Tami Chin Mitchell - Living out loudMonday, April 06, 2020
TAMMAR Annika Chin Mitchell often looks back on the years she spent as Tami Chynn — the sultry dancehall, reggae, and R&B singer — and asks herself, “What was I thinking?”
She admitted this as she spoke candidly to All Woman from the studios of The Edge 105 FM, where she now hosts her live talk show Live Out Loud on weekday mornings. These days she shows up as Tami Chin Mitchell — the wife, mother, entrepreneur, and podcaster turned broadcaster — or as she puts it, she just shows up as herself.
“But my experience in the music industry was really a good one,” she said thoughtfully. “It was littered with its ups and downs and challenges, like anything else, and I look back on it and think…there I was, this uptown 'chiney' girl doing this pop dancehall thing…what was I thinking? But also, I really feel like there was a part of me that was very brave to just put myself out there like that, and I'm proud.”
Though she, in part, credits her fearless foray into music to the “blissful ignorance of youth”, Chin Mitchell is thankful that she grew up in a home where she was allowed to be herself, whatever she woke up feeling like that was.
“I really never gave much thought to what I wanted to be because there were so many things,” the fourth of five children born to Richard and Christine Chin shared. “I grew up wanting to be a lot of things and wear a lot of hats, and I was always encouraged to try on those hats.”
So when she decided at age 17, after having left Jamaica a few years prior to complete high school in England, that she wanted to be a musician, her family supported this decision under the condition that if it didn't work out by the time she turned 21, then she would have to pursue higher education.
A record deal with Universal Studios in her early 20s was proof enough that it was working out, so Tami Chynn spent most of that decade captivating local and international audiences with her blonde hair, sensual voice, bold piercings, and bare midriff and legs.
“And music was fun,” she reflected. “It took me to a lot of places and I met a lot of people that I probably wouldn't have gotten to in any other field, so I'm grateful for what it did for me in terms of making me who I am, but I would never go back and I would never do anything differently.”
Until about seven years ago, when she decided that she was done.
“A lot of people think that I stopped because I got married and I had kids, but I did make the decision to stop doing music long before I ever had my first child,” she clarified. “It wasn't for any other reason than that I felt like being an artiste had served its purpose in my life, and I was ready to try something else.”
When she was six months pregnant with her eldest son, Jaxen, she had one last hoorah on stage as Tami Chynn, then proceeded to immerse herself into motherhood.
“I thought motherhood was going to be pretty, lovely, peaceful, kind, and just rewarding all the time, but then I quickly realised that this was here to break me open,” she conceded. “It is all those things, but it is also laced with lessons and hardships.”
Through her stepson Gio, Chin Mitchell had got a gentle introduction to motherhood, then an eye-opener through Jaxen, so by the time Atlas came into the picture, Chin Mitchell was just about finding her bearings as a stay-at-home mom. She realised that each child brought with him a new experience, and required her to be a different kind of mother.
“So I started a business,” she laughed. “This is when my entrepreneurial side came forward and I decided to open a salon. I had kind of grown up in the salon with my older sister being a salon owner, so when I thought about starting a business I immediately thought salon.”
Though she did not understand it at the time, Blow by Blow was about community and having a space for women to express themselves and share what was really happening in their lives.
“It wasn't that I was some hair guru, or some boss woman, but I was a people person. I really wanted to have that space for women, and a salon just seemed like a great way to do that,” she reasoned.
After four years Chin Mitchell grew weary of that hat, too. The self-proclaimed 'multipotentialite' was ready to show up as another version of herself. She found another way to use her voice to reach people, through Tami Tackles Everything.
“I realised that my love was in communicating with people. I started a podcast and that was my entry point into having a voice of my own, having something to say. I was using my voice to connect on another level that was healing. I felt like for the first time I was allowing people to see who I was. I was sick of trying to maintain this ideal, and so I just started to show my flaws. I started to be vulnerable. I started to share my weaknesses and my strengths. I just decided that I'm going to show up as me, and we'll see how that works out,” she said.
The raw vulnerability and humanness of her podcasts paved the way for her to become the woman who breathes new life into Jamaican morning radio.
“I'm not surprised that I landed in radio,” she admitted. “I realised that everything I've done so far has been preparing me for this — from being in music, being a mom, running a business, and having a podcast. I love showing up everyday with this purpose and intention.”
Giving birth to her third son Oz last summer, and being the only woman in a beautifully blended family of seven, means that she must juggle work and her six-a-side football team.
“Nobody really tells you how much your children are going to be your source of joy, but also your source of pain. It's a see-saw of extremes and we somehow find these middle moments that just help us to make it through, but it's not easy. I love being a mother. I love having these little people around me. I love parenting with Wayne. There are all these things that I love about it, and it definitely outweighs the bad, but it doesn't take away that there are moments when I also hide in the bathroom,” she shared.
Facing forward, the thirty-something-year-old is eager to see what's next for her, while being contented that she is showing up as her most authentic self each day, regardless of how others might view that. She has not completely closed any of the doors that she has walked through, but instead has left them 'cotched' for when opportunity knocks.
“When I was younger I used to think it was about living in a big house with a nice car and all of that, but now I know that it's about having the people around you who make your heart sing. It's about laughing until your belly hurts, walking through the door and seeing your son go 'mama', eating food that makes you go 'mmmm'. It's the simple things,” she smiled.
She added: “I keep hearing this little voice in my head that says your best days are ahead of you, and that would be my message to anybody. Your best days are ahead of you. If you can imagine the best day you've had so far, and think that there are still days better than that to come, how exciting is that?”
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