Sunday 4th September, 2005


T&T’s Teri-Leigh Bovell on US video ...

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By Laura Dowrich-Phillips

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The next time you happen to watch a hip-hop video, look closely at the girls dancing and strutting their stuff in the background. One of them may just be Teri-Leigh Bovell, a Trinidadian currently resident in Diego Martin.

Bovell, a “pumpkin-vine” relation to Olympic Bronze medallist swimmer George Bovell III, is quietly making a name as a favourite to appear in videos alongside multi-platinum selling rappers and singers.

She has appeared in 50 Cent’s and The Game’s This Is How We Do video for The Game’s debut single and the I Ain’t Heard Of That video from new artiste Slim Thug featuring Pharrell, the more visible half of uber-producers The Neptunes.

A couple of weeks ago she returned from the Dominican Republic where she appeared in another Pharrell production, this time starring Robin Thicke, the latest singing sensation, for his debut song Wanna Love You.

Next month, Bovell is due to perform in another video by a noted actor/singer but she declined to reveal more details for fear of jinxing the opportunity.

“I am really excited about that one,” she said in an interview at her home.


Teri-Leigh Bovell

Although Bovell appears mostly in videos by American artistes, her entry into the world of music videos started with Bajan singer Rupee.

“Last year there was a casting for Rupee’s video Tempted to Touch and I said ‘nah, that’s probably some hoochie thing,’ but my cousin persuaded me to try out,” she said.

Bovell was cast and the director, impressed with her look and the way she danced, hired her for The Game’s video.

“It was amazing. That was my first time in Los Angeles. I couldn’t believe I was meeting them. They’re quieter in real life, a lot nicer than they appear on television,” she said of 50 Cent and The Game, who are notorious for their gangsta image.

Asked how she felt participating in a video culture that critics see as derogatory to black women, in particular, Bovell said she does not do anything she feels will compromise her integrity.

“For the This Is How We Do video, I was a bit sceptical. The director asked me what I wanted to do. He had two scenes in mind for me, one was crawling on a bar and the other was inside a canary cage. The scene I ended up doing was sitting on a couch, bobbing my head,” she said with a laugh.

“My dad said whatever you do, keep your integrity intact,” said Bovell, who turned down a Kanye West video because she didn’t feel comfortable about it. “I heard it was just girls, girls, girls and I didn’t feel it was for me.”

In the Pharrell and Slim Thug video, which she played for WomanWise, Bovell, hair blown straight, is clad in a white bikini walking and dancing alongside a pool.

Bovell, who also tours with Rupee as one of his dancers and has been to Spain, France, Japan and London with him, is not a trained dancer.

“I have no background in dance but I just love music. I don’t like choreographed moves but I like to freestyle, feeling your own vibe. That’s what I love,” she said.

The 22-year-old said her video experiences have inspired her to establish a casting agency to provide talent, be it models, singers or dancers, for directors and producers.

The company may start operations early 2006 but already Bovell’s services are being demanded. She said she has been asked to provide eight models for a video by rapper Q-Tip. For Robin Thicke’s video, Bovell took two other local girls to perform with her.

“We are so talented but our talent is not being tapped,” she lamented.

In addition to her already busy schedule, Bovell, who fulfilled her childhood dream of being a star by modelling and appearing in advertisements for Royal Extra, TSTT and Coca Cola, is also a sales and marketing manager for Blue Hummingbirds Productions. The company sells advertisements for publications locally, regionally and internationally.

Bovell is currently working with a client in St Kitts and flies there frequently. In addition to all that, she is also studying tourism management at the T&T Hospitality Institute and fits in classes when she can.

With all her overseas engagements, the longest Bovell has spent in T&T in recent times is two weeks. Exciting, yes but a little stressful on her almost four-year relationship with popular local entertainer Kees Dieffenthaler. The two met when they were children.

Dieffenthaler lived close to her cousin’s at Palmiste, San Fernando.

“Then I moved to Tobago for seven years and when I came back, we used to see each other around. He said when he saw me he say, ‘this girl grow up nice’,” she laughed.

Bovell said early in the relationship, she had difficulty adjusting to all the female groupies the handsome former Imij and Co singer attracted. But now it’s all good and she advises him on his career based on information she picks up from the industry heavyweights she interacts with.

If her career demands it, said Bovell, she may relocate to another country but until then she intends to stay home, close to her family and to the beaches and food she loves .

For those aspiring to appear in music videos, Teri-Leigh Bovell has the following advice:
* The advertising industry is a good start. The exposure may open doors.
* The Internet is a valuable source of information.
* Look for good representation.
* Keep your ear to the ground.
* Love yourself.
* Never act like a diva. Don’t pretend to be bigger than you are. The people who help you up will help you when you are down because you can’t stay up forever.

©2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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