Written by Priya Balakumar
Michelle “Mishee” Corsbie is taking the corporate world by storm as a female Indo-Caribbean Marketing Director with over a decade of agency experience and creating campaigns for some of North America’s most recognized brands and retailers. Brown Girl Diary sat down with Michelle to learn about her personal and professional journey.
Michelle’s parents immigrated from Guyana in the 70s due to her dad pursuing a higher education at McMaster and Waterloo University. Like most immigrants from the Caribbean, her parents left the comfort of their home and community to find better opportunities and build a strong future for their children.
“That move and the struggle that accompanied them to get on their feet and maintain their Guyanese culture in Canada is something that creates the story of how my Indo-Caribbean culture was shaped. My parents were always adamant about blending Western culture and Indo-Caribbean culture into my family,” Michelle said.
Growing up in a predominantly white neighbourhood, no one really knew where Guyana was, let alone what Indo-Caribbean meant. It wasn’t until her late teens that Michelle started to identify as an Indo-Caribbean woman. As she started to meet more Indo-Caribbean women in her everyday life, she started to identify the similarities and differences. Everyone finds their identity at different stages of their lives and Michelle started to use her identity to help find her place in the corporate world.
As Indo-Caribbean women, we often face many obstacles with fitting in and not being fully accepted due to our complex history of diaspora. Michelle often felt that she was not Indo-Caribbean enough or not Western enough. Over the years, she has worked to embrace her true identity and discover what being Indo-Caribbean means to her.
“Finding the balance that represents who I am within the evolution of my culture. It is celebrating my background unapologetically and making sure I do my part to continue to support and be a part of the community. Caribbean culture is inherently woven from a multicultural ancestry (Asia, Europe, Indigenous and Africa) and I find that all of those cultures are to be celebrated and recognized as an influence on Indo-Caribbean culture as well,” She said.
As an Indo-Caribbean woman, Michelle is most proud of the ongoing education and evolution of our community.
“Our backgrounds all stem from similar beginnings but to see how we’ve all been able to grow, break barriers and be represented as Indo-Caribbean women makes my heart soar. Expectations and traditions are all shifting and it is allowing Indo-Caribbean women to be unapologetically themselves and not worry about ‘what they are supposed to do’ versus what they can do or want to do. We are continuing the Indo-Caribbean story in North America and it’s such a crucial part of our journey.”
Being a minority in the marketing field, Michelle goes on to tell us how she overcame obstacles to make her mark as a strong Indo-Caribbean woman in the industry. One of the most dominant obstacles that Indo-Caribbean women face in the corporate world is not having any role models and having to change aspects of the way they dress and speak to “fit in.”
“I quickly noticed that none of those women looked like me or had my cultural background. Many of the people I was surrounded by were white and from fairly privileged backgrounds, so I adapted. I changed the way I spoke, I changed the way I dressed, the way I did my hair, I made sure I fit in when I was fairly new to the field. I had a lot of clients who couldn’t say or remember my maiden name (Thansingh) and even asked if I could shorten it for them (that was an immediate NO). I became more aware of these things and began to stand up for myself,” Michelle says about her experience.
In an industry that is highly male and Caucasian dominated, Michelle had to stand up for herself and in turn educate her colleagues about her history. We often have to prove ourselves and our worth, this was something that Michelle wanted to put a stop to.
“I openly had colleagues in my past tell me that I only got hired for the diversity mandates. I never used to correct it but started to—that’s when I realized my background was a crucial part to what I bring to my organization. The comments and micro-aggressions I received through my life, I was over it at that point. I wanted people to recognize who I was from my skin colour and my background, I wasn’t trying to blend in anymore. I didn’t want to adapt to a culture that wasn’t mine.”
As a role model to many young Indo-Caribbean women in the business field, Michelle realized that we are never represented in mainstream media and if we are, we are not shown accurately or with the confidence and power we deserve. Michelle took it upon herself to make that change by taking every opportunity to do any public speaking both professionally and personally to ensure positive Indo-Caribbean women are given platforms.
Michelle speaks about how important it is to take any opportunity you are given to be heard and learn from others. “Often as women we tend to downplay our roles when put in a leadership position— instead we should embrace and flaunt it! Be proud of what you have worked for! There are always people watching and waiting for you to speak up and succeed, so don’t focus all your energy on the ones who couldn’t see you in the room in the first place.”
Michelle has used her platform and career to help make changes to the way Indo-Caribbean women are viewed in the corporate industry and the lack of opportunities that they face. She has always made an effort not to just mentor other Indo-Caribbean marketing professionals but to be a sponsor. In business, and specifically with women, we strive to have all these amazing mentors but rarely have sponsors who are willing to put their hand up for us, help get us through the door and truly be engaged in our success.
Michelle has been one to step up and help make that difference.
“I’ve always tried my best to be involved and support Indo-Caribbean & BIPOC men and women with the opportunities that they deserve by being a sponsor and an ally.”
When we asked Michelle where she sees herself in five years, her main goal was continuing to push boundaries in the marketing industry as a proud “Indo-Caribbean woman” while also ensuring that she educates her daughter on her rich history and culture. “She will be a third generation Caribbean, I want her to know all of the stories, plights and love of her ancestors. I know that I need to actively and constantly work to instill these values in my own life as well as hers.”
While being a marketer to watch, Michelle is also the supermom to a toddler. As she continues to find a balance between work and family, Michelle aims to find more ways to be involved in her community. Michelle mentions, “I thrive in high-stress and chaotic situations and those influxes of chaos and deadlines keep me engaged. I also work with a phenomenal group of people, majority of them are women and they inspire me every day.”
Michelle is not only a role model for her daughter, but for a whole community of Indo-Caribbean women.
“I hope that my drive, get shit done attitude and leadership will prevent my daughter from ever having to prove her worth because of the color of her skin or background. I think my husband and I have seamlessly created a life that is our own sort of perfect. I'm very openly a full-time working parent with an amazing husband who is my glue. All of those things are my on-going biggest accomplishments.”
Michelle expressed how grateful she is for opportunities like The Brown Girl Diary. She mentioned that she wishes that she had access to this sort of platform to engage with other Indo-Caribbean women when she was starting off in her profession. Since finding like-minded Indo-Caribbean women continues to be an on-going challenge, the Brown Girl Boss series aims to break down that barrier and provide networking and mentorship opportunities for our globally expanding client base. Connect with Michelle on LinkedIn to learn more about her upcoming projects focusing on Caribbean & BIPOC representation in the mainstream media!
You can connect with Michelle on LinkedIn here: