Mum is Mahalia’s biggest cheerleader
SHE NAMED HER MAHALIA, in homage to one of greatest gospel singers to walk this earth.
What Judy Phillips did not know was that the daughter who hummed and danced around the house, or stunned strangers with her voice while she was still in single digits, was destined to be one of the best voices to break out of Bimrock. There were some clues – their Phillips/Lavine family was filled with talent, from resonating baritones to mesmerising dancers and even those who had an eye for art.
But the proud NexCyx mother, who has several achievements under her belt, attributed her daughter’s success and confidence to unwavering Christian faith and the values instilled as a member of a large family hailing from Brittons Hill, St Michael. Judy was the lone girl of two older sons and one half-brother.
With three generations lived under one roof, there was no shortage of wisdom.
“During my upbringing, I had my grandparents and great grandparents [alive] and we were always told to be ourselves and to be kind,” she recalled as we sat poolside last Friday, warming in mid-morning sun.
Just as Judy encouraged Mahalia in her various interests, Judy was allowed to flourish in netball, basketball and Girl Guides, along with various side activities like art.
Sports still consumed a large part of her life, along with coordinating the before and after care at her and her daughter’s alma mater, St Paul’s Primary School.
“I enjoy helping a child who thought they could not have done something. My reward is seeing that child achieve. You don’t have to be at the pinnacle, but it is that you tried,” she explained.
Although the 64-year-old had always loved working with children, her lone offspring came a little later in life at age 36.
When it did happen, Judy spoke to her unborn daughter often, filling her shaping mind with the advice which had been passed on from the family’s elders.
“From the time I knew I was pregnant, I said to her while she was in my tummy . . . make decisions based on your beliefs. Don’t let anybody change your mind – change your mind if you want to.”
And while she never lived with Mahalia’s late father, Ashton Marshall, Judy assured he was always there for their child. So too was Judy’s late brother Jerry Lavine, who was the reason Mahalia started formal training in dance at four years old.
“When my brother was alive, he used to say . . . ‘let the child do what she wants. How else will she know what she will really gravitate to if you sideline certain things?’”
“[Mahalia’s father and I] sat and discussed things. I might not have agreed with certain things, but we never had any arguments over anything. We were pretty much a team even if we did not live together.”
And as she watched her daughter develop, Judy did so with boundaries, a little leeway and lots of love.
And no topic was off the table: Stumped with schoolwork? “Practice makes practical.”
Choosing a boyfriend? “Don’t get involved with someone who has less to lose than you, because the person with more will not stoop to a lower level to suit you.”
Gifts and wrapped expectations from the opposite sex – “What you can’t pay in coin, you have to pay in kind.”
Sex – “If you can’t be good, be careful.”
“I am not an old fogey mother,” she said matter-of-factly. You can have any conversation with me, as long as you are respectful. I will not look down my nose and ask why you are talking about certain things.”
Reflecting on the day she watched Mahalia walk down the aisle with husband Cyrus Cummins in late 2012, the proud mother was filled with hopes and wishes for her only child.
“I would like her and Cy to grow old together . . . It would be good if I could have a granddaughter or grandson,” she added coyly.
As for her career, the nervous mother said God’s will be done – whether it be record label or worldwide notoriety.
“If she gets signed I would have no problem with that . . . if that is His will. We don’t know what plans God has for her.”
One thing is for sure: Judy Phillips will be just beyond the glare of the camera’s lens, cheering loudly for her “Halie.”