My name is Marrisa Wilson,
Creative Director and Founder of MARRISA WILSON NY.
And I want to redefine the perception of the 'All-American' Brand.
On this extended 4th of July weekend, I wanted to reflect on the American identity. We all have our unique heritage and history. And—while acknowledging America’s dark past (and deeply troubled present)— this country, when at its best, is so beautiful and special because it is a blend of all of those cultures together. MARRISA WILSON NY wants to speak directly to you, all of you - because how many brands are really speaking to your roots and values as a multicultural woman?
“how many brands are really speaking to your roots and values as a multicultural woman?”
America is a vast array of cultures, a medley of different people with different backgrounds. For each and every one of them, their definition of "American" is different. So what really is the American Dream?
I am American – born in New Jersey.
I am Guyanese – born to Guyanese parents.
I am Black – a mixture of African, Portuguese, and Amerindian.
I am a designer – by trade.
I am an artist – by passion.
My mother came to America as young adult; my father as a teenager. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, but I was embedded in the Caribbean culture my whole life. Although I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, we were friends with most of the Caribbean families in the tri-county area and my parents raised my older brother and me with all of the Guyanese traditions. I have never missed a Christmas Day pepperpot in my life. (I have a clear memory of pepperpot shooting out from the pressure cooker a day before Christmas Day, circa 1998. It was ALL over the kitchen, the counter, the walls, and pepperpot stains do NOT come out of curtains.) We flew kites that my dad would bring home for us from Guyana on Easter Sunday. I can tell you the right Soca tracks that will get people up and dancing, because they are the same tracks that were on my dad’s “Soca Mix” cassette tapes from the '90s.
When I was younger, we used to visit Guyana for family vacations during the summer and we would would stay at our home in Georgetown. It’s been maybe five or six years since I’ve been back but one of my favorite, lasting memories was being able to step out to the back stairs from the second floor, stretch out my hand and pick fresh mangos from our mango tree in the backyard. And I always asked my father to bring home genip whenever we’d visit Guyana. It's still my favorite fruit to this day. As you can see, I celebrate and cherish my Guyanese heritage.
I also come from an entrepreneurial family, so starting a business at 23 never seemed impossible for me. Don't get me wrong, I knew it was never going to be easy. And it's been even more difficult than I could have imagined at the time. But I’ve been blessed that my parents sacrifice and hustle allowed for my brother and me to have a better life. I still tear up every time I think about this—and, right now, as I write about it— because I feel like I am a product of their American Dream. It’s from my mother and father that I now get my hustle. And I owe it to them to be a success.
My father and I would ‘talk business’ from a young age. We have a small family business, and it is probably part of reason why I started MWNY at such a young age. My dad's entrepreneurial background, mixed with my mother’s love for interior design, elaborate party planning and a general “lets-rip-this-carpet-up-and-re-stain-the-floors-before-Christmas” attitude, are all responsible for where I am today. When I first sat down with my dad and told him that I was really going to start this company, he gave me one piece of advice that has always stuck with me: “If you’re really going to start a business, you really have to do this. You can’t think of yourself as no small fish. You’re going to be swimming with the big fish now, so you have to think of yourself as big fish.”
“You’re going to be swimming with the big fish now, so you have to think of yourself as big fish.”
I have always kept that in the back of my head: Not to think of myself as no small fish—as he'd say . Not to see myself as someone who is just starting out, but a woman with a company that is valid and has a powerful voice. To this day I’ve struggled with combatting imposter syndrome, but years later I’ve realized that my father’s advice was a direct response to imposter syndrome. And every time I have that inner conflict with myself—those creeping thoughts of being a fraud, or that I don't belong—I remember my dad’s advice.