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Spotlight on Mahalia Phillips

Natanga Smith Hurdle

Spotlight on Mahalia Phillips

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THE BAND NexCyx has been in the musical spotlight for a while. The band lost a couple of members, put out a couple of singles and for the past several months they have been focusing on a NexCyx EP, now completed and soon to be released. 
Apart from being busy with local performances, the band has been racking up some frequent flyer miles performing the material and last month alone members flew to Bequia for a music festival and to St Louis, Missouri, for a showcase where college representatives were looking for entertainment for their schools’ events.
They were well received and have already been booked for some college gigs. Last week they were in Austin, Texas, for the SXSW Music and Media Conference and Festival – their second time there in two years.
The lone female of the group, Mahalia Phillips, stands out on stage as lead vocalist. She recalls being creative from a young age.
“I grew up in Britton’s Hill, St Michael, with my mother, grand and great-grandmothers. I started dancing from age four and I still attend dance class at Dance Strides Barbados [which is a probably a factor in how she keeps fit and trim]. I’m all about art, so when I’m not singing or songwriting you can find me writing poetry, sketching or making something.
“As lead vocalist of the group I did most of the writing of original music for the EP. I enjoyed the challenge.”
She met her bandmates about four years while they all were studying at the University of the West Indies (UWI):?“The guys [Russell Padmore, Kris Clarke and Andre Clarke] asked me to sing with them at a poetry reading at UWI  . . . and we had a good vibe together and a similar desire.”
And they have been together since.
She stands 5 feet 6 inches tall and being vocalist means the spotlight is more on her than on the other members. In that regard, Mahalia has to be on point at all times with her dress code. She always looks fabulous on or offstage but is quick to point out that her fashion sense has changed over the years.
“I’m a much girlier girl nowadays. I always had an interest in fashion as an artist but I was more into the beach and surf style. Performing with NexCyx definitely influenced my sense of personal style.
Yes, as you would expect with a pop singer, style is very important to Mahalia.
Her style icons are singers Janelle Monae, Keri Hilson and Rihanna (she is currently loving and wearing Rihanna’s Reb’l Fleur) and she labels her own look “quirky but edgy.” She doesn’t really follow trends on purpose . . . “but there are some that grab me. But even then I put my individual spin on it. And I love colours!  
Her shopping secret??“Buying things that I can mix, match and layer. I find myself in Redd Boutique very often. Also De Fine Beauty, just to name a couple right here at home.
“As a band, we travel a lot. My travel attire largely depends on where we are going, but I like to be comfortable while travelling. My Converse [shoes] never fail me. They are the height of comfort but with their own style and edge.”
She emphasizes that designer tags are not what she looks for: “Whatever fits and I like it, I wear it.
Offstage she also puts thought into what she wears. When she is in a good mood she goes the whole ten yards – not just nine; when she is in a not-so-good mood, she is more low-key. Her favourite accessories are interesting eyewear and handbags and she can be often seen rocking her necklace, which has a headphone pendant: “It’s my favourite piece of jewellery because it embodies my style in a nice little package.”
Being in the spotlight means her complexion and skin are important. “I take care of my skin by moisturizing! And drinking lots of water. Cod liver oil doesn’t hurt either. 
“I don’t really have a daily routine for face and hair. When I’m not working, I go with a light eyeliner for a little fierceness and a little blush for a little flush. When I want to change a look from day to night, heels and a clutch will do it every time. Add smoky eyes and it’s complete.”
Apart from her guilty pleasure of sushi, Mahalia’s other guilty pleasure is shoes. She laughingly states you can never have enough of them and counts 50-odd pairs in her closet. In the next breath she adds that flats are one thing she can’t live without – “those things are lifesavers!” 
What is the weirdest thing you have ever worn onstage, I asked her. “I was dressed as a Twi’lek (Star Wars character) once for a Halloween performance.”
Mahalia can’t sit still and loves to travel – and that ties in with her love of music. “I love to go anywhere where there will be live music and/or spoken word happening. It continues the cycle of inspiration for me and breeds creativity. I won’t step on a plane without my iPod.”
And if she wasn’t singing, what other career choices would she be eying? That’s a hard toss-up, she says, between a dancer in a professional company [think Alvin Ailey] or something in the computer field [think programmer. Her degree is in computer science]. 
So what else gets Mahalia excited about life? “Waking up in the morning.”
And where does she sees herself five years down the line? “At some of the many international awards shows as a nominee.”
Yes, that’s Mahalia, stealing the spotlight again.