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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