US.

 

Back to Jamaica:

True to form, Playfair-Scott, has made quite a number of bold moves throughout her career, baffling friends and family and repeatedly making a mockery of her comfort zone. From returning to Jamaica to work at Rickards and Rickardsto, going back to the US only to leave the Discovery Channel to return to work in Montego Bay and commuting at the time between the four Margaritaville's along the North Coast, and then moving back to Kingston to head Marketing at Cable & Wireless, Playfair-Scott, could be viewed as a bonafide risk taker. Undoubtedly she is, but if you follow her trail, which includes leading Marketing for a startup Airline - RedJet - you will realize that she would have excelled at any choice she made. She would have fit in anywhere or morphed into whatever she needed to be to get the job done. For the record, she has got every job she has ever applied for.

 

Belief:

Again, she was born like this and only got better with time. She moves through experiences, conquering most, making the best of all. For her, it is mind over matter, literally.

 

"Your mind is everything", she says, “you cannot live in a negative mental space.” It is this remarkable perspective which allows her to move through matters that would defeat the average man; matters like cancer. Now, a little over two almost three years into remission, she considers this chapter closed and refuses to be defined by it. A source of inspiration for many, especially those experiencing the disease, Tara encourages them to improve their overall wellbeing, starting with their minds.

 

Clearly, there’s more to her than her tough as nails persona. During this interview alone, about ten persons stopped to say hello including the waiter who greeted her with a hug. She is a genuine people person and known to help and open doors for others without hesitation. She is as comfortable at the Prime Minister's prayer breakfast as she is at Olly's annual Christmas themed costume party in Catholic School Girl regalia. Tara describes herself as a “weird amalgamation of things,” which is fitting considering she can be unpredictable, easily switching from curt, directing instructions to belting out Christmas carols in November in an unrecognizable falsetto.

 

CoWork Ja:

 

Today, she enjoys the pace of her life, living and working in her homeland and has a lot to keep her busy. She heads public relations for the ICD Group and manages the Sub-10 king, Asafa Powell, and artistes Agent Sasco and Tosh Alexander. She also co-founded the newly opened Cowork Ja, offering tremendous help to and fulfilling the needs of other budding entrepreneurs through the shared workspace. She says Cowork Ja was “born out of necessity. After leaving the Corporate world, I found myself working from home which, at first, was great but then I found myself distracted by simple things, dogs barking during a conference call, Judge Judy coming on as I needed to finish a presentation.” She also missed “having the energy and vibe of other people around,” and would try to work out of spaces like Suzie's or Cafe Blue, but while vibrant, these spaces didn’t encourage productivity or had the privacy to conduct a client meeting. So in true Tara spirit, she hatched a plan to take the cowork space to the next level in Jamaica after much research and visits to similar spaces in her travels to Canada and the US.

 

Friends:

 

A sociable introvert who has had the same close circle of loyal and protective friends for years, Tara, is cherished by those who know and love her. Highly spirited, it is said she is a master at telling and re-enacting stories. It should come as no surprise that she is an early riser as it is said all successful people have this habit. A homebody, who loves her two dogs, Shasha and Brinks, she can, most likely, beat you in a cook-off, especially with one of her signature lasagnes.

For Tara, life has always been a grand adventure that always takes her back to Jamaica where she is most at peace. The good she cherishes, the rest she chalks up to valid experiences and moves on. Ever evolving into what she considers the best version of herself, she continues to mold her life. She’s home now and very settled, but it would be wise to continue expecting the unexpected from this rare human, whom we now reasonably guess is nowhere near finished changing the game.