Shola Ama told us today that she had not expected the reaction she received on Twitter last night when viewers of Channel 4 documentary My Crazy New Jamaican Life realised that she had provided the voiceover narration.
The documentary drew a lot of criticism for its portrayal of the Jamaican community, and it was only when the credits rolled and Shola’s name was shown that many directed vitriolic personal criticism towards the singer.
In an interview with me today, she told me that a casting agency had contacted her about the job.
I thought it’ll be good to get into, I’ve been looking to broaden my interests away from music and everything. I’ve never done any voiceovers before so thought it’d be good.
I watched the show [last night] and I took it in a light hearted way; I’m from a mixed background myself, my (step)dad is Jamaican, even my parents enjoyed it when they watched it.
As viewers watched Debbie and Holly live their ‘Jamaican lifestyles’, Shola, herself from a St Lucian, Bajan, English and Irish background, explained that she did not see it in a stereotypical way as it was the very real story of two individuals:
It’s a reality. Not a representation of all, or one certain culture.
It didn’t offend me, it’s the story of one or two people, just a small fraction of one community. It’s small minded to watch it and think it represents an entire people.
Speaking on her thoughts at the time of the show being broadcast on TV last night, Shola added,
I found some parts of the story quite amusing as well as some parts really sad. I mean, like, with the girl and her baby father. And as it was on, it was just like when X Factor is on, everyone became a comedian and commented on the story. I didn’t expect such a negative reaction afterwards.
However, regardless of her take on it, Shola never thought that as an employee it was her place to comment on the way the show was put together and the message it portrayed:
I’m not responsible for the programme. I’m hired to do a job, not rewrite the script. When I got the job I didn’t think about how it would be taken, just about doing the best at the voiceover that I could.
My job was to speak the lines and link to different parts. Not rewrite.
But I do get it. I do see how it could be taken as offensively. But if the credits showed another name and it was directed by someone else, then everyone’s anger would have been directed at Channel 4, or the directors, producers. But as soon as everyone saw my name that’s when everyone had their say.
I got reactions from all across the board, positive and negative.
Showing a clear understanding for some of the backlash she received, Shola did express that she thought the show was broadcast at an unfortunate time of year:
I recorded the voiceover in July, so why they showed it during Black History Month, I have no idea. I think it was bad timing, and it’s a shame that people couldn’t voice their opinions on that without the use of anger.
The 34-year-old explained that she had no regrets about her booking, and wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.
Unfortunately though, she wouldn’t disclose just how much money she received for the job that got her one night of Twitter abuse.
We contacted the show’s producers Acme Film Ltd to find out their original ambitions for the show, what they had hoped to achieve and what they thought about the reaction to the show but nobody was available to talk to us at the time of publishing. However, shortly after we received a call from a Channel 4 spokesperson who told us:
This film is not a representation of all Jamaicans but aims to document the personal stories of the contributors – who agree it is a true reflection of their lives.
There is speculation that the show may be turned into a series, although we have no confirmation of this. Nevertheless, if last night’s reaction is anything to go by, the possibility of a series is all the more likely.