What I've learned in my life, and what I want people to take away from my story is to never let people's opinion of you define who you are.
Deanna: I can't even describe it. I look up to my uncle who was phenomenal when it came to singing and playing the keyboard. He was responsible for arranging music in regards to the Mussington Brothers. I look up to my dad, Darvin, as well of course. I see my career as an opportunity for me to expand their legacy, and it's honestly an indescribable feeling to be in this position.
Who are your top three musical influences?
Mariah Carey for her range, Jennifer Hudson for her power, and Beyonce for her energy on stage.
Tell us about your journey from a Digicel Rising Stars winner to a Digicel Brand Ambassador.
The first competition I participated in and won was Cable & Wireless' Phantom of the Opera. I entered the Digicel Rising Stars competition when I was about fourteen, and it was nerve-wracking for me because I hadn't competed in four years, but I was able to win with my dad's guidance. I also performed successfully in other competitions between Anguilla and St. Maarten following that.
More recently, I scored an audition with Mr. Ivan Berry, who is now my manager, because people like Alan Gumbs and Davon Carty believed in my talent and were tired of it going unnoticed. Davon had Ivan Berry's contact information, and Ivan happened to be in St. Maarten with his group at the time. I actually begged my job to let me off to meet up with him, and we've been working closely ever since. I traveled to Canada and met up with various songwriters and when I returned to Anguilla, I worked on five songs with him and his team. We also shot three music videos in one week which was tough for me because I never did anything like that before, but it turned out to be successful. That's when the word really started to get out about me. Alan Gumbs has a great relationship with Digicel, and he and Ivan spoke to them on my behalf, and they decided to make me their brand ambassador.
I went to Los Angeles for two weeks following my showcase where I worked with Max Gousse, Sha Money, the Jackie Boyz, and the Frontrunnaz and recorded eight amazing songs. You can expect to hear more urban-pop records. With my initial three singles, I had the chance to test out my sound so now I've found what I'm more comfortable with as an artist.
Speaking of your showcase, you're no stranger to the stage, and last year you had the opportunity to perform in front of music industry executives out of New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Can you share how you prepared for that moment?
Ivan didn't want to waste any time. He felt it was in my best interest to do a showcase to get things going for me, and thanks to Haydn Hughes and the Government of Anguilla's financial assistance, we were able to make that happen. Ivan brought Natalie Lyons, who has worked with the likes of Beyonce and Chris Brown, down to Anguilla to work on choreography with me, and we made necessary arrangements with the band as well.
There were definitely times during the process of getting the show together that I grew frustrated and shed tears, but my manager helped me to snap out of it and pull it together. Leading up to the showcase, I was in between working out, dancing, and staying on top of my health. I wasn't deadly nervous the night of the showcase, but I couldn't believe that I was actually meeting executives who work with people that I admire. The adrenaline did hit me when I first got on stage, but I grew comfortable and got over any fear that I had. I did what I had to do, and they were amazed and impressed with my range and talent.
Definitely. I'm actually planning to head back to Los Angeles because it's really hard and expensive to have people travel to Anguilla for artist development. Now is the time for me to focus on that. I know I'm good, but I can always be better so I'm aiming to do more dance classes, open mic shows, auditions and just work on developing mentally, physically--you name it.
You've openly shared that you've been bullied before, and in a position of influence, you've used your social media outlets as a platform to speak out against bullying. What inspired you to speak up about your experience, and what message do you want people to take away from your story?
I shared my story because my dad is a musical legend in Anguilla, so growing up people figured that I had nothing to worry about which was not the case. I didn't want people to think I was perfect or stuck up, but people would always differentiate me from the crowd. Even if I did stay in my own corner, I would always get picked on, and people would call me ugly and tell me I would never make it in life among other things. I would go home crying on a regular basis, but my mom was my source of encouragement and would remind me that I had my family to rely on.
The bullying got worse in high school so I went to school in St. Maarten for three years and would take the ferry back and forth every day, but that's where I became a stronger person. I had people around me that helped me to toughen up, stand up for myself, and not let people take advantage of the fact that I'm a softhearted person. What I've learned in my life, and what I want people to take away from my story is to never let people's opinion of you define who you are.
What's your secret to staying positive?
I want people to see that I'm human too, and I make mistakes, and I grow from them. I stay positive by surrounding myself with inspirational quotes that I write down and stick on my mirror to memorize. I've also learned not to let people's negativity affect how I choose to live. People won't always be in your corner, and that's fine. Thankfully for me, my family has always been my foundation for remaining positive in life.