Fay Ann: Female artistes face unfair scrutiny

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Bankers Association of TT & RBC Royal Bank managing director Richard Downie, right, speaks during an International Women’s Day panel discussion at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain on Tuesday. Also present are, from left, moderator Jessie May Ventor, former national gymnast Thema Williams, Cable and Wireless Communication/Flow Trinidad VP & General Manager Simone Martin-Sulgan and soca star Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez. – Angelo Marcelle

Soca star Fay Ann Lyons has said female artistes face too much criticism in the industry and it takes away from their accomplishments.

She was speaking at the Bankers’ Association of TT (BATT) and Flow’s International Women’s Day reception on Tuesday.

Lyons spoke on a panel at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, along with gymnast Thema Williams, vice president and general manager of Flow Simone Martin-Sulgan and Richard Downie, president of BATT and managing director of RBC Royal Bank.

She said, though the difference between men and women in the music industry could not be quantified as their success was based on their popularity and relevance, the unfairness is there.

“We’re in a unique position where women can advance, but you’re still at a disadvantage because your advancement requires you to do things that men aren’t required to do.

“For instance, I can’t put on weight and still try to wear on sexy outfits and go on stage and perform, because the distraction will be social media and everyone will say that you put on weight. They don’t care if you’re going through something.”

She said while she means no disrespect to men, she hasn’t seen people commenting on the weight of her male counterparts who are free to perform without judgment.

“My talent is what I sell first, so I want to be in a particular category that I can put on a garbage bag, go on stage and stir up the place. I want to perform and have it be about what you do on stage, as opposed to how you look.”

Lyons said there is also the issue of people comparing women to each other and trying to tear them down by attacking their emotions.

“What I had to deal with when entering the music industry was resisting comparison. A lot of the times, you enter an industry that already has a presence of women and you’re coming in and you’re different, and you will start to compare yourself to your counterparts.

“Resisting it is something that you have to do, because you realise that they weaponise women’s feelings against each other and use it as a tool to have women fighting other women because we are different – as opposed to women embracing each other because we’re different.”

She also added that while dealing with those realities, she had to find a way a break out of being viewed as just the daughter of Austin “SuperBlue” Lyons.

“When you’re the daughter of a monster artiste like SuperBlue and you go from just SuperBlue’s daughter to fighting your way out of that, to then marrying a monster artiste like Bunji Garlin to, then be referred to as Bunji Garlin’s wife, you’re in a position where you’re associated with powerful and talented men. You’re being reduced to being ‘the relative of’… ‘the wife of’…, or ‘associate of’…”

She said women tend to shy away from fighting their way up and trying to make their own name, but they shouldn’t. Lyons was referred to as “Bunji Garlin’s wife” by CCN TV 6 in a tweet on February 14.

Williams was also asked about the barriers she experienced while she was growing and excelling as a gymnast.

“The ones that stand out to me were mentorship and influence. At a very young age, I competed in an international competition – I was nine years old – and the first thing I realised was while this was a space created for women in gymnastics, there weren’t many children there who looked like me. So immediately I realised that, while this place was for me, there wasn’t any space for me.”

She also said she faced many issues with funding and getting access to proper facilities because of the lack of recognition of the sport in the country, but at nine she was able to get funding from First Citizens Bank and progress.

Williams said the other barrier that stood out to her was controversy, as it can be one of the ways one is recognised as an athlete.