Terri, in Atlanta
Growing up, TERRI LEWIS found the old African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child in full effect. Surrounded by nurturing family and genuinely concerned adults, Terri attributes much of her success to those formative years because she learned from her community elders that failure was never an option. After all, when your uncle is the junior high school principal and the English, science and math teachers, and your high school principal live next door, there truly is no room for mediocrity.
Terri is not only a successful marketing manager, but her management responsibilities take her to incredible cities around the world and because Terri has always enjoyed traveling she embraces each new city with enthusiastic determination. Traveling allows Terri to explore new cultures, new music and new cuisines. It’s an interesting life for a girl who grew up in a small southern town on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Terri and I met many years ago and bonded over way too many brownie bottom pies, but I still learned quite a bit about her during our marathon 5-hour interview and I believe you will discover why Terri is not only wicked smart, but one of the most accomplished women I know.
Describe your fondest memories of growing up in Natchez?
My fondest memories are of my neighborhood friends. We had an amazing group of girls who formed our neighborhood Girl Scout troop from brownie to senior and we leveraged our cookie dollars to take field trips together and to go camping. We hiked the Natchez Trace, volunteered as junior camp counselors at Camp Natchez, and built ramps to perform daring skateboard tricks!
Why did you decide to become an engineer?
I always excelled in math and science courses. My older brother had also obtained a Chemical Engineering degree from Mississippi State. I wanted to be different and declared my major in Computer Engineering. Pretty soon though, I realized that I enjoyed using computers but didn’t really care a great deal about how they worked; so, I switched to Chemical Engineering.
What was the transition like moving from engineering to marketing?
Studying Marketing was a lot of fun! I attended Johns Hopkins University for my Masters and was ready to make a career transition from the world of consumer manufacturing into a more strategic, customer-driven role. I enjoyed the classes and the engaging discussions on market trends and case study analysis. Unlike Engineering, where everything was based on a hypothesis or key assumptions, I found Marketing very straightforward, after all, most of the answers or recommended approaches were found in the book.
How do you define your personal style?
I would describe it as urban sophistication. I mix Prada, Manolo, DKNY, Tory Burch, and Louboutins with H&M, All Saints Spitafields, Gap, and Chuck Taylors of which I own 6 pair from lime green to skull & bones.
Who are your style inspirations?
I like easy, effortless styles…from Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Hutton and Veronica Webb to Shala Monroque and Maya Villiger. At the end of the day, you have to wear the clothes and not let the clothes wear you. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin.
What is something you wish you could wear, but can’t or won’t?
Tall, black, stiletto thigh-high boots like Dawn Robinson from En Vogue…it’s a fabulous trend when done well but unfortunately, my calves won’t allow it.
Describe your favorite fashion moment as a child.
My infamous 80’s wardrobe of Esprit de Corpes…Loved the vibrant, bold colors and over-sized, boxy clothes. The 80’s style made me feel fearless and happy. When I pledged a sorority, the first thing my Dean of Pledges told me was that I was forbidden to wear anymore of that “damn Esprit!”
What is your favorite travel destination for fun and relaxation?
For pure rest and relaxation, I love St. Martin (the French side). Orient Bay is one of my favorite beaches and the food in Grand Case is incredible!
Name one unforgettable place that you’ve traveled too.
The first time I landed off the ski lift on top of a blue-sloped mountain in Colorado with nothing but snow to behold in the distance…amazing and scary as hell…there was only one way down and I’m not the best skier!
Name one place you would like to see before you die.
Where does your courage to travel and explore new avenues come from?
I guess I never thought of it as a courageous act. Growing up, my parents were adamant about summer vacations. We traveled every summer with my uncle and his family to a different amusement park within the Southeastern region. I was always pretty inquisitive and talkative, so my father gave me a role as navigator to keep me occupied during long trips. By age 10 or 11, I could plot a course on a map better than most adults and I studied those AAA books from cover to cover. Those skills have served me well, whether navigating the New York City subway system or managing alternative travel arrangements during an air or railway strike in Paris.
Knowing how much you love music, which artists should we download?
Esperanza Spalding, Liz Wright, Michael Franti, and all things Sting and Prince.
Name a song that takes you some place special whenever you hear it.
‘Shake It Shake It Shake It’ by Michael Franti because it was my bucket list moment to dance on stage with one of my favorite artists and it happened in front of a sellout crowd at Tabernacle.
What traits do you value most in your friends?
Transparency, Honesty, Acceptance, Loyalty, and Inspiration.
Which philanthropic causes do you support and why?
Susan B. Komen because everyone has been affected in some way by that horrible disease, Associated Black Charities because they serve a breath of charities, and the Bridge Atlanta for working to improve the lives and social functioning of Georgia’s troubled and abused adolescents.
Describe an unexpected pleasure.
Cuddle time with my dog, Troy.
What advice do you have for young women?
Asked to write your memoirs, what would the title be?
The Life I Planned versus The Life I Lived Because God Knows Best
Interviewed November 2010 by Yolanda, editor of Zavvi Rodaine.
© Zavvi Rodaine.com 2010. No part of this interview may be used or reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the Editor of Zavvi Rodaine.com.
Photos: Terri’s personal collection.
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