Eyes on the musical prize
IMAGE IS EVERYTHING.
It is a cliché that singer/songwriter Dwane Antonio knew but had to be reminded of the hard way.
A weakness for “anything with coconut and chocolate,” midnight M&Ms snacks and candy-coated breakfasts – even while going to the gym, started to show around the singer’s midsection about a year ago.
“I found that I was out of breath a lot performing, I had a problem sleeping and I used to sweat a lot. I was 196 pounds and I had a sweet tooth . . . [but] I didn’t know that I was carrying that amount of weight.”
Living in New York City did not make it any easier, he revealed on a breezy Friday morning on a picturesque South Coast stretch a few days before he left the island.
A jolt of reality shocked the Princess Margaret Secondary alumnus when a music executive forced him to see that the change he sang about to win the hearts of Digicel Rising Star voters in 2008, desperately needed to come.
“I went into an office of a record label and the first thing they said was to get your image together,” he recalled. “I had heard that at home [in Barbados], but then it really hit me that image was everything and later on you realize that a healthy body produces a healthy voice. You look at Trey Songz and all these people and the image is on point.
“They work out and eat right. I can still have a sweet tooth or . . . guilty pleasures, but it is in moderation.”
And fortunately for him, a fan and fitness expert Bradley Aubrey, based in Tampa, Florida, extended a lifeline to whip him into shape. He flew Dwane Antonio from New York and worked with him “until he was ready”.
Cookies and chocolate had to be replaced with brown rice, vegetables, lean meats and lots of water.
Exercise was another crucial component, with weight training in the morning, cardio twice per day and push-ups before bed. As a result, the singer dropped four pants sizes in as many weeks.
Weight loss opened up new doors for him, including an endorsement deal with a nutritional supplement company.
It also fuelled a new push with his music. Opening up a little more, Dwane Antonio candidly revealed that he did not fight hard enough to make full use of opportunities afforded him, the biggest of which was a collaboration on Rihanna’s Dem Haters. The track was featured on the superstar’s sophomore album A Girl Like Me, released in 2006.
“A lot of people [have asked me] why doesn’t Rihanna help me [or] why doesn’t Rihanna look out for me. She has helped me and looked out for me, but she is busy looking out for herself,” he began.
“That is also something that kept me back as well. I was saying, ‘you know what? I sang with Rihanna . . . Jay Z approved the song and it was featured on the album, so they will approach me’. No. You have to go out and fight for it. I didn’t fight hard enough for it. I am putting this out there for other people who have [this same] dream. Because you have a song on the radio or you go into the studio and DJs spin your song, you now have to put in the work.
“I thought being flown out by Def Jam to record with Rihanna, that was it! That was my break. I sat down and waited for Jay Z to call and Evan Rogers to call me back. I sat down and waited for everybody to call who I thought would have given me that break, but it didn’t happen like that.”
After the phone didn’t ring, Dwane Antonio, originally known as Dwane Husbands, entered Digicel Rising Stars in 2008.
“People were saying that it would set me back, but I believe that sometimes you have to fall down twice to more forward 100 times more . . . . I won and it was something I could add to my résumé [as well as] singing with Rihanna.”
After cinching the singing contest, the Simple Mathematics crooner moved to New York, where he scored another win – the chance to work with Missy Elliot.
He credited her with connections to Sony Music, paving the stage for him to perform alongside big R&B names like Ne-Yo and Trey Songz, mostly singing covers of one of his favourite artiste, John Legend.
Under the management of “father figure” Carlos Eversley, Dwane Antonio remained a huge fan of John Legend, but was also continuing to work on his own sound.
“I love [John Legend] and his music and I learnt a lot from him about finding yourself. But it is time to find Dwane Antonio and by doing that I can represent for Barbados and for the Caribbean,” he said.
And the name change reflects that, while paying homage to his growing fan base in the Dominican Republic. After this stint in Las Vegas, The Bahamas is the next stop on the Dwane Antonio tour.