Monday, 5 September 2011

ALL OF ME: D’Angel on the music spotlight, being a supermom, and life after Moses

MOMMY & ME: D'Angel and Marco Dean recently bonded with Mr. and Mrs. Incredible at Disneyworld.

Cozily seated in a swivel chair in the tucked-away office of her eponymous and trendy fashion boutique off Constant Spring Road in Kingston, D’Angel is engaging me in a mid-afternoon conversation that veers from the glory days of her burgeoning stint as a runway model, to the young son who now largely forms the centre of her universe, to her present career as a dancehall recording artiste. “I feel happy knowing I am doing what I was ordained to do,” she declares. “But success comes with ups and downs, so it’s been both rewarding and challenging.”

Indeed, the Spanish Town-bred singer, known for mixing her raw-honey vocals with the occasional stab at deejaying, has always had a soft spot for the stage. And since the early 2000s, she has reaped her share of widespread exposure, legions of fans, plus quite a few radio and chart hits, including the occasional collaboration. But then there is the pesky scrutiny and rumours that constantly assail her personal life, most notably in the face of her rocky five-year marriage to fellow entertainer Moses ‘Beenie Man’ Davis, whom she is now in the process of divorcing. For women like D’Angel (born Michelle Downer) it’s almost as if for every moment of triumph, there are two episodes of strife lurking in the wings.

To many onlookers who’ve closely followed her life in the spotlight, it’s a testimony to her resilience and courage that she’s still going strong. But, as she tells it, giving up has never been an option. “When you know who you are, and the people in your circle know who you are, the best thing to do is to disregard it,” D’Angel says of her strategy for coping with the negativity. “You have to constantly let your life speak for itself. Being successful is the best revenge.”

Talking of overcoming obstacles and sidestepping other people’s expectations is enough to make anyone long for respite. So if you want to put D’Angel in high spirits just bring up the subject of four-year-old Marco Dean and watch her look of stern concentration dissolve into a mix of megawatt beaming and blushing. There has never been a mother who dotes more on her child. “[He] brings a smile to my face anytime,” she says, as if reading my thoughts. “He’s my ultimate reason for being successful. Everyday, he reminds me that I have a responsibility—and failure is not an option.”

As it happens, mother and son recently returned from vacation in the United States, which included a visit to Florida’s popular Disneyworld. “It was wonderful. Marco Dean had a great time,” the proud mama says. “We both enjoyed it, but I think he was way more excited than me.”

As a mother chasing greater career triumphs and balancing industry requirements with running a store and raising a son, it is understandable that D’Angel is often stretched to the limit. Thankfully, she has a solid support team comprised of close friends and family. “At the end of the day, I have a good team and great family support. With that in place, I am able to keep everything in check,” she explains. “I am very family-oriented, so I am juggling everything well,” she adds with a chuckle.

D’Angel is positively buoyant in person these days, for a woman on the cusp of finalizing a much-publicized divorce from her husband. If she is perturbed by the widespread speculation (‘Did Beenie cheat?’) that has crescendoed since the shocking announcement two weeks ago, she is hiding it well. It would seem that, with time, D’Angel has mastered the art of navigating the shark-infested waters of general public life.

She refuses to elaborately discuss the marriage or divulge any details as to why the union collapsed. (A press release was sent out, urging the public and the media to respect her need for privacy.) But she does express a firm belief that sometimes in life things simply fall apart. “In all doings, only good salvation lasts forever,” she says, while emphasizing that she feels no bitterness towards her ex. “Despite everything that has happened, I still have to maintain a cordial relationship with [Beenie]. It’s only natural to do it for my son.”

Beenie Man, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment for this story, but speaking last week with the Entertainment Report, he offered, “When a woman tell you to come out ah her life, you come out ah her life.” Then last’s Saturday’s episode of TV J’s The Emix featured an interview with the dancehall kingpin, where he asserted, “It don’t make sense you’re in a relationship and you’re not happy.” Beenie further went on to reveal that he will “never get married again. I deserve to be happy.” As for his now ex-wife he said, “I think she is more free than hurt over this.”

Later, when pressed, D’Angel concedes that bringing an end to the marriage was her making a grown-up decision, pure and simple. “We don’t try to marry our careers. We’ve always done our thing separately. So with this now, it was just a mature decision. And I want my friends and fans to respect that decision as I go through this emotional time.”

And the woman’s decision is final, as she turns her focus to a new life. By her own admission, when it comes to D’Angel’s future as a free woman, and a single mother at that, there is no time to reduce her pace. “I am definitely gonna just carry on with my legacy, and take things to new heights. And it’s all for my fans; they complement me,” says D’Angel, 27, who heads to Washington in November for a performance. “My fans give me a lot of courage, and the music I put out speaks for itself. If you want to keep that connection, you have to keep putting out good music.”

In the coming months, the singer says she hopes to keep fine-tuning her craft and bolstering her bond with loyalists on Facebook and Twitter (@dangelmusic). She also intends to test new waters by commencing work on a kiddies clothing line (“It’s a plan for early next year”), collaborating with Mr. Marco Dean himself, who might just inherit, among so many other things, his mother’s taste for trendy fashion.

ON MY OWN: “In all doings, only good salvation lasts forever,” D'Angel observes.

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