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I Got Lady Chann to Give Me a Dancehall Makeover

We shoved our hands in crevices of Aloe Vera Juice and I attempted to find my way into her inner circle.

by Tamara Roper
11 December 2013, 10:00am

We’ve all seen enough Sex and the City reruns to know that the best way to unleash pheromones is by going out braless, taking a boxercise class, or having a massive makeover. My tits are too free-spirited and feet too crowed for the first two but I decided to recapture some lost femininity by indulging in a nailbar splurge. I didn’t want to do it without a wing woman; I needed a Jessa to my Shoshanna, a no nonsense stylish kinda girl to mentor me through the smog of a harshly lit nail bar. This girl was Lady Chann, THE female face of dancehall music in the UK, whose hits "Sticky Situation" and "Treble To Your Bass" have clocked up millions of rewinds from carnival to Kingston.

We booked in for a manicure at Secrets nail bar in Leyton and I couldn’t wait for Chann to preach the ways of the world over gel soak offs, gossip, and lukewarm beverages.

Shouts to Secrets Nail Bar in Leyton. Their slogan is “Shhh, Nobody Needs to Know”.

Unfortunately, because Lady Chann doesn’t like public transport, she was about half an hour late. She made up for it though with all pink everything makeup, earrings, and shoes. It was a first-impression lesson in colour co-ordination and I made an immediate mental note to denounce the tube and match my accessories with my lipstick forever.

It’s the Wednesday before Chann’s performance with the Heatwave lads for their tenth anniversary Hot Wuk party. They’ve been mates forever, a friendship sparked when Heatwave member Gabriel booked Chann’s group Sun Cycle back in the early days of Heatwave, and she’s been a regular Hot Wukker ever since. “I love what Gabriel’s done with Heatwave. He’s nurtured it and made it grow into the brand that it is now. There’s nothing like it.”

The friendship helped Chann reign in a bunch of now-famous friends. A look at her video for “Sticky Situation” is evidence of this, with Gabriel on the decks, Toddla T and a fresh(er) faced Skream bouncing around in the background. “Oh yeah, I told them all to come down!” she tells me, “We all had a massive rave after that. Toddla put the record out on his label Girls Music and I’m still working with Sticky now.” It all sounds like one big family, and I’d like to be part of it.

We shove our hands in crevices of Aloe Vera Juice and I attempt to find my way into her inner circle. We settle on a common topic, the evening ritual - “I reckon it takes me an hour to get ready before a night out, bath included. I pick up what I want to wear and I don’t go for these bashment wigs, no spiral weaves” - and joke about how ridiculous Sharon Osbourne is for rocking a blonde bashment coiffure on last weeks X Factor. We’re surrounded by saucers of chocolate biscuits and bucket loads of tea.

Since becoming one of the UK’s premiere dancehall artists, Channs been touring pretty much consistently. She has fans clustered in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and most recently, Brazil and has been gigging for ages. But how old is she? “Aaaaaaaah!” she giggles, “I don’t tell anyone my age. Why would I tell you my age? So everyone can count down the years till the end of my career? No way!”

I move swiftly toward deciding whether I should paint my nails red or green.

We collectively decide that I’m having Jamaica flags on my cuticles, a colour combination I can't say I've tried before. We also continue our journey on the gossip express train. Chann is straight up about the fact that women in dancehall are probably some of the biggest backhanded bitches in the music business. “All these girls say that women in dancehall support one another but that doesn’t happen. I can’t think of anyone who really does that.”

Chann isn’t bothered by a lack of sisterhood, instead finding motivation in herself and her peers. She’s strong minded too, recently turning down music from Arman Van Helden. “I only take on beats that I really, really like, and that suit me”. She’s managed to find a fan in Thom Yorke too, despite being fairly unsure of any Radiohead songs, let alone whether Pablo Honey really is a forgotten gem.

It’s dark outside by the time our nails are finished (hers pink, obv, mine yellow black and green). It kind of feels like we’re a gang now, or at least we have been for the last couple of hours. I’d received a makeover from Lady Chann, and I’d like to feel that I’m a part of her extended family. Or at least close enough to be able to take a bunch of selfies with her and look at them afterwards.

Follow Tamara on Twitter: @TamaraRoper

Photos by William Coutts

Samantha at Secrets Nails Bar is a pro. Go see for yourself.