Written by Priya Balakumar
Brown Girl Diary sat down with our front line Superhero, Covid-19 Nurse, RN and Personal Trainer, Kamille Deowdhat from New York.
Like many of us, Kamille grew up facing the challenge of trying to explain her ethnicity and often defaulted to "yeah, it's basically Indian" or "yeah... I'm south American." She explains that neither of those statements are a true representation of who she is or her culture— it doesn't even scratch the surface. Kamille grew up identifying as “Guyanese” and it wasn't until she was around 25 year old, that she started making the distinction "Indo-Caribbean."
She realized there was a whole community like Brown Girl Diaries specifically representing the Indo-Caribbean community.
Kamille’s parents are both retired and spend most of their time at their family home in Crabwood Creek, Guyana. Over the years Kamille has been heavily involved in community service in Guyana, where she has been a part of many projects. She was actually stuck in Guyana when the pandemic hit, before making it back to NYC to serve as a Covid-19 nurse on the frontlines.
When we asked Kamille what it means to her to be Indo-Caribbean, she said “Indo-Caribbean is a beautiful blend of our heritage from India and a "remix" from the Caribbean. Our ancestors were brought over into unfamiliar circumstances and when they did not return home, made the most out of preserving parts of the culture and adapting and adding. It is perseverance.”
Our identity is truly all about strength, culture and unity.
As we try to unite a platform of Brown Girl Bosses around the world, Kamille puts our mission into perfect words.
“I'm also proud that Indo-Caribbean women of our generation are making a platform for representing our rich culture and allowing us to be seen and heard. Representation is everything and I feel like if I had this kind of representation when I was younger, I would have recognized Indo-Caribbean as an identifier earlier.”
Kamille aims to empower individuals in her community on a daily basis. She mentions “As a nurse, I try to empower someone every shift. Whether it's a patient of mine or a co-worker that just needs help or support during their shift. As a personal trainer, I love seeing people reach their goals and I always loved the process and helping them there. I try to be as supportive as possible in any role I'm taking on.”
Though Kamille faced many barriers in her career, her determination and go getter attitude has helped her to be a successful Indo-Caribbean woman in her field of work while also operating her own business and being involved in various charitable projects back home in Guyana.
Being able to provide safe and affordable healthcare has always been something that is important to Kamille. Being the leader that she is, Kamille took the initiative last December to organize donations of unit blood pressure cuffs, thermometers and pulse oximeters from her unit to Skeldon hospital, Port Mourant hospital, and Orealla's health centre in Guyana. When her dad had a heart attack while in Guyana a few years ago, he had to end being driven from the local hospital to Georgetown in order to receive the medical attention and tools that he needed. This incident made Kamille realize that her goal is to keep trying to help hospitals in Guyana, as the access to medical care is limited.
“I want to try and give the more rural hospitals as much help and supplies as possible so they can at least begin to elevate their care.” As Kamille continues to take the steps needed to make a difference in the lives of others, we asked her where she sees herself in 5 years. “I would like to say in five years, I want to be in a nurse practitioner role. I've been playing with the idea of combining my role as a trainer and nurse to help people focus on primary prevention methods so we can prevent diseases like hypertension and diabetes without medication. A lot of it is education and self care.”
As Kamille continues to break down barriers in the medical world, she has found a way to combine her love for personal training and health with the professional career.
One of the biggest challenges that Kamille faced was the fear that the community didn't think she could do both, run and business and practice in the medical field. She said “I've learned that sometimes, people in our community think you can't do both. It's always nice to prove people wrong. I've also learned that for some people in our community, being "just a RN" isn't enough. It's important to know yourself and be comfortable with who you are and where you are in life. One of the greatest obstacles I overcame is the feeling of not being adequate enough.”
Kamille believes that time management and mental health is very important.
The key to success is being able to thrive while also not burning yourself out! If you need to take some “me” time, that should never make you feel any less than a boss. Kamille mentioned “I also struggle a lot with time management. I've cut back training hours because I found I wasn't having enough time for myself, which for me, is more important than the hustle.”
Building a business from scratch is probably one of the hardest, time consuming things to do, hence why we love to celebrate our Brown Girl Bosses, who are shattering the glass ceilings and making big moves.
It is quite common in the Indo-Caribbean community for our elders to not really support entrepreneurship, as they may see traditional careers as the only source of stable income. However it is important to continue to have these conversations and help them learn that the market is changing! Kamille’s advice for anyone facing these challenges is ”Just go for it! Don't let anyone tell you that you shouldn't do it and don't be afraid it won't work out. When personal training was my primary source of income (while I was in nursing school) I invested so much time into my business. My parents did not think personal training was an actual job and was not fully supportive of me doing it (the hustle is hard). But I stuck with what I was passionate about and did what made me happy."
"Do what makes you happy and if that's starting a business in something you're passionate about, even better.”
Following your heart and never giving up on yourself, even when it seems like everyone may be against you, is the key to being a successful entrepreneur. As Brown Girl Boss aims to be a place that highlights the importance of networking in our community, Kamiile explains she took advantage of this in order to help her kickstart her Personal Training business.
“I actually became interested in being a personal trainer after working with a personal trainer in 2014! I worked out with (and later worked for) a small boutique gym in lower Manhattan called Just Train. They are like a little family to me and when I discussed becoming a personal trainer with them, they helped me through the certification process and taught me everything. Best mentors I could ask for,” she said.
The Brown Girl Diary will soon be launching our own mentorship program to help connect you with others in your field, similar to Kamille’s story.
Follow our Instagram in the upcoming weeks to see Kamille share some workout videos and mental health tips that we can all use to get through this pandemic!