Shayna McHayle, aka Junglepussy, radiates positivity. Meeting her hours before she went onstage at Primavera Sound was testament to how just 30 minutes in her company is enough to turn around a bad day.
It was a Friday afternoon, and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes – the main avenue dissecting Barcelona and the second longest street in Spain – was rammed. When I arrive at the hotel, I dash for the lift and go straight up to the roof terrace. I’d been told to look for pink hair, and it only took a second to spot Junglepussy’s coral pink pixie cut. She was at a table next to the pool, laughing with two others.
I introduce myself and apologise profusely, but it’s instantly clear that Shayna McHayle is not the sort of person to get het up over trivialities. As the waiter sets down some food, she exclaims: “That is the fanciest ham and cheese I’ve ever seen! It’s gourmet as fuck. It’s not like no square-ass slices of ham”.
Right now, Junglepussy is in Barcelona on tour. Her next stop will be Jamaica, where she will also get to catch up with family; her dad’s side are Jamaican and her mum, who she has referred to as “the queen of self-love”, is from Trinidad. Just last night she called her mum for advice regarding “industry politics and stuff”.
“She was like, ‘just let all of that go Shayna. You’re there because you’re supposed to be there and that’s all you need to focus on, being you and doing what you came there to do.’ She’s worked in corporate America all her life so this stuff, it’s kind of the same vein. You just have to overlook a lot of stuff, it doesn’t mean that you stand down or don’t speak your mind. But you don’t let stuff like that bother you because your body feels it.”
Junglepussy was born in Brooklyn. Now 27, it’s been a little over a year since she released her third album, JP3. Since then, McHayle also made her big screen acting debut, starring opposite Regina Hall, who she had admired “forever”, in the independent 2018 feature film, Support the Girls.
“She is a legend. She’s in everything since I was a little girl until now. Maintaining that career, that’s super inspiring,” McHayle says of her co-star Hall, who last year became the first black woman to be awarded the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress for the role.
The film portrays the realities of a day in the life of a team of women working at Double Whammies, a fictional Hooters-style bar or “breastaurant” (as they have been known to be called). Its blend of subtle comedy and bitter realism has been a hit with many viewers, including the former president of the United States. In December, Barack Obama included the film on his 2018 year-end list of favourite movies.
“Yes, that blew my mind,” says McHayle. “I was like, errr, Obama, did Michelle watch it with you? I hope she did! They licensed one of my songs in that movie so if he watched the whole movie he heard my song!” she says excitedly. “I hope he shazam’d it. I love them.”
Previous to being offered the part of mum Danyelle, McHayle’s only acting credits were her performances in her own music videos. Yet those performances made such an impact on director Andrew Bujalski, that he wanted McHayle in his next film. Now, it’s clear that she’s been bitten by the acting bug, having spent the last year auditioning for roles and developing her very own channel, JPTV – an outlet where she meshes all the different ways she expresses herself creatively.