Malene Youglao: Small Victories

The sun was in my eyes as I stood in the court yard of Mon Repos Roman Catholic Primary School in San Fernando Trinidad. Perched on a stage made of clapboard with a mic in hand, I was tall, near-sighted and nervous. I remember only getting through four lines of the Soca song I wrote and tirelessly practiced, before I was mortified by the sound of my own voice blaring through the speakers and I ran back to the schoolhouse to hide behind a mango tree.

This week is a milestone for me.

It is the beginning of the next step. I play three shows in one night during CMJ, beginning tonight. My band is on deck and we shoot the music video for my single “Miss America,” directed by Phil the God and Lyani Powers. Parlourista Shannon Washington and photographer Berman Fenelus will cover any and everything behind the scenes while record by record I get closer to finishing my EP. I’m excited.

I’ve come a long way from the clapboard stage and although at times I am still mortified by hearing myself on loud speakers, I live for it. I’ve played for both hundreds of fans and  empty clubs—where the only audience member was the bartender. I never tire of it. The stage is where I belong it is the one place on earth I feel safe.

I tell my team all the time we must enjoy what’s happening now. The rise to the top is the most exciting part of the journey. Everyday is an adventure. Tons of new developments, small victories and disappointments. It’s us against the world striving to best ourselves each day.

We have to sweat the small stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I am always focused on the main goal—international tours, music awards, publishing checks and mainstream radio rotation—but, I have learned to savor the moment. I take time to smile at my team mates, pat them on the back and say ‘W0w! We just did that!’

When we finally begin to cross the big stuff off of the bucket list, the game changes. Every artist peaks, plateaus and, more than not, descends. Once you achieve the level of success that allows you the freedom to build your life upon a foundation of a music career, it’s different. The wide eyed feeling that my team and I get now won’t be so easily attained. Like my idol Sade says “It’s never as good as the first time.” When your voice first carries across the radio’s airwaves, the first time you see your video on TV, the first time you can hear your fans singing all the words, it’s incomparable. And as what used to be a dream becomes reality, you must then come up with new and innovative ways to keep yourself humble so you never lose the hunger and inspiration that got you to the top in the first place.

So, this week, I am proud to say that I am one step closer. I feel my primary school anxiety rushing back almost as fast as I ran behind that mango tree. But in the face of these wonderful opportunities I use that adrenalin to keep me focused.

I’m off to put another notch on my victory belt… wish me luck!

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