Digicel Rising Stars’ Latty J – The One They Never Saw Coming

Fighting her way to the top, the spunky and soulful Latoya Jackson, aka Latty J, says this is her time to shine.

When 22 year old Latty J failed to make it into the Digicel Rising Stars’ Top 6, Jamaica on a whole was in disbelief. How did they let a true star like Latty J go home? But luckily for them, the show’s producer intervened, and returned Latty J to the show as the Producer’s Pick.

While Latty is excited to be back, she says that it was dropping out and being given the chance to return that has been her real motivator for her on-point performances:  “Mi think seh mi drop out at that time because mi did need fi see what did a happen roun me. It really motivated me. It push me fi seh you have to try and you have to come back stronger. ‘Simple Latty’ can’t do it, what about better, what about best?”

For as long as Latty has known herself, she has been pushing herself forward. Originally from August Town in St. Andrew, Latty went to Papine High School, where she was the head girl.  After finishing High School, Latty got a scholarship to go to the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts for her first Pre-Qualifying year of Music. After her first year, she received another scholarship for the first official year of her degree, but had to stop because it only covered half of her tuition.

With little left to do in Kingston, she packed up and headed to the north coast to seek better opportunities. It was in Montego Bay that she gave birth to her son Malik.  The separation between her and the father of her then newborn, added to Latty’s struggle of adjusting to north coast life.  “It was really hard, mi haffi struggle to keep afloat. Cause at dat time, pon di north coast, mi nuh have nuh-body.  But mi did always have dis constant push seh no, mi nah stop.”

It was this push that led Latty into two jobs which she eventually whittled down to one, an Entertainment Coordinator at a hotel in Montego Bay.

But how does Latty manage a full time job, raising a son and raising the bar in the competition?

“Mi haffi go look annoda job!” she said laughing, but then continued more seriously “I was laid off from work. They said that Digicel Rising Stars is paying me so they no longer need my services.  By the way, we do not get paid during the competition.  But this is just more motivation for me to win.”

As far as campaigning is concerned, Latty goes with friends out into the country: “If three ah we can find some bus fare, then the three ah we go a di country go campaign. Wi walk wid pan and collect, mi all have mi shirt dem! We sing, we dance, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it!”

Because of the violence in August town, Latty has to get a permit every week to keep her biggest campaigning event, her street dance. On the weeks she doesn’t get a permit, she keeps a house party instead and charges one hundred dollars entry.

Unfortunately however, the time consuming nature of the competition often prevents her from seeing her energetic three year old son Malik, who has to stay with his grandmother in Montego Bay while she is in Kingston performing and campaigning.  And much like his mom, Malik is a music lover. “Him love music! I used to work at a dance theatre company, and from he was in my tummy, every time the drums would play, him would move and kick!”

Malik is as big an inspiration to Latty J as is her mother, who wasn’t so enthused with her decision originally to join Digicel Rising Stars, but quickly warmed up to the idea when she saw Latty moving through the ranks:  “I remember saying ‘trust me nuh mommy, just trust me nuh.’ Now she has been behind me one hundred percent. She all come campaigning wid me!”

“Entering Digicel Rising Stars to me is like di biggest ting mi eva coulda do fi miself, and mi glad mi do it, all if mi nuh win, mi glad mi do it!”

But what if she does win?

“I was thinking about going back to school, and finishing up Edna,” She said, making reference to one of the first place prizes, a year’s scholarship to her alma matter. But continued, “But I have to remember that I have to work, because I have a son, and it’s going to be a struggle.”

But even if Latty couldn’t attend the Performing Arts College full time, she would make sure the opportunity would go to someone who deserves it: “If mi could hand it over, without a doubt, mi would give it to Tash.  Mi know seh Tash well waan go Edna Manley, and experience what I have, so if I win and can’t go, mi would give it to her.  And me would still be able to pay off some a mi school fee, part time.”

Meanwhile, the competition is heating up between her and Tash, and at this stage, it could be anybody’s million: “I think the talents are there, and the two of we stand out, but at the end of the day, there is just one winner. But in my eyes we are all winners, and it’s the votes that count.”

But until she takes the number one spot, Latty J says Jamaica can continue to expect top of the line performances from this artiste on the rise, as she plans to give them nothing less than her best: “Jamaica can expect soulful music! Expect to feel it, because mi ago mek you feel it when mi pon di stage.”

Who knows, maybe a true Rising Star like Latty J has her future already written in the stars: “Last year October mi seh to my cousin ‘mi a enter Digicel Rising Stars, an dah year yah mi ago win!”