The rapper and queen of self-love on staying true to yourself.
In a world with an increasingly dangerous habit of putting image and style before personality and substance, when an artist as genuine as Junglepussy emerges, it hits you like a ray of sun breaking through cloud. From Cream Team to her latest release State of the Union, 26-year-old rapper Shayna McHayle has whipped up her very own storm. Empowering and inspiring, her lyrics exude self-love, an infectious positivity taking hold of anyone exposed to her music. Hailing from Brooklyn and born to a Trinidadian mother and a Jamaican father, the artist was taught from an early age to stay true to yourself, your goals and putting yourself first—values that are now spreading through the masses following her across the globe.
Glamcult meets Junglepussy after a morning painting session. Producing the majority of the artwork for her albums and EPs herself (excluding that for Showers, which her nephew made), she remains ever-connected to her creative education. Calm and laid-back, with the same confident air that exudes from her music, we sit down to discuss her phenomenal appreciation of self-worth, her career to date and what we can expect from this force of nature in the year to come.
Top and skirt Mimi Wade
A fashion graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology, Junglepussy has always been propelled by creativity: “I went to FIT because growing up I was super creative. I wanted to express that and thought the only way to do it was through the fashion industry—so I started there. Shortly after that I realized that a lot of these people are miserable so I let myself find another way to express myself directly. And music was that because I love words.” While she fervently reasserts “fashion, for [me] just never stops”, her discovery of expression through music is something her fans will be eternally grateful for.
From the start, Junglepussy emphasizes how her move to music and the following rise to fame was not calculated or planned. “There are no coincidences, but it just happened.” The key to her success? Staying true to herself, her dreams and imbuing every line with a personal touch: “I’ve just got to keep doing me and as long as I’m doing me I’ll be fine.” She implores others to do the same: “Remove everything from your life that doesn’t serve you or you will doubt. Remove all the people that make you feel weird. Remove everything and you’re left with yourself and you’ll be able to see what you deserve, your worth and your strength.”
Dress Supriya Lele, shoes IRENE SJ YU
First discovering her musical abilities in high school, she emphasizes just how organic her step to music was: “It wasn’t ever, like, ‘This is what I’m going to do, this is what my name’s going to be.’ It was always there for fun and for friends, and when I put out that first single as Junglepussy I just thought, ‘I could just keep this name; I don’t see anything wrong with it’ and so it turned out to be this way. It was never planned—but now I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m really an artist! This is really what I do!’”
From her first singles, Junglepussy was lauded by such legendary figures as Lil’ Kim and Erykah Badu, who praised the artist for her single Cream Team. Beyond being “so excited and overwhelmed, so shocked and surprised”, she was also grateful, the support producing in her the incentive to push even harder. “I was like, ‘Oh wow, legends know about me so now I definitely have to keep on doing this; if they only found out about me after my first song… damn!’” In line with her continually positive outlook, it also showed her an even brighter future. “A bunch of amazing things happened to me really early in my career and I kinda didn’t know how to handle them. I was just so shocked because I never knew this was gonna be my life. Now I’m really realizing that was just to show me that great things are still on the way.”
Ever since, Junglepussy’s career has moved from strength to strength, her latest releases Showers and State of the Union falling on fertile ground. As we approach this subject, she becomes more and more animated. While you may expect her State of the Union to comment on the current tangerine state of American politics, the rapper instead uses it as an opportunity to shout down all manner of haters: Rather rise above than to lay back complacent / You think you up next but bitch I’m adjacent. Although written before the release of Pregnant with Success in 2014, the track maintains a relevance to both the artist and the world it’s shouting to: “Like everything I was talking about then, I still feel the same way. If I didn’t feel the same way I wouldn’t have put it out but it was so refreshing to have something I’d written so long ago have life in it.” Listening to State of the Union, you truly wouldn’t notice just how far back in the artist’s career it was written—it is fresh and relevant, with all the positivity and self-assurance of her most recent songs.
Through her empowering, unapologetic rap, questioning and stamping on the patriarchy, her laid-back, no-nonsense chat and her endeavours outside of music, self-confidence and worth effervesce from every atom of Junglepussy’s being. This was never more present than at her lectures at Yale and Columbia, events she cites as her greatest achievements to date: “Giving lectures there, again so early in my career—like, ‘You Ivy League, you high-scoring SAT students want to talk to me?’ […] These people wanted to know about my journey and that was just such a great day for me.” Smiles and pride exude from every word.
Stretching far beyond the lyrics of her songs, it is Junglepussy’s unashamed confidence that’s so addictive. The artist credits her mother with her appreciation and projection of self-worth: “She’s like queeeeeen of self-love.” She also taught her to put herself first: “She would always be, like, ‘Take a shower, brush your teeth before bed, smell nice for bed—even if you’re alone because you need to do this for the angels watching you when you’re sleeping.’” She laughs. “And then I started doing it, like, just doing my face mask and I’m just greasing my scalp—and everyone’s like, ‘YAS, SELF-LOVE QUEEN, YAS!’ […] I’m just doing what my mamma told me.” The best part? “Everyone’s feeling good!”
Top Prada, sunglasses Le Specs, both via mytheresa.com, trousers Marques’ Almeidavia MatchesFashion.com
While these values are inherently and firmly rooted within the artist, Junglepussy had no idea the impact her music would have on others: “I didn’t even think that these things could inspire people so I’m excited that it’s this shared energy, just feeding off each other here on earth. It’s beautiful.” Although it’s through her music and recent lectures that the artist has inspired, empowered and shared this beautiful aura, she doesn’t stop there. Having just received its SXSW premiere, McHayle—under her given name—stars in the upcoming film Support The Girls, taking on the role of single mother Danyelle.
So, music, fashion shows, films. Junglepussy is a serious tripe threat. But what can we expect next? “This coming year, the thing I’m most looking forward to is my album taking over the world and going to ears that it’s never been to before. To open up minds and help people to move past certain things and people and take the time to get to know the many layers that everyone can be.” Her final advice? “You know, it’s cliché, but just be yourself. Be yourself and remember that life is a journey, not a destination.”
Dress Supriya Lele, shoes IRENE SJ YU
Words by Louise Goodger
Photography: Maxime Cardol
Styling: Lisa Dymph Megens—House of Orange
Hair: Hirokazu EnDo
Make-up: Terri Capon—Stella Creative Artists