Wednesday, 22 August 2012

SHE’S EVERY WOMAN: On the wings of personal and professional triumph, Etana keeps on rising

THE NATURAL: "Where I have been has made me who I am."

Miss Etana is telling me about the exact moment she discovered she was carrying her second child. “I was in Florida, just landed from Jamaica during the second half of my recordings,” she confesses. “I noticed all the signs; extremely exhausted after a 16-hour flight, breast tenderness, et cetera.” Though doubtful at the outset, she asked her husband to pick up a First Response on the way home. “He laughed and said, ‘I don't see why but okay.’ Sure enough there were two lines. I was shocked. We sat and stared at each other for a long time.”

But the shock soon gave way to pure joy. “We laughed then panicked about the work I had planned to do and everything else. It took us a while to settle down and put all the pieces together,” Etana notes. “It changed from shock, panic and weird outbursts of laughter and tears to a serious ‘We’re gonna have a baby!’”

Oscar-winning Spanish actress Pénelope Cruz has described childbirth as a revolution in a woman’s life, but for Etana (née Shauna McKenzie) it’s more of a thrilling, if at times challenging, aspect of womanhood that she readily embraces. Like the most giving of Jamaican woman, you can tell it’s in her nature to nurture. So you don’t have to question why hubby, the actor/model Andre Morris, is so entirely besotted wit her. “Shauna has a beautiful soul that I fell in love with without control,” he tells me. “The first time we actually looked at each other in the eyes we had a very rare connection that is out of this world. She had my heart from then and our love grew far beyond any of our imaginations. She's all I see and I will always see myself with her for the rest of my life.”

It’s also easy to understand why the lavishly gifted songstress, who recently made her baby news public then jetted off to thrill fans in Kenya without losing a beat, is such a terrific mom to her first son, Shevaun, now a big boy heading into his full-fledged teen years. For Etana, locating the joy in the moments makes the difficulties that much easier to deal with. The greatest thrill so far, she says, involves “sharing life experiences with my son and watching him grow and watching his changes as he grows.”

I innocently ask her what’s been going through her mind now that she’s a few months away from bringing another life into the world. Worried about the sleepless nights ahead? Etana laughs. “Well, I’m not really looking forward to sleepless nights right now, but after giving birth you're willing to accept everything from that child,” she admits. “All I could think about when I had my son was being the best mother I can be.”


Her young son aside, Etana has eyes for one man. Morris, husband of two years, is the indubitable love of her life. And she can dish about their love story for hours. Don’t get her started. “He is kind, smart, honest, caring, sexy,” she tells TALLAWAH. “I'm very attracted to him for more than one reason and he is very ambitious, hard-working, self-motivated and innovative. Most of all, I can sit with him for hours about anything, never a dull moment.”

That is not to say their union is without its hiccups. The young power couple are mindful of how to make a marriage that still confounds many skeptics work and work well. Etana or Andre or any close confidante of theirs will you it’s a marriage solidly rooted in trust and candour. The type that’s built to last. “We are very open and very honest. Whatever the situation is we sit and work it out together and do everything to make sure we are both happy with the decisions we make,” Etana says. “Sometimes when it gets hard, one thing that always helps is not going to bed angry. We actually sit and talk everything through before we close our eyes to rest.”


For those of us who’ve closely followed Etana’s music career over the years, we’ve watched and cheered her ascension from “Wrong Address” to “Warrior Love”, “Roots” to “People Talk” and witnessed her metamorphosis from rootsy empress to a more glamorous version of her gorgeous, grown-up self – to where she now stands, with her regal head held high, as one of the most important female voices in contemporary reggae. That’s why her upcoming third album, Better Tomorrow (a follow-up to the critically acclaimed The Strong One and Free Expressions), is such a highly-anticipated event.

“It is much deeper. I was very emotional and open,” is how she describes the effort, due out in early 2013 via VP Records. “Most of all, I had some of the most talented young musicians and background vocalists. It was recorded with high spirits. Joyful and most times very spiritual. It feels like magic, something I never felt before. Is it my best work to date? It's different and shows a lot more growth in writing and vocals, but I’ll leave my fans and fam to decide.”

Ready to conquer new territory, the 29-year-old entertainer is pressing the accelerator on the expansion of her résumé, diversifying her brand in fresh and exciting ways. As it turns out, Etana could be heading to TV, with her very own talk show, as early as this fall. But she says she’s content to take things slowly as she intends to deliver the finest possible quality output. “I wouldn't want to go too much in depth on the show since it's still in the works,” she tells me. “But I know it will be of great influence to everyone across Jamaica and the rest of the world tuned in online.”

So here is Etana today, basking in the moment, fully tuned in to the limitless possibilities, and simply living her life. She’s got a beautiful family, a hot new record on the way, and most importantly, she’s got her peace of mind. To bring our interview to a close, I ask if she has any regrets when looking back on her journey. “Oh no. Never,” she responds without missing a beat. “Where I have been has made me who I am, and I am happy for all my experiences and accomplishments. I expect only to be better in everything I do as I tread along.”

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