Why did you decide to become an Ambassador for MSS?
Nshorna Davis and I have known each other for over 20 years. Nshorna approached me and asked if I would be interested in becoming an Ambassador for the MSS due to my professional background in mental health, my passion for supporting survivors of domestic abuse and trauma recovery and my experience of working with perpetrators of violence in the prison service. I am able to reach a wide audience through my music and I was therefore honoured to accept the role and to raise the profile of such an important service.
You have an amazing career as a singer and songwriter. Tell us a bit about that.
My career in music really took off when I was 15. My sister entered (a very reluctant) me for a karaoke competition which I won. That led to getting a manager and from there I went on to become a performer. I Can’t Help Myself went to Number 1 in the U.S. charts.
As a songwriter, I have had the opportunity to work with some great artists including MTV star Lateysha Grace, Gloria Gaynor and Lea Sunshine from 50 Cent’s Label.
How did you get into mindfulness?
I used to be pretty sceptical about anything like mindfulness, yoga or meditation but now I’m passionate about all three. I am the survivor of a very tough time in my past and have found that working on issues arising from this time with a mindfulness teacher really helped me to turn my life around.
No matter who you are or where you are in life, there is nothing wrong with reaching out for help. You’re not weak just because something bad happened to you.
2020 has been a difficult year for everybody. But lockdown really gave us all a chance to slow down and reflect. Mindfulness has played a massive part in getting me through life’s challenges. I’ve learned that you have to fully engage with it to get maximum benefit.
Tell us something about your past work with at-risk teenagers
I have been involved with a number of different projects. It’s so important to encourage young people to engage with whatever activities really fire their enthusiasm; whether that’s through music, arts, dance or whatever.
My favourite project was when I had the idea to set up a Flash Mob dance event in Bristol. You can see it on YouTube https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WdVM7FibF_Y&t=4s
It’s about giving back. Giving back is my thing.
As well as your career in music and charity work you are the mother of a lovely daughter. In what ways have you found that mindfulness helps with parenting?
Mindfulness helps with all aspects of parenting. I’ve found it makes me feel more chilled and helps me make better decisions.
My 12-year old daughter was born with disabilities but she doesn’t let anything get in her way- she is a dream to parent. I am so proud of her. I’ve been doing some teaching over Zoom during lockdown with her and her friends. It’s been fun getting them to sing Oh Happy Day from Sister Act together!
Of all the lovely music you have performed or written, which piece is your favourite?
When I Can’t Help Myself went to Number 1 in the U.S. that was pretty good. Another song that meant a lot to me was I Believe, a piece which I worked on with rapper Moe Roc and some young dancers from Bristol. After it was released, we were invited to come and speak to kids at schools in Harlem during Black History Month. I hope this song still inspires young people to aim high.
But right now I’m especially excited by my new work with Rene Rodrigezz that’s just been released. It’s called The Moment.
As a mental health nurse, do you have any tips for using mindfulness techniques in the workplace?
It would be great if all nurses, not just those working in mental health, could have access to mindfulness training. Not only would they benefit but so would their patients.
Mindfulness can be life-changing, but it has to be done right. For people with anxiety and other difficulties, just the thought of doing an hour-long session can provoke feelings of anxiety. So it’s really important to have the right support and to have a teacher who uses techniques that are right for you.
How do you spend your free time?
At the end of the day, what really works for me is engaging with my daughter and with friends. I get so much out of being there for other people, especially if they’re going through a difficult time.