Monday, 23 November 2015

HAVING IT HER WAY: D’Angel talks about her first film role, handling the haters, and growing her brand

LADIES FIRST: The singer-actress bonding with the girls at Island Blo. Below, with son Marco Dean and On Stage's Winford Williams.

What do you want to know about the new and improved Michelle ‘D’Angel’ Downer? That she’s just now catching her breath after blazing concert stages on the North-American-based Demand Respect Tour – and is co-headlining the SunCity Radio College Invasion Tour? Or that she’s the brand ambassador for the city’s hottest new one-stop beauty shop Island Blo? Or that she just dropped the fashion-forward video for her bouncy new single “Wine Factory” on CVM’s On Stage? Maybe you want to hear about the experience of shooting her first movie role in New York for the gritty ensemble flick Jamaican Mafia, which is opening in Kingston this week.

Indeed, the multi-hyphenate entertainer (known for wearing multiple hats) has been a busy little lady, while balancing motherhood (son Marco is almost ten already) and a sizzling hot love life (she’ll offer no details) that keeps her giggling like a schoolgirl. On a crisp Friday morning, TALLAWAH sat down with the fresh-faced stunner (@DAngelMusic) at the Devon House Bakery to catch up on the hot topics trending in her universe and to find out how this budding mega-mogul, now in her mid-30s, is building her empire, living her life – and doing it her way.

TALLAWAH: We can’t wait to see you in action on the big screen. Tell us about the character you’re playing in Jamaican Mafia?
D’Angel: Robin is one of the girlfriends of a notorious gangster, played by Paul Campbell. She is seductive, very sexy. The kind of woman that those dons are into. She’s independent-minded. She does what we she wants; she gets what she wants. It’s a mafia movie, so she has a few tricks up her sleeve, but I can’t give away too much. You have to see it.

TALLAWAH: What’s the ideal character you’d like to portray on-screen on on-stage?
D’Angel: As long as I’m comfortable with the role, that’s cool with me. I consider myself a multifaceted entertainer and I would love to do more movies, but nothing intimate or risqué. Working on the movie was a wonderful experience and getting to work with a veteran like Paul Campbell was great because he gave me a few tips while we were on-set, and they really helped.

TALLAWAH: Why would you recommend that Jamaicans go out and support this new movie, Jamaican Mafia?
D’Angel: Because, first of all, it’s a Jamaican-based film showing some of the great local talent that we have here. And it’s a really good movie that touches on a lot of important issues. It’s very true-to-life and it teaches a lot.

TALLAWAH: You’ve done music, fashion, entrepreneurship, published a book and now you’re appearing in your first film. How do you feel about your evolution? 
D’Angel: I’ve definitely matured. I’m like fine wine; I get better with age. The older I get the more I raise my standards as a woman. My fanbase has gotten wider. Sometimes I meet fans as old as 70, and they come up to me and tell me how much they admire how I dealt with what I’ve been through. I hold my head up no matter what. So, in terms of my evolution, it’s both personal and professional. I’ve become a major brand.

TALLAWAH: There are those who say D’Angel’s best career moments are behind her. How do you respond?
D’Angel: As an artiste, you have to constantly reinvent yourself, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m constantly growing as a singer and as a deejay, so how can my best work be behind me? I’m never comfortable with where my music is, and I think it’s important to take a break sometimes, assess your career, and then come back fresh. I wasn’t missing from the scene; I was working on myself, travelling, touring and raising my son. I don’t have time for the naysayers and detractors. I’m focused on the fans and the people who want to see me reach that next level.

TALLAWAH: Is it still hard out there for women in the dancehall?
D’Angel: I think it’s getting easier, but the animosity among the females in the industry is not helping. I’m not into the drama and the passa passa because that doesn’t build me. And until that stops and we start supporting each other more, it will remain a male-dominated business. But withstanding that, it’s still a challenge being a female entertainer but you just have to take a stand and go for what you want. Lady Saw closed Dancehall Night [at Reggae Sum fest] this year, so women are taking over. We just have to unite.

TALLAWAH: In terms of longevity and achievement, who are some of the people whose lives or careers you’d like to emulate?
D’Angel: Anybody who I admire I want to surpass their level of achievement (Laughs). Beyoncé is such a hard worker; she tries to perfect her art. I watch her shows a lot to see what I can learn. I watch my local colleagues a lot as well because I am always trying to learn something new and grow as an artiste. I never get complacent. I never tell myself that I’ve reached. I’m still a work-in-progress.

TALLAWAH: You and Beenie Man have had a roller-coaster relationship for years. Where do things currently stand between the two of you?
D’Angel: We have to be cool. He’s my co-worker; he’s my son’s father. The focus is really our son, Marco Dean. So we maintain a cordial relationship, and I encourage parents in similar situations to try and at least have a cordial relationship because at the end of the day, the child’s needs have to come first. Its’ challenging but you do your best to be great parents for your child.

TALLAWAH: Are you dating?
D’Angel: Ha ha. I’m happy. Very much. And that’s the important thing.

TALLAWAH: Looking ahead, what do you want out of life?
D’Angel: I want to someday have my own talk show. I want to release my autobiography, Stronger, so that generations to come can read it and be inspired. And basically just continue my entrepreneurial endeavours and become Marco Dean’s manager. He’s displaying so much talent. I want to expand my career and grow my brand. Brand D’Angel will definitely be going into merchandizing and online shopping.

TALLAWAH: How would you describe you current state of being?
D’Angel: I feel stress-free (Laughs). I’m a full-time mother, but I have a great support team, so I just do what I have to do. I space myself. Even when I feel overwhelmed, I have to keep going. I take my vitamins, but it’s the blessings of God that’s giving me strength. 

> Jamaican Mafia opens at the Carib 5 Cinema in Kingston this Thursday.

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Saturday, 21 November 2015

GROUP DYNAMICS: Highlights from MoDA Business Seminar + Flow Super Cup Finale + Schools’ Drama Fest, and more

WINNING STREAK: Nov. 12, Kingston. For the fourth year in a row, Ardenne High took home the highly coveted Marcus Garvey Award for Excellence at the National Performing arts Awards ceremony held at the Institute of Jamaica’s lecture theatre in downtown Kingston. Executive Director of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), Delroy Gordon, made the trophy presentation to co-curricular coordinator Marsha Dennis-Lawrence (left) and drama teacher Suzanne Beadle. Ardenne was also a top-seven school in the inaugural Shakespeare School’s Championship, which culminated in September. (Photo: JCDC)

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Nov. 12, Trinidad. As it turns out, Jamaican audiences are not the only ones bowled over by playwright Aston Cooke’s thrilling musical drama Jonkanoo Jamboree. Jamaica’s young contingent (directed by Danar Royal) to the 2015 Schools’ Drama festival in the twin-island republic were a hit with the judges and audience, as the swept the competition snagging all the major awards, including Best Production, Best Music and Best Choreography. The Jamaicans, who also picked up a few acting prizes, were sponsored by the CHASE Fund. (Photo: Jamaica Youth Theatre)

GAME FACES: Nov. 14, Kingston. Last weekend’s exhilarating Flow Super Cup grand finale, which rocked the National Stadium, brought out tonnes of supporters for contenders Jamaica College and eventual victors St. George’s College. We hear that the loudest cheers came from principals Margaret Campbell (of George’s) and Ruel Reid (of JC), both seen here sharing a candid with Flow’s Garry Sinclair (left). (Photo: Live Stush)

SHOW STOPPERS: Nov. 16, United States. The lively Caribbean musical Flambeaux was the toast of the recent Audelco Awards, which recognizes outstanding work in the theatrical arts in and around the New York community. Multitalented Jamaican actor and singer Andrew Clarke (second right), who has won numerous awards at the World Championships of the Performing arts, led a string Jamaican presence in the production, which was staged in September. (Photo: Jeff Anderson-Gunter)

STYLE & SUBSTANCE: Nov. 19, Kingston. The business side of the fashion industry and opportunities for industry people were the main points of discourse as Jampro hosted the 2015 MoDA Business Seminar at their Braemar Avenue/Trafalgar Road offices in the capital on Thursday. The seminar was very well-attended. Here, MoDA conceptualizer and chief organizer Kerry-Ann Clarke (third left) shares lend time with a handful of the presenters and audience members who supported the event. (Photo: Skkan Media)

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Friday, 20 November 2015

QUOTES OF THE WEEK: Paula Daley-Morris steps up + Donna Parchment makes history + Kelly Tomblin speaks out + PM Simpson-Miller keep ‘em guessing

“We have been taking a very professional approach to transition. We have the services of a change management company, and we are looking into the organization to see how we have been doing things. We can’t make wholesale changes. There has to be a process, and we are trying to understand where we are today as a body. I want to leave the association in good standing. I want to leave a structure that is good, so the company can develop.” – Newly installed President of Netball Jamaica, Paula Daley-Morris, outlining the vision she has for leading the sporting body into a successful new era

“We have nothing to be ashamed of, and I think we did exceptionally well. It is unfortunate what took place in respect of the deaths of the neonates. But it is something that takes place regularly in conditions such as those. The technical officers and medical persons tried their best to save those who could have been saved. It had nothing to do with the stewardship of the board.” – Outgoing chairman of the Western Regional Health Authority, Calvin G. Brown, defending his stewardship of the board and the efforts of staff at the Cornwall Regional Hospital

“I intend to have my eyes wide open; this is not a time for naiveté, nor is it a time to be so puffed up that you are judgmental or lose sight of the genuine ebb and flow of the political process. I will try to ensure that where laws are at risk of being broken, where conventions and rules are at risk of being ignored, and where is likely to occur, that as a far as possible I play a preventive and corrective role.” – Donna Parchment Brown in response to creating history as Jamaica’s first appointed female political ombudsman and the fourth ombudsman to hold office since Independence

“Crime cannot be tackled in Jamaica without a holistic, integrated approach – precisely the kind of approach being taken by [Peter] Bunting today. Crime fighting is more that policing, though hard policing is necessary and needed at this time. For us to successfully tame the crime monster we have to take the precise approach that Bunting is taking. Bunting is on the right track.” – Sunday Gleaner columnist Ian Boyne reflecting on the security minister’s “security surge” in response to Jamaica’s spiralling crime-and-violence rate

“The departure of Dr. Fenton Ferguson from the Ministry of Health should not be the end of the dialogue on health care. This should be the beginning of a plan of action to fix the many deficits pointed out in the August audit. And when the emotions die down and the lynch mob dispersed, we need to look objectively at what the Ministry of Health accomplished of failed to accomplish from 2011 to 2015.’ – Prof. Basil Wilson assessing the state of the country’s health sector in the wake of Dr. Ferguson’s departure as Minister of Health

“I think JPS is just getting started. We have 1700 of the most intelligent, creative people I have ever met. We are looking at storage and how we can combine that with solar. We are going out everywhere, making sure we are best in class. So JPS is, I wouldn’t want to say just getting started, but we really are at our foundation level. We [have] a vision that sees us doing a lot more and a lot more innovation, with a lot more different people.” – President & CEO of the Jamaica Public Service, Kelly Tomblin, responding to complaints that the light and power company has been dipping into the solar energy sector

“It is always important for leaders to identify the right time to call an election, and that’s exactly what I am doing. My Almighty is my maker and my master, and anytime I get the urge I’ll know it is the right time to do so.” – Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller keeping Jamaicans in suspense as the countdown to the 2015 General Elections intensifies

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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

THE BUZZ REPORT (11/17): What’s new, what’s next, what’s trending in Jamaican pop culture

It doesn’t happen often enough but, by all indications, Jamaican gospel is having a moment. On the heels of Junior Tucker launching his new Christian ministry True Word & Worship at the New Kingston Shopping Centre, and his latest album, Jesus Famous, the can’t-stop-won’t-stop Tommy Cowan and Carlene Davis, two of Junior’s biggest supporters, headed across the waters last weekend for the 2015 renewal of Haiti Fun In the Son, which we look forward to hearing all about in the coming days….. As we speak, DJ Nicholas and the On the Shout crew are gearing up for a rousing Caribbean Gospel Escape, which promises to bring family fun and feel-good festivities galore to the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Nov. 28. Not to be outshone, Papa San and the Rescue
Package Foundation are bringing back Liberation but instead of returning to Jamaica College’s Karl Hendrickson Auditorium, the rag-waving frenzy will unfold in the grounds of St. Andre High, on December 5….. Kevin Downswell (above, centre) a man who’s been having a swell years, is among the headline acts who will bring the house down at Liberation. And to kick off 2016 just right, we hear the crowd-pleaser will also bring his brand of spirit-lifting praise and worship to Shaggy & Friends at Jamaica House on January 2….. and speaking of that highly anticipated mega-jam, the rest of the performance lineup remains shrouded in secret but members of the Diaspora can rejoice that at least two hours of the show will be beamed live, thanks to a partnership with iHeartRadio, whose representatives were in attendance at the recent launch at the Bustamante Hospital….. Over in the film world, while countless local fans are still reeling from the news that Shottas 2 won’t see the light of day, some are anxiously awaiting
the premiere of Jamaican Mafia, a gritty gangster flick whose producers Yaad Boyz Filmz won their battle to have it premiere at Carib Cinema, red carpet and all. Opening Nov. 27, the movie features performances by the likes of veteran actor Paul Campbell, Mykal Fox and dancehall’s own D’Angel, whom we bumped into at Sunday’s glitzy Mission Catwalk shinding at Devon House, looking like a tall glass of water….. And while we’re on the subject of leading ladies rocking the boat, Safia Cooper will take over as CEO of the Pulse empire when her legendary dad Kingsley Cooper (above, left) steps down in January, while the unflappable Romae Gordon (long-serving Fashion Director) is being promoted to the Board of Directors….. Hearty kudos and best wishes are also in order for James Moss-Solomon, (above, right) who has been appointed Chairman of the University Hospital, in the wake of all that unpleasant business with the ‘dead babies’. If there’s anyone who can usher in a brand new day at UHWI, James is the man for the job….. And, finally, having packed a very cinematic wardrobe (which she previewed for the press at the Spanish Court Hotel on Monday), Sanneta Myrie is off to China to take on the world. “I’m feeling confident. I’m thrilled,” our November cover girl says of her preparations thus far. “I feel like we’re representing the true Jamaica.” Stay tuned…..

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SHAKING THINGS UP: Designer puts edgy spin on national costume for Miss World pageant

IN FULL BLOOM: Myrie's China wardrobe includes pieces by designers like Cedella Marley and Raxann Chin. Below, our ambassador checks in.

The national costume that Jamaica’s ambassador sports each year at the Miss World coronation show always generates feverish debate, and this year’s creation will certainly send tongues wagging. Forget tradition and playing it safe. The piece, designed by US-based Jamaican talent Raxann Chin, is a sexy doctor bird-inspired look, heavy on modern symbolism and replete with elements that speak to Jamaica’s ever-evolving culture, particularly the dancehall factor, our youthful energy and that sporty-athletic vitality that the world can’t get enough of.

Chin, who has earned proper notice for her ultra-femme line Femheka, says that in designing the piece, incorporating an ‘element of surprise’ was key. She’ll get no argument from us on that score. “I feel like they are always looking out for Jamaica because they never know what she’s going to look like or what she’s going to wear,” says Chin, who also contributed several sensible day and evening looks that Sanneta Myrie has included in her China wardrobe. “There’s a lot of symbolism in this costume. It’s risky and it’s controversial, but it’s something different, which is what we were aiming for.”

Miss Jamaica World franchise holder Laura Butler of Fusion Consulting Limited says, simply put, this year’s national costume had to be unlike anything the world has ever seen from us before. “We decided to break with tradition and try something different, so it’s not the bandana but it’s our national colours done in a very creative and stylish way,” she explains. “We expect the backlash because you can’t please everybody. But this is about showcasing Brand Jamaica and doing it the best and only way we can. And I’ve always felt that there’s this burning desire around the world to see the true Jamaica, and this is it.”

Jamaicans and the rest of the world will have to wait until the night of December 19 to see what the actual costume looks like. Perhaps most important of all, our young queen is pleased with the choice. “I’m confident in this costume because I feel like we’re representing the true Jamaica,” Myrie tells TALLAWAH. “There’s an element of sophistication to it. It has a dance aspect – a tutu element and a dancehall element – which is great for my talent piece. So I’m thrilled. It’s a bold step, and I like it.” 

The 24-year-old stunner was vibing with members of the press at the Spanish Court Hotel on Monday afternoon, as she previewed the collection of eye-catching ensembles that make up her China wardrobe. It’s a solid collection featuring pieces by a diverse group of established and emerging designers, including Cedella Marley, Sophia Max-Brown, Amelia Morgandy and Chin.

Now, Sanneta is off to Sanya. Myrie departed the island on Tuesday and is due to arrive at her destination by Thursday morning. Ahead of the grand coronation, she’ll spend about four weeks in a developmental programme with the other contestants (about 110 in total), participating in various group activities and pre-judging events. “Sanneta is edgy, spunky, sweet. She has a lot of those qualities that [past Miss Jamaicas] have displayed but with her own flair and flavour,” says Butler, who later revealed that Jamaica is in serious talks to host the Miss World pageant in 2018.

“We’re confident that she will do well,” Butler says. “But when it comes to Miss World you can’t predict it. But she’s trained and trained well to overcome obstacles and cope with various challenges. Miss World is a fast-paced competition, and so those girls will have to stay focused, under pressure, to showcase their best.”

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

TALKING FASHION: Mission Catwalk’s David Rolle reflects on his ‘Seascape’ collection and getting the stamp of approval

TALENT SHOW: Action from the runway, as Rolle strikes a triumphant pose next to a model sporting one of his creations. Below, the top three finalists. (Skkan Media)

His Trinidadian colleague Ryan Chan hits the nail on the head when he observes, “His aesthetic is pretty cool.” Global Purchasing’s Mercedes Gonzalez notes, “I think he hasn’t yet hit his full potential, but he has talent and drive.” They are both referring to David Rolle, the lavishly talented (and self-taught!) Bahamian designer who has been making a splash on the All Stars season of the Caribbean fashion reality series Mission Catwalk, which climaxes this weekend with the announcement of the big winner on TV-J (Saturday night at 8:30. Tune in.)

The season’s top three finalists – Rolle, Chan and Jamaica’s Renardo Lloyd – brought their A game to the runway at Devon House on Sunday for what amounted to a spectacular showdown, hosted by Kiki, that featured a splendid trio of 14-piece collections eliciting strong applause from the sizeable audience. By all appearances, these are skilled design talents serious when it comes to making their mark and ‘ruling the catwalk’.

While Chan captivated us with the provocative set of all-black looks that he sent down the runway, Lloyd had his gorgeous models channeling their inner ‘modern goddess’ in a range of finely tailored creations that defy easy categorization. But we were most impressed by David’s breathtaking seascape motif that gave full-bodied life to his vivid patterns and prints and all kinds of tropical blues and other hues. “I was inspired by the Indians that Columbus discovered when he came here, and so my main goal was to show the evolution of the body paint that they wore by fusing it with florals and prints,” Rolle tells TALLAWAH in his Bahamian lilt.
Watching the parade of models for the three distinctly original collections, audience members couldn’t help noticing that they each featured 13 females and a single male look. “The challenge was to create only one male look for the collection,” Rolle explains, “and we had to do it in 24 hours.” 

David’s work speaks volumes of his impeccable craftsmanship, creativity and eye for female beauty. And the same goes for Ryan (“the drape god”) and Renardo (“a sophisticated, gentle soul”), who both have brilliant careers ahead of them. Come Saturday, any one of these three rising stars can top the competition and walk away with the over $1 million in cash and prizes.

When I ask David (a sturdily built chap with a booming voice) what it means to be a top three finisher on MC’s super competitive All Stars season, he doesn’t have to think about his answer. “It’s a stamp of approval. It means that your work has impact and is at a certain standard,” says the 27-year-old, who attended “government school” in his native Bahamas before embarking on his solo adventure as a creative artist determined to make a name for himself in the fashion world. “This season brought together the best of the best from the past four seasons, and to make it this far and to be in the top three is an award within itself. It is an unbelievable feeling.”

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THE GOOD FIGHT: ‘Suffragette’ awakens a turbulent era in women’s history

REBELS WITH A CAUSE: Bonham-Carter, Mulligan and Streep play pivotal roles in the period piece.

Suffragette (Focus Features)
Director: Sarah Gavron
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson and Meryl Streep
Running Time: 1hr 46 mins
Overall rating: A-

They called them foot soldiers. That’s the fitting description used to refer to the militant women – the ‘suffragettes’ – who gave life to the early feminist movement in turn-of-the-century London – working-class women who, perched on the frontlines of a revolution, were willing to put their lives at risk when it came to advancing the cause of women earning the right to vote and ultimately gaining some semblance of equality with their male counterparts. Their story gets a powerful cinematic telling in this season’s Suffragette, a terrific little film that packs a wallop as it vividly showcases the oppression these women endured and the lengths they were prepared to go in their fight fir ‘justice.’ 

Screenwriter Abi Morgan’s reputation precedes here, and here she expertly combines ripped-from-the-historical-headlines accounts with gripping narrative in crafting a story that’s alternately riveting, inspiring, infuriating (to some) and deeply moving. As such, director Sarah Gavron had first-rate material to work with in fashioning this rousing period film, which is anchored by strong ensemble acting all around.

Leading the pack, in an award-worthy performance, is Carey Mulligan as Maud Watts, a young mother and laundry worker who loses everything – her job, marriage and the young son she adores (to adoption) – at the height of the struggle. To say she is laid bare would be an understatement. But Maud, a tough cookie at heart, finds the courage to press on (even while sleeping nightly inside a cathedral) and draws on the support of an incredible group of strong and committed women, her fellow sisters fighting the good fight.

We are introduced to medical practitioner Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), a warrior for the cause; Maud’s co-worker Viola Miller (Ann-Marie Duff), an abused wife who first showed her the ropes; and the suffragettes’ imperial leader Sylvia Pankhurst, played by Meryl Streep, who has only one-and-a-half scenes lasting a total of about five minutes.

As portrayed by Streep, that’s all the time Pankhurst really needs to drive home her message loud and clear. “It is deeds not words that will get us the vote. We don’t want to be law-breakers; we want to be law-makers. But we have been left no choice but to defy this government,” she tells her loyal followers during a late-night rally convened in secret. “I would rather be a rebel than a slave. Never give up the fight. Never surrender.”

When their quiet and respectful protests fail to gain traction, the agitators turn to rowdy street marches, even smashing shop windows and in one scene fire-bombing the home of a senior government official. In short, they give the police, led by overburdened chief investigator Inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson) a warm time, keeping them busy. Given their mission, prison time is no deterrent to these women.

All in all, the film (basting sumptuous costuming, a sublime original score, and splendid details from the period) captures the heady ‘excitement’ of the movement, not to mention the clashes and other catastrophic events that marked this turbulent period in women’s history.

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