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Jamaicans have imported many things to the U.S. – Blue Mountain coffee and Bob Marley are just two of the highlights. Gold medalists and world champions Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann-Newby Fraser have knocked previously dominant American track athletes to the back of the pack and even American gold medalist, track star Sanya Richards Ross, is of Jamaican parentage. But female superstar singers have been the one thing Jamaica hasn’t had much success with. Until now.
Tessanne Chin’s stunning Season 5 win on he NBC reality show “The Voice” had both Jamaican and American fans cheering. Coached by Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine, Chin, who has released records in Jamaica, became the Season 5 winner chalking up another triumph for Jamaican pride. Even Bolt is a fan, tweeting out his congrats after her victory in December. Chin’s first single on her upcoming Universal Records album due out in March is “Tumbling Down.”
“I’m in Jamaica right now,” Chin tells the Tom Joyner Morning Show, calling in from Kingston. A product of a Chinese/Cherokee father and English/Black mother, Chin is part of the ethnic polyglot that makes up Jamaican culture.
“There’s a lot of different cultures and a lot of different nationalities in Jamaica,” Chin says. “Surprisingly, it’s such a melting pot for such a little island.” Chin, who is married to Jamaican radio personality Wayne Cuffe, Jr. and is the sister of singer Tami Chynn, who opened for Celine Dion, has had her fair share of success on her native island, collaborating with Shaggy and recording with the group Mile High. It was Shaggy who encouraged her to audition for “The Voice” hoping to give her a bigger outlet. Obviously, he was on point.
“To this day, I knew I wanted to join “The Voice” because I wanted to further my career and have that incredible opportunity but I never thought it would be that big deal for my people,” Chin says. “They have completely embraced me and embraced the whole thing. They were such a big support for me when I was over there, rallying everybody – every family member, every friend that they had in the U.S. – to vote and having these huge viewing parties. Coming home was a breathtaking experience. I never thought in a million years.” Shaggy, who will join Ice Cube, George Clinton, Heads of State and more on the 2014 Fantastic Voyage, remains a mentor to Chin.
“He’s kind of my mentor before everything, like real life, in Jamaica. He’s always been there for me, always worked with me, was always rooting for me, and was always rooting for me to get further. He was like, ‘Tess, you know I think there is this wicked opportunity for you to have this awesome launch inside of this platform.’ Naturally, I was very scared. I had a career in Jamaica, but it kind of hit the ceiling. I knew I wanted an international career so I have to big up Shaggy for suggesting it.”
Chin’s as yet untitled release is out on March 25th. Her cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” which went to #1 on iTunes is for sale now, as well as her duet with Levine, a cover of the Beatles “Let it Be.”