Leigh Phillips at a Honey Jazz showcase at the Frank Collymore Hall. (Picture by Reco Moore.)
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Ashleigh Phillips embraces all of her scars. In fact, from her adolescent years, the 27-year old has chronicled her life experiences in a journal, and many of these writings are crafted into songs – like the ones on her debut EP Leigh, which was released in September.
And rather than conceal her lifelong battle with scoliosis, the singer/songwriter, whose stage name is Leigh, has used the painful experience as a source of inspiration.
She was 11 years old when a friend of her mother’s noticed a curve in her back and suggested that she might have the spine irregularity.
Mum Carol Phillips thought that Leigh just had poor posture, so it was only after a medicinal diagnosis that it sunk in.
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that often occurs during the growth spurt before puberty.
Though some cases are mild, some children develop spine deformities that can get more severe as they grow.
This is why at 14 years old while a student at Combermere, she was whisked off to Trinidad to undergo corrective surgery.
“People weren’t mean about it but I think for my own self-confidence it was very threatening at that time – you know I was going through puberty and at that age you want to be cute.
“I don’t think I understood how much it would impact my life and how I felt about myself. I think it showed me how brave I really was, and no matter what my limits were or perceived to be, I always had in me to do more and to be more,” Leigh said, adding that the condition did affect her lungs.
During the ten-hour procedure, a Harrington’s Rod was implanted into her spine to correct the S-Curve.
The rod holds everything in place; but it doesn’t mean she can’t develop more curvature in the future. So Leigh is very cautious about heavy lifting.
She said the surgery left a very noticeable scar and she was unable to walk for some time. But it also added four inches to her height and boosted her self-esteem.
“When I saw the scar I thought it was the most beautiful thing that I’d ever seen. I’m pretty proud of it, and I think it elevated my confidence at that time,” she said with a smile.
The singer recently spoke to EASY at Café Paradis, Norman’s Centre in The City where she shared that she was born in Grenada on Christmas Day and moved to Barbados in 1993. She is a graduate of York University in Toronto, Canada, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in spanish and international development in 2012.
She works alongside her father Chiron Phillips as an office manager at Phillips Operations Management Consultancy since returning to Barbados in 2015.
She is a huge fan of Alicia Keys, Anita Baker, Billie Holiday and Buju Banton, and, in five years time, she hopes to be an international singer/songwriter.
She enjoys trips to the beach, spending quality time with her family and reading. This she said helped with her writing.
Despite still having a day job Leigh said music was a long-time aspiration. But it was only after a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with singer/rapper Drake that she decided to speed up the process.
She recalled that a friend, who is related to American actress Zoe Kravitz, invited her to attend Zoe’s concert in Toronto.
After the event, she was then invited to attend a private dinner. Drake and his entourage were in attendance.
“He came and sat pretty close to me. He introduced to himself to everybody; he was normal. But I didn’t know what to say or what to do.
While I was there I was thinking to myself, ‘If they asked to hear some of my stuff, I had nothing; and you have the opportunity of a lifetime, but you have no music’,” she said.
So after her work visa expired, she moved back to Barbados and decided to audition for Honey Jam. Owing to work commitments in Canada she was unable to participate in the all-female showcase there.
Sometime after her first appearance at Honey Jam, she got in the studio to begin working on original material alongside producer Eli Joseph, and so the risk so far has paid off. She has produced original material such as songs Burn and 45.
Late last year, she was chosen as one of the Barbadian representatives for the Club One New Releases Canadian TV series. During the fifth season of the show she had a much larger a platform to perform at musical performances, do interviews and more songwriting.
Next month she will continue her work with the show when she flies to Newfoundland, Canada. (TG)