Lifestyle

SO Who Knew - Donna McConnell

Sunday, November 25, 2012    

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Donna McConnell has made her way onto the 2013 Power List - Britain's Most Influential Black People. Little wonder, really, since she's the showbiz editor of the hugely successful Mail Online - responsible for managing all the showbiz news for the popular website and overseeing the output of a team of 10 journalists based in the UK and the US.

What many here on The Rock might not know is that this one-time rapper with the group She Rockers, who gave us the British hip-hop classics Give It A Rest and On Stage before disbanding in 1992, traces her roots 'straight to yard'. Her mum Thelma Hemley, 63, is the eldest of four sisters who lived in Balmagie, Kingston 11, with McConnell's grandmother Clarice Hibbert (nee Pitter). Hemley, who migrated to the United Kingdom at age 14 on the day Jamaica got its Independence, worked on the production line for tea manufacturers Lyons Tetley before becoming a school cook, a position she retained until her retirement two years ago. McConnell's father Donald, 74, hails from St Catherine and moved to the United Kingdom at the age of 21. Brilliant at mathematics, and a bookkeeper by trade, he'd later run a minicab office ahead of his retirement.

McConnell returned to college as a mature student of 25 to study for an access course in media, before gaining a place in the competitive media degree course at Westminster University. She landed her first journalism job online as an editorial assistant at The Financial Times' Ftyourmoney.com section. She also freelanced for The Sunday Mirror, The Evening Standard, The Times, The Observer and the Daily Mail in 2005. McConnell would later be employed as a showbiz journalist and further promoted to showbiz editor. The savvy journalist, who plans to visit Jamaica next year and who yearns for curry goat, oxtail, Saturday soup, stew peas and rice and, of course, ackee and saltfish, is a core member of the team responsible for turning around the website's previously ailing fortunes. In 2012, Mail Online overtook the New York Times as the world's most-read newspaper website with over 90 million unique users visiting the site every month.

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