How Jamaican Dancehall Queens Twerk For A Living | Style Out There | Refinery29

Do you have a signature dance move? Boo, boo boo, boo boo wine, boo. Oh my god! Well, I see that but I don’t even think
I could do that in my dreams. You have to stop it girl, you can do it. It’s a push! I have the equipment, but I don’t have the
manual. Let’s be honest, twerking calls for a specific uniform. Spandex doesn’t leave much to the imagination… But what can clothing that’s meant to expose…
reveal? Jamaica, vacation paradise. 4.3 million people come here to get away. Rich with culture and music, it’s become
a worldwide source of inspiration. But it’s in the poorer neighborhoods of
West Kingston that creative expressions like rocksteady and reggae found their voice. This is Riverton. A neighborhood that’s technically the site of a city dump. It’s also where Dollybody, an aspiring dancer, grew up. So this is where everything first started. Notorious for gang violence, 90 percent of
Riverton’s citizens are unemployed, but Dolly has a marketable skill. Dolly, how does that make you feel when you
hear everybody say you’re a role model? Dolly is part of what’s becoming the country’s
most influential export: dancehall. The source of this global phenomenon is late
night, on Kingston’s streets. It’s fashion, dance, and a party all-in-one. It’s been around since the 70’s, but the
modern scene surrounding it is jaw-dropping. You’ve probably seen the videos online,
and if you haven’t, check this out. Part professional wrestling, part sexual pantomime,
with an equally provocative style. With this increased visibility, dancehall
has become a lightning rod for conversations about empowerment and exploitation. So, what does it mean to put on a pair of booty
shorts… and wine? To her family, she’s Jahnoia. To the world, she’s “Danger”. Dancehall Queen, that’s a big title. That is your whole lifestyle itself. Every move I make, everywhere I go, I want persons to look at me and say, “Wow, this girl, something about her. She must be a dancer.” I am an International Dancehall Queen, people know me for doing a lot of dangerous stunts. Danger won the International Dancehall Competition in 2014. It’s not just bragging rights. Winning it
means you’ve made it. And I guess I have too, because tonight the
queen is taking me out to party. I have a big confession. I cannot dance. At all! Well, the vibe is so contagious. What does it look like, when does it get good? On Sundays you have early events, you want to go there by 10 o’clock. That’s early? Yes. That’s early? Yes, that’s early. 10 o’clock? Ten PM, that’s early. Okay. So is this what you’re wearing tonight? No! I’m not wearing this. Oh, I’m sorry I was gonna say it’s pretty
stunning. Nah. No? It is stunning for now, but not for tonight. As a dancehall queen, Danger gets paid to
travel around the world teaching classes and appearing in music videos. Well my day today is very unpredictable. When I’m in Kingston I go out four to seven times a week because party here is nonstop. I went to my first dancehall party at the age of 14. We were under our mom’s supervision. She knows that we can get a source of income from dancing. I have the perfect job, because I’m doing what I love and I’m making money from it. With her personal appearances, Danger can make up to $800 US dollars a week — three
times what the average Jamaican makes. For Danger, party promo is just another day
at the office. For me, it’s a little different. When I go out in New York, back home, I’m
usually wearing the same exact outfit that I wear during the daytime. I put on some lipstick and maybe put my hair
up. I think that’s it. Wish me luck. We’re heading to Uptown Monday. Dancehall has traditionally been a male space,
with most of the DJ’s and even musical artists being men. But one place they do want women is on the
dancefloor. And that means we get in for free. There are no numbers to call, no coat checks. Follow the reverberating bass to the strip
mall plaza or abandoned parking lot drenched in lasers. Parties here go on every single night of the
week. There’s Mojito Mondays, sexy Tuesdays, and the list goes on. I just ordered two magnum tonic wines. Basically, Viagra…on ice. It’s the unofficial drink of dancehall. Skin tight and revealing, the clothes are provocative. But as the night goes on and the cameras come
out, I can’t help but wonder… what are they provoking? People are pushing the limits, taking every
opportunity to grab the spotlight. And Danger is no exception. As I look on at the scene of late night delirium,
I have to admit, part of me is horrified. Are people having fun? Or are there lines being crossed? I saw a woman get crushed under a person and
get her head rammed into a rail, but then she came out of it smiling and so I’m a
little bit confused. I wish that it could be as simple as changing
my outfit, but I sense I’m going to need more than a tube top to navigate what feels
like mixed messages. What I do know for now is, as an outsider,
the power dynamic on the dance floor is anything but clear. Women in Jamaica face staggering realities. One in three will experience domestic violence. And the country has one of the highest rates
of rape per capita. But how do these statistics connect with the
dynamics on the dance floor? We could talk almost about a culture of rape in Jamaica. We could almost talk about a culture of rape. But we certainly can talk about a culture
of entitlement that men feel in relation to women’s bodies. Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah has written extensively
on the complex history of dancehall and its connection to Jamaica’s larger cultural
landscape. In Jamaica, we prescribe behaviors for women,
prescribe propriety for women, we talk about the virtuous woman, and of course in terms
of gender norms, women couldn’t do what men did. Women couldn’t act in the way that men acted,
and they certainly could not afford to have their reputation sullied. But in dancehall, being a space where you
can recreate yourself allows true empowerment. The fashion worn by women tells us stories. In the same way that the dance moves tell
us stories. A lot of the dance moves seem pretty graphic
and pretty extreme. And sometimes, you know, pretty demeaning
towards women. Someone from outside is always going to see
dancehall in terms of a culture shock. It’s a space with historical baggage that is filled with people who have
been oppressed. Children played a prominent part in Jamaica’s
tribute to the Queen and the Duke… For centuries, Jamaica was a pawn to colonial
powers… Sugar cane has been grown and harvested here
for nearly 300 years. It suffered through slavery, riots, and various
forms of social unrest until its independence from the British in 1962. Reggae became the sound of liberation. But it’s Rasta roots were conservative,
especially when it came to women and sex. People became disillusioned, and began looking
for a different kind of escape. Dancehall’s beats hit harder, lyrics became
X-rated, and the clothing got sexier. Showing off the clothes became a performance –
first as women began modeling, then dancing. It is a really phenomenal thing when a woman can adorn herself in a particular way using dance
moves to become a liberated being. Dancing is everything. Dancing gives you life. If you want to free your mind, you have something that bothers you, once you touch in the dancehall circle, everything just, the burden just comes off of you. It’s 4PM. And Dolly Body is waking up. How I come by the name of Dolly Body, after I give birth to my son, I don’t look like I just have a child. So I was in the club, take a picture, give it a caption. Dolly Body. I just ran with it. And from run with it, it gone. Growing up as one of seven children, life
wasn’t always easy for Dolly and her family. Dancing is her way out. I’m a dancehall dancer, who wants to be a dancehall queen. Take more practicing, a lot more exposure. If you don’t sell yourself you’re not going nowhere. Fashion has to be a part of your game. You have to put yourself together each night. Your fashion has to be on top. Rhinestones and mesh might not seem like everyday
wear. Nia, Dolly’s stylist and photographer, would
disagree. Sexy and dancehall queen is like peanut butter and jelly. She’s promised to get me in touch with my
inner queen. This is a no underwear outfit. Nipples to the wind, basically. Nipples to the wind? Nipples to the wind. The clothing is made to emphasize your body. Oh my god, you can dance in basically anything
then? Exactly. What is the most “Dolly” outfit? You see this outfit? You see Dolly Body. It’s kinda Selena. Impy- skimpy. She’d also wear this. Would you wear it? Would I wear it? Live a little, you’re in Jamaica. This piece was inspired by an overseas designer. They can make it, but we can rock it. Just a little more in touch with our sexy side and we’re not afraid to flaunt it. Would you say that’s the case for all Jamaican
women? Not necessarily, but nowadays it’s becoming more of a trend. Everyone wants to feel their best about themselves. And clothing can do that. You just can’t be a queen without looking… Like a queen. Like a queen. For some reason, I feel more naked in something
like this than in a swimsuit. Come and wow us. Yes! WOW! You feel sexy, don’t you? I do. You feel sexy, right? I really do. This is definitely outside my comfort zone. It is. But you look good. Strike a pose Connie, strike a pose. Yeah, I love the pose! A defining part about my style is clothes
that don’t show off my body and I always like to think it’s something I chose. Your butt looks great Connie. Thank you. But part of that might be that I’m actually
not that comfortable with my body, and shopping with Dolly just now made that very clear to me. I feel like this is kind of like a figure
skater look too. Like Connie on ice. In the U.S., people tip toe around the idea
of “going out clothes”. It’s understood that the look should be
sexy and attractive, but it can’t be too sexy or too attractive — there’s an invisible
line that women are constantly negotiating. At dancehall parties, that line just doesn’t
exist. Sexuality is a given. The racy fashion becomes a source of confidence,
not a hurdle. For Dolly, the tiny tops and shorts are a
way to show off her personality, and elicit confidence. But in a patriarchal society, dressing sexy can also be lucrative. In Daniiboo’s life, sex sells. Of course, I love dancing. Twerking and dancing, and I am very flexible. That’s my thing. Daniiboo is part of a new generation of dancers. She’s using social media to get the attention
you would normally get from a competition. With 400 thousand followers on Instagram,
it’s working. What makes a video go viral? Skins. No lie. No jokes. I get more views when I post videos
in booty shorts. But there’s another secret to her success. My manager is also my videographer. Where capturing content is concerned, it’s
more professional. He’s also her boyfriend. He and Daniiboo met on the dance floor. All of this trust came before everything. He is my partner, not just my manager. We’re dating. When someone mentions dancehall, they should
think about Daniiboo. She has a special gift and she’s all natural. And she has great assets. Right? So depending on the shot… Well, I’m a guy, so I know what guys are
looking for. I know sexy shots. It’s interesting for me to sit here and
hear them speak so frankly about using sex to increase her exposure. But Daniiboo insists that she has found success
in taking control of her own image. When she’s busy, she can make up to 900
US dollars a week. This is all of Kingston! Yes, beautiful! And as I overlook the city from one of its
most exclusive neighborhoods, I can’t disagree. If you had one piece of advice for a young
woman who wants to make a name for herself in the dancehall, what would that be? You have to stand for something or you’re
going to fall for everything. You’ve got to be serious. If you’re not serious, you have to make
them take you serious. My dream about my career is I move from the ghetto. There is hope in being a dancer. You have to know your potential, know your worth. Know how to go about getting what you want. You have to put yourself out there. Ta-daaaa! Action! It’s a little subtle. I mean, it’s a skin tight bodysuit, and I’m calling it subtle, but now that I’ve
seen dancehall, my world has changed. It’s like if Lance Armstrong went a little
bit goth. Dancehall is a mirror of the Jamaican society. It reflects absolutely who we are as a people. Some of that is negative and some of that
is positive. Dancehall can be seen as a space of exaggeration. It’s going to show you to yourself. Dolly! I tried tonight, I turned it up. Dancehall women have made really important
strides in terms of determining the ways in which we have to give up the boundaries, we
have to think outside of the box. Dancehall is a space to play with the rules or make up your own, with a support system behind you. When I’m dancing it’s a great feeling. I love the feeling. That’s my city and I’m the superwoman in the
city right there in the dancehall and imma save the day. In dancehall, women are fearless. Women are superhuman. Inventive, hilarious, and sexy. Like when when I’m in the party, I feel amazing. It kicks off and the love and the support is real. By learning to have complete control over
their bodies and what it can do, by learning how to negotiate with men on their own terms and monetize their passions, women are more
empowered to confront men who believe that they don’t deserve respect. We are queens, we are bold. We are not afraid to go out there to do what we want, to demand what we want and to live how we want, and represent women all over the world and to let them know that it’s okay to be yourself and don’t be afraid, don’t hold back. Ladies, turn it up!

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