The diamond, beautiful and rare, must first endure searing temperatures, immense pressure and the cut before it is polished to shine. For Jenna Clifford this sounds like her life.
The Diamond Is Pressurized
Clifford was born in a time when patriarchy was first and women second. She was an only child who endured great pressure from her father, who often told her that if she wasn’t number one she was a failure.
“My father was really the guy that might have broken me as a child but it stood me in very good stead for the pain that business can bring.”
Her father was inspired by South African golfing champion Gary Player who borrowed the saying: “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” from American producer Samuel Goldwyn.
Her father pushed her into the deep end and hoped it would teach her discipline.
“For anyone, getting to the top of any field or any faculty, sport [allows one] to get their head and physicality into dedication, drive and sticking at it even when you cry… Business is the sport of the mind. Sport is the business of the body.”
The Diamond Is Chiseled
Despite this, at 19, a naive Clifford fell prey to the so called ‘Cinderella Complex’—all she wanted was to find a prince charming, who would love and look after her. After two failed marriages, she found that a fairy tale can often be grim.
“In my lifetime, I’ve had three unions. The first one I was just under 20 and then again I got married in 1987, then again in 1993, which has been about a 23-year relationship.”
Clifford’s struggles with men were not limited to her personal life.
“When you rise as a female, you will be challenged by your male counterparts. They can’t challenge your acumen and your efficiency in what you do, but they can challenge your being, as a woman, and hit your emotional bodies to get control or compliance, which is a very subtle way of getting compliance. Other women get violent compliance… it doesn’t just happen to women who are necessarily rural and un-educated, it happens in the highest order of society.”
Along the way, Clifford has learnt from the enemy.
“I just find that I fit in better with the male counterpart from a head space point of view. I love the way men focus. They don’t pick 16 things to do, they pick one and the number two will normally be their lifestyle sport or car racing or rugby…”
Another major problem is that women tend to find it harder to support each other.
“When you keep women weak, meaning break them one by one, they can’t stand as a collective. It’s as simple as that. Women are scared to stand as a collective… and it usually takes someone like me, that’s had men shape their life destructively and possibly turned it into a positive thing.”
One of Clifford’s inspirations is Nelson Mandela, who left a lasting impression on her.
“The humility, the kindness… Color is nothing that he sees, he sees the individual… He stuck to a dream irrespective to the punishment. It’s the same principal of greatness; he just had to go through 29 years of hell to get there.”
The Diamond Is Polished
Clifford has made peace with her past, and acknowledges its role in shaping her life. With a successful jewelry company that has international clients—including Celine Dion and Debra Messing—three loving daughters and a husband, life could not be better. As for getting on with her father’s generation?
“With strong patriarchs, my age group to my father’s age group, I get along with them exceptionally well now, because they don’t treat me like a woman. They think of me as a different being. So, I’m now okay for them because, in their minds, I’ve achieved success.”
Dedicated to the empowerment of women, Clifford will be collaborating with Doctor Dorianne Cara Weil, Professor Shirley Zinn, Dion Chang and Doctor Marko Saravanja, in a new venture called Inner Genius. The project will allow women to interact with these mentors, who will advise them on how to succeed in their personal and professional lives.
Surely, it is worth listening to Clifford, a cut in polished
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