Jamaican singer Tina, formerly known as HoodCelebrityy, was moved to tears as she discussed her life growing up as a DACA kid in the Bronx, New York.
DACA, an acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a policy that protects around 800,000 young people — known as “DREAMers” — who entered the United States unlawfully as children. Though it does not confer official legal status or a path to citizenship, it does provide the opportunity to obtain a driver’s license, a social security number, and a work permit, as per Boundless.
Speaking recently with Angela Yee on Way Up with Angela Yee, the Walking Trophy singer, who moved to the Bronx when she was 12 years old, spoke about growing up in the US where she wasn’t afforded the same privileges as her peers.
“I’m a DACA kid, so I came to America with no papers,” Tina explained.
“I didn’t know anything about my situation until I was like, maybe like 16 going on 17. When I was trying, you know like we had school trips, some of them were going away trips, and my mom was like, ‘You can’t go’. I’d try to travel with my friends, everybody will talk [about] going away, and she was like ‘yeah, you can’t do that.’ And that was when I was like ‘Oh shoot, this is different.”
The Portmore-born singer remained largely silent about her status for years, spurred by her family’s fear of deportation, a fate her own brother had suffered when he was returned to Jamaica.
“I talk about that a lot [now] before I used to be embarrassed to talk about it. I’mma be honest. More like embarrassed and scared at the same time cause my family always be like ‘Don’t tell nobody your business, ’cause they could get you deported’. So it wasn’t something I used to talk about before but I’m big on that situation,” she said of the DACA program and immigration issues.
“Talking about it makes me get emotional because I know what I’ve been through. Like, I got my brother that was deported back to Jamaica, you know,” she said before breaking down in tears.
Yee gave the Island Girls artist a moment to regain her composure before the talk shifted to the hurdles she faced within her own family when choosing to pursue music full-time.
Signing a deal with Epic Records was a simple feat for the talented Jamaican, but earning her mother’s approval of her music was a different story. “My mom is a Christian, she goes to church so she’s not into the Bum Pon It and all that stuff,” she said.
“At first, I felt my mom was embarrassed ’cause she’s looking on me like – you came from Jamaica and this is what you wanna be? She wanted me to be a lawyer, a doctor, a nurse … like [typical] Caribbean parents. So when I told her I wanted to be an artist, she looked at me like I was being low life,” she said.
“She call my family, one thing about Jamaican parents, they go’ne call everybody back home. She be like, ‘Mi cyaa believe sey di likkle girl come ah farrin fi waste her time. Di likkle girl a low life’,” she said, impersonating her mother.
The Inna Real Life artist said her mother believed becoming a musician meant she had been influenced by the Illuminati. For this reason also, she didn’t support her in the beginning years of her career.
“My mom thought, really, like I was on some illuminate … when I told her I wanna be an artist, she’s like ‘this a Illuminati stuff, dem have you,” she said.
“Before I used to get mad at her, but now [that] I’m maturing I get to understand that she really don’t understand. She had never seen any of this stuff before,” she continued.
Nowadays, Tina’s mother sees her success and is more supportive. “Now that she sees what I’m doing and what I’m getting done, I bought a house, thank God, two years ago. I bought a house and I moved her in with me. I moved my sister in with me, I moved my baby brother in with me, and I feel like she sees what I’m really out here doing,” she said.
The conversation also touched on living out her aspirations of collaborating with some big names in Dancehall, including Bounty Killer, who she remixed her single I’m Back last March.
Tina said the Dancehall titan was immediately drawn to the single, which samples the 2001 Buzz Riddim, and voiced his verses the same night.
Fans can look out for her new song Signs, which will drop in August and also an exciting upcoming collaboration with Vybz Kartel she said will be coming soon.
Watch the full interview of Tina (HoodCelebrityy) on Way Up with Angela Yee here: