Nanette Thelemaque’s paternal grandmother was from Negril Jamaica while her paternal grandfather was from St. Barts also known as Saint Barthélemy. Her maternal grandfather immigrated to the US from Mexico and is an indigenous Mexican while her maternal grandmother is a mixture of African American, Native American and German ancestry.
We talk about the interesting culture found in the household of immigrants and what it felt like being a 2nd or 3rd generation American.
Nanette is the owner of InEssence Virtual Assistance and established her company in 2013 with a desire to flex her skill sets and give much needed support to business owners, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and busy professionals.
Paula: [00:00:00] Welcome to “Chatting With the Experts” a podcast for immigrant women from Nigeria, Ghana, and the Caribbean who have relocated to the UK and the US. Here we talk about the struggles and we highlight the triumphs experienced while sharing resources and experiences of our fellow immigrant sisters can benefit from. Many times my show is a little different. It’s typically for immigrant women from Africa and the Caribbean, but sometimes I throw in something a little more special.
So my guests today is Nanette Thelemaque and Nanette is the owner of In Essence Virtual Assistance. Nanette established her company in 2013 with a desire to flex her skill sets and give much needed support to business owners, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and busy professionals. Nanette’s passion is helping people move forward with their business and or their marketing plan. Nanette has a wide range of experience. And Nanette has carved a career for herself in sales and marketing for small startup technology companies during the first internet boom, in the mid nineties in Boston. After the collapse, she found work in the marketing department of a publishing company. And while there discovered her love for graphic design, product development and digital marketing. So Nanette has worked with clients in many states in the United States, and in Singapore. She resides in New Hampshire with her husband. And in her time off, she loves to hike, garden, spend time with her family and travel to warm places in the Caribbean like me. Nanette welcome to chatting with the experts. Tell us all, I’ve said everything about you. So I was going to say tell us all about yourself, but there’s nothing else to say right?
Nanette: [00:02:37] No, I think we covered it all.
Paula: [00:02:41] All right, so can you tell us, let’s start with like your formal education, let’s just. I don’t think I mentioned that earlier on. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Nanette: [00:02:50] My formal education was kind of cut off, so. I did start in college in Colorado, but that was abruptly ended. I moved back to New York and once I settled there, I did go back to college focused on psychology because I believed at the time that I wanted to be a student teacher and I minored in special education. But as a student teacher I realized that was not my path. So I didn’t do, didn’t get far with that. And at the time I had a young child, so that was my priority. So I put my schooling on hold. So I would say the remainder of my formal education has taken courses for myself to expand on my understanding of technology as well as business.
Paula: [00:03:43] So typically I ask my guests, how did they migrate? And when did they migrate to the United States? But that’s not applicable to you. Can you tell us why?
Nanette: [00:03:54] Well depending on who you speak with, I’m either second generation or third. Cause I know that that’s confusing part. Sometimes people who migrate here are considered I think first-generation. But for me it was my grandparents. So, my paternal mother and my paternal father are both immigrants, came through Ellis island and settled in New York. And I also on my mother’s side, my grandfather on my maternal side immigrated here from Mexico. So I have the understanding of being an immigrant based on my family and what it was like for them to settle here. So, in that respect, I’m not too far I think for generation of knowing the culture of where we come from, and I’ve visited the area that they lived in. So I understand that, but I’m also between, I would say caught between two worlds, the world they come from and the American side.
Paula: [00:05:04] I can relate to that, not personally because that’s not me. But my children say to me, we sometimes don’t even know where we come from because there’s the Caribbean there’s a Nigerian and of course they live in the United States. And so some of the things I do or say, or the dad did or said, just was so different for what they experienced when they left the house, you know. And I’m sure that’s your story as well.
Nanette: [00:05:30] It is, it is. And how they perceive the world in where they live and how I perceived it would sometimes clash. And even from my parents, because they were you know they’re the children of immigrants. And we grew up basically in it surrounded by immigrants, people who are coming and their children. So that that’s a very strong part of my life and how we navigate. And it’s funny that I keep in touch with a lot of people from my past, from that have because we have that, what’d you say joint experience.
Paula: [00:06:11] That’s so true because it’s almost like once an immigrant always an immigrant, you know. You always can draw on, this auntie from here or this uncle from somewhere else. There’s always someone coming physically and giving their opinions, having big parties, you know. So it’s always, it’s interesting. And I’m sure my children can say the same thing. So you said your paternal grandparents immigrated, they came in through Ellis island. Where did they come from?
Nanette: [00:06:42] My grandmother my father’s side came from Negril Jamaica. And she came to meet her brother who had immigrated but he had disappeared. And so she had to make her way by herself. And she joined I think Caribbean society, a club that allowed her, where she met my grandfather. My grandfather came in from St Bart’s and settled in New York.
Paula: [00:07:12] So that was like. She came here to meet her brother, there was no sign of him thank God there was a Caribbean society that she could be become a part of. Because I don’t know, I mean we know for sure that there would have been no Nanette for sure.
Nanette: [00:07:27] Exactly, exactly. So somehow, she was able to find that connection and it helped her and helped to establish yourself. And then from there she met her future husband.
Paula: [00:07:39] Okay all right. So that was on your dad’s side, correct? Now your mom’s side came from?
Nanette: [00:07:45] Her father came from Mexico. So him and his brother immigrated into the, from the south and wound up in Pennsylvania where my grandmother lived. And that’s how they met. And unfortunately, they, his brother and him lost track of each other. I don’t know how or what happened, yeah. But he found work in a gun factory I think in Pennsylvania, that’s how he met my grandmother.
Paula: [00:08:17] So your grandmother was American?
Nanette: [00:08:20] She was American. Although she was a mixture of African and indigenous native American and her father was a German. That’s what I knew, yeah.
Paula: [00:08:37] That’s what you were told. I laugh because I know all these stories that come down, you know?
Nanette: [00:08:45] Exactly, exactly.
Paula: [00:08:49] Okay so I’ve had some other guests who are similar to you, I can’t figure it out too. So thanks for saying you don’t know whether it’s second or third generation? I have no idea. What I focus on is tell me about your experience growing up in a house of immigrants on all sides, both grandparents. I mean grandparents on both sides, that must’ve been interesting.
Nanette: [00:09:16] It was because we the Latin speaking grandfather and the French speaking grandfather. And the two of them with had their little culture wars going on. So because my French grandfather Caribbean one. He loved his wines and his drinks, and he was very specific about you know, what you do with your life and where you go. Whereas my Mexican grandfather was pretty laid back and didn’t have that kind of sort of taste that my grandfather from St Bart’s had. Now that was very funny to watch.
Paula: [00:09:58] Wow! So which language? Did either of your parents speak any of the languages of their parents?
Nanette: [00:10:06] My mother did a little Spanish, she could speak a little Spanish. Unfortunately, my grandfather never even taught his children, so my father you know could not teach us, so. But we were so interested in our culture, that I know I’m not the only one that took French or Spanish, I know my brothers and my siblings did as well. And we have cousins who do speak French or Spanish. And they’re scattered around the Caribbean as well as in New York and other places Florida, places like that. But we’re very close to each other. We know each other and we keep in contact with each other, so and that helps a lot. And through that we’ve learned where some of our relatives have immigrated to. And they went as far as Tahiti.
Paula: [00:10:57] Wow! That was far, that’s for another podcast.
Nanette: [00:11:02] To like the island and they just pick up.
Paula: [00:11:07] Yes! Wow. So now as you said that, well you have relatives in obviously different parts of the world. But you have some still residing in the Caribbean. Where are in the Caribbean are they?
Nanette: [00:11:22] Some of them are settled in the American island, the St. Croix. But there’s still distant relatives still in Jamaica. And some are, I’ve heard in the Southern part right in the islands that are just outside of Latin America, and I forget the name of them, but I have a couple that are there.
Paula: [00:11:44] Margarita Island I think is one of them?
Nanette: [00:11:47] But I know I have some cousins that were living there. But that’s where they, and they go back and forth. My grandfather actually settled in St. Croix because he had, he went to visit his sister. And that’s where he spent the rest of his life yeah. Most of my relatives have moved to Florida or California. I don’t know why I’m here, but I decided to stay in the east coast.
Paula: [00:12:14] And not just on the east coast, New Hampshire, which. I know it can be cold in winter.
Nanette: [00:12:22] And I’m constantly asking myself, why am here? Until summer comes and then it’s beautiful.
Paula: [00:12:30] Right? It’s not too hot. It seems like it’s almost time to go visit some of those cousins. I mean during winter you can like, hey cousin I’m coming down to Florida or flying across to California.
Nanette: [00:12:41] Which I will be going. But it’s funny because my father is, he’s still alive and he’s still trying to put together his lineage and where everyone is from. And so speaking to him has been very good. And of course my cousins who are his fathers or mothers sisters family, and where they come from. But everyone has a piece of the story and that has been very helpful too for me. The immigrant story for me is watching how they assimilate it and how they also how they kept their culture intact as they pursue their careers in life and where they went and how they brought that to us as children and those thoughts.
Paula: [00:13:32] Yeah those are very important yeah. Just coming back to, you said you grew up in New York and?
Nanette: [00:13:41] Jamaica, Queens, isn’t that funny?
Paula: [00:13:46] Queens yeah. All right, so you spent your formative or your early years in queens correct?
Nanette: [00:13:55] Well as a toddler and then my parents moved to Brooklyn. And at the time, but we’re talking the early sixties late to late sixties. That time in Brooklyn they were building what they call projects. And that a lot of immigrants went to
Paula: [00:14:15] those projects. And it was a different, it’s different as people think of the projects today and how it’s perceived. At the time when we were going there, it was not unusual to see immigrants from everywhere. So from Germany and Italy and Polish and Caribbean and Puerto Rico. And all of us were just altogether in these projects. And so, and they were first generation immigrants. So their mothers and fathers were from another country and we all, so their children and us grew up together. And it was the most rich environment because we learned so much about all the cultures from where everyone went or where they came from. And we all, we’re very close to you know, taking care of each other and their children who were playing you know outside, everyone watched each other. So the environment was something that was, I’ve to this day, I appreciate having that experience.
Awesome, yeah, multicultural
Nanette: [00:15:29] But it was funny too, because of on the floor that we lived, moved in a family from the Caribbean and Cartier, and they turned out to be distant relatives of ours. It was so wonderful.
Paula: [00:15:42] Wow! What a small world.
Nanette: [00:15:45] But it was so wonderful because we still keep in touch you know to this day. But knowing them it’s been, it’s just been, it’s amazing. And you start talking you start, then they know a name and then before you know it, it’s like wait a minute you know. There’s a distant connection there.
Paula: [00:16:04] And I’m not in my head because that happened to me. I was, I knew a colleague of my husband whose wife was from Trinidad. And one day she came to visit my mom and that’s, they were talking, my mom said, you know called her maiden name and my friends looked at her and said, that’s my maiden name, too. turned out we were cousins you know. And it cemented our friendship, because we were close before that, but we became even closer because now we had that, the family blood running through the veins.
Nanette: [00:16:43] To me, there’s a lot that was imparted you know? Because that sense of community, that sense of connection. So through the years that helped sustain me when I was on my own. Trying to just make my way in the world. Because you remember how they, what their expectations were very much inside of you, you know? You work hard, there’s you know, you succeed in college, and you know, you don’t accept that person. What that did for me was built perseverance and determination to make sure I achieve what I needed to achieve in my life. And it’s funny because my son you know, he married a woman who’s also second generation and their own story. But he’s you know, and that sense is there too. It’s like we seem to know you connect with people like that. That what you look for.
Paula: [00:17:52] Yes, yes, yes. Because there’s some commonalities that run through families that you can relate to you know. The look that your mother used to give you or some of those things. And you’re like….
Nanette: [00:18:05] Exactly, exactly yeah that’s all they had to do was look at you.
Paula: [00:18:13] That look, you knew what was going to happen. It was like, let’s get home. All right, because you, as you were saying second or third generation. I can’t ask you if there any, if there’s any advice you can give to immigrant women, but what I can ask you is that. Is there any question that you would like me to ask that I haven’t touched on?
Nanette: [00:18:37] Oh, well actually I would like to say that, it’s hard to give advice because I’m not an immigrant. But I’ve known a lot of people who have been, who are immigrants and we became friends with. And I would say that it’s very hard to open yourself up as an immigrant to someone that’s not of your culture. And I think that that’s true for my grandmother and there’s too some friends that I have met, who did come who were immigrants that came from a Caribbean Island. So I would say, that don’t be afraid to open yourself up to someone even if they don’t know your culture. And I know we tend to just stay within our culture because that’s what we know. And it gives us familiarity, but also be willing to branch out because you’d be amazed how many people, and I have found people who are so helpful or want to be helpful and help you achieve your goals.
Paula: [00:19:32] That’s great advice. So, to immigrants, immigrant women you know, have an open mind, don’t just stick to your culture as familiar and as comfortable as that may be.
Nanette: [00:19:43] Exactly.
Paula: [00:19:44] Expand your horizon. So it’s actually, I mean interesting to think we’ve come all this way across oceans, fly over continental and then seek your own people and don’t want to expand.
Nanette: [00:19:59] Well that’s what my grandmother did. But it’s funny because you miss the opportunity of feeling comfortable in your wherever you are. And I understand being alone in that for me, when I left college, I did it where my parents did not approve of it. And being who they are and how they think it was do it our way or no way or you’re on your own. And so I had to go on my own. And that meant I had to reach out. And so I see it as a metaphor to an actual immigrant coming over. Because I was thrown out into the world to make my way. And of course, my parents did it because they were giving me the, what they considered tough love. And so I had to make my own way and I was just as stubborn. I was like you know, I could do it and I will, and I did. And so you know to me, it’s kind of a metaphor of being an immigrant. I was in the world by myself and that meant I had to choose wisely, open up myself to meeting new people, which was hard. But in the end, it was a wonderful journey.
Paula: [00:21:15] Oh that’s lovely to hear, because now you’re a successful owner of your own company, your own business. You’re a small business owner.
Nanette: [00:21:29] Yeah. And that, and I would never have been imagined that when I was younger. That was not something I ever thought I would get to. But it happened, I decided to do it and it’s been a great experience and it’s still growing. I’m happy about that.
Paula: [00:21:47] That’s lovely, that’s lovely. I was about to ask you, where can you be found online? As you a virtual assistant, so I know you can be found online.
Nanette: [00:21:55] Exactly, yes. I have a website which is “inessencevirtualassistance.com”. And that’s where I can be found. And I love providing help for anyone trying to build a business, because everyone needs the help, no one can do it alone. What I tried to do is understand what my customers and clients want to achieve and help them achieve that and take some of the workload off them so that they can concentrate on what they are good at. No one’s good at everything.
Paula: [00:22:31] Absolutely. And social media, are you on social media?
Nanette: [00:22:35] I am, i’m on Facebook and instagram as “in essence va”.
Paula: [00:22:42] “In essence va”. Well, that’s it folks. I know that you’re a success. Do you consider yourself a success?
Nanette: [00:22:50] I do consider myself a success. I find success is as small as just getting up in the morning, but as great as running a company and everything in between,
Paula: [00:23:04] I love that answer as small as getting up in the morning and as big as running a company. And that’s what you do. Thank you, Nanette, for being a guest on “chatting with the experts”. And for my listeners if you have enjoyed what you just heard from Nanette Thelemaque. Head over to Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, or anywhere where you listen to podcasts and click subscribe. If you are an immigrant woman from Africa or the Caribbean, or your parents were immigrants from either one of these places and you find these stories interesting. Please let us know through your reviews. And of course, if you’d like to be a guest on my show, “chatting with the experts”. Please head over to “www.chattingwiththeexperts.com/ contact us”. And thank you Nanette..