Confessions of a Nevisian superstar: “I was spiraling in and out of depression”

At the tender age of two, Venelle Powell walked into her mother’s house and belted out ‘blessed assurance’ to her mother and it’s was all downhill from there. Seeing her unwavering talents, her mother was dedicated to molding and fine tuning her daughters’ gift into the angelic, passionate and peaceful voice you hear today. Over 26 years later Venelle is now one the performers for one of the most popular music festivals in the Caribbean region, The St. Kitts Music Festival.

Venelle’s journey to stardom was not easy, she confessed that she started her music career after she dropped out of Pharmacy school in Jamaica.

“I was studying Pharmacy for a few years and it was terrible, it was so bad, I was failing everything and no matter how hard I tried I was failing.

“That was one of the hardest points of my life. I was spiraling in and out of depression because the truth of the matter is, from the first year I knew this wasn’t going to work but I said no you can’t just give up, you have to try, you have to give it its time. So, I was trying to give it its time,” she said.

She explained that she gave the degree four years of her life before deciding to call it quits.

“I don’t want to continue to do this to myself because I was running myself down physically mentally, psychologically, and I did not want to lose my mind in a pharmacy school, and I had to make that call. I had to come back home, tell the government, tell the society.

“And you know what I got from that really and truly was I was trying to live my life to please the Nevis Island Administration, to please the bank, to please my family, but I wasn’t trying to please God and I wasn’t trying to please myself. So, I made the decision to switch over to Edna Manley college of visual and performing arts and when I made that switch my grades went from zero to 100 literally,” she said.

She explained that she left Jamaica and returned to Nevis, not only to launch her career, but also to give back to her Nevisian community.

“I wanted to start in the primary schools because I know that Nevis can be better. How can I make Nevis better? Through music. How can I start? Start with the children so at least if they never touch music again, they have an appreciation for it,” she said.

Powell stated that although her decision was exactly what she needed personally and professionally; she was aware of the challenges she would face returning to Nevis as a performer.

“I know here in Nevis we don’t really treat this as a profession. But in the wider world these are jobs, people get paid to play instruments and make guest appearances. Back when we were growing up, these kinds of jobs were not realistic, if you look at it, our parents in Nevis, Nevis is so far away from the wider part of the world. So, you had to do what was practical to survive, that was their mentality, get an education, come back and work in a job so you can make money so you can survive. And of course, our parents had our best interest at heart…fast forward, there is so much that has transitioned from the 90’s to now.

“Our society is still in the mentality of the late 90’s when music was slow and still do what is practical and what’s practical for Nevis is to go study and be a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist be an engineer, come back and build our society which is needed, but what about the creatives, we have creative people” she said.

Although Venelle has a series of opportunities that have kept growing to this day, she explained that the Nevisian society still has some more growing to do.

“It’s like me pushing for them to know that it’s a job. But at the same time, it takes natural resources for things to happen. For me being an entertainer I have to wear certain clothes, what transportation will I need? Being an entertainer is not just singing, I’m still a person and my talent is inside of me and I have to take care of my holistic body for it to function. If I catch a cold, I can’t function. If I’m teaching a class and I strain my voice, I can’t sing, so it’s a lot,” she explained.

She stated that while Nevisians have antiquated views of the industry, she knows that there are various opportunities on the island for people in the arts.

“We do have opportunities to sing, we do have opportunities to perform, we just have to create them, one of the biggest challenges and because of the lack of exposure, people are not committed.

“Can my singing provide a revenue for me to survive? Yes, because if all the people who were calling me would provide to my life financially, I would be fine,” she said.

A veteran in the field, and with just under ten years of professional expertise, Venelle has performed in both Nevis and St. Kitts and identifies a drastic change in professionalism and appreciation in the artform on our sister island.

“When I’m in St. Kitts, I’m treated like a professional…the level of respect that came with the fact that I was performing, the musicians, my background vocalist, everybody had a completely different mindset. And I feel like for us here in Nevis it’s just for us to shift your mindset…we have to accommodate with where the world is now, change your mindset,” she said.

Venelle used the opportunity to highlight the ways in which the public can support local artiste in the performing industry.

“If you’re going to call a plumber, a chef, a mechanic, the same way you support them is the same way you can support me, everything needs something for it to work and if you really want something that is properly done, that’s professionally done you just have to respect them, financially,” she said.

Her biggest tip for aspiring artists is to do what you were created to do, go for it, invest in yourself, be confident and trust the process.

Venelle currently holds a certification in the Fundamentals of Music, Literacy and Performance, but intentions of returning to university to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Music Performance and Education. She’s currently a teacher for the primary school’s music programme, through the Ministry of Education and is schedule to perform at the St. Kitts Music Festival on Saturday 27th June 2020.

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