June 18, 2015
A star has really hit it big when they’re known by only one name — Prince, Madonna, Elvis, Adele, Sting, Beyonce, Cher, Bono, Sade, Pink, Seal, Ludacris, Rihanna — and on the home front there’s Wendi, who stands just five feet in stockinged feet, but has a stage presence that makes her seem larger than life. There’s also the fact that she never takes to the stage without her stilettos.
With pulsating treble tones that are undeniable, Wendi has her sights set on world domination.
“My end all … be all … and I could die a happy woman if I get to perform in Wembley [Stadium] in London, before a sold out crowd,” she says.
To date the Pop artist who also writes and sings R&B has graced stages in South America, the United States and Europe, and performed for and with the likes of Rodney “DarkChild” Jerkins, Chaka Khan, Gloria Estefan and Jeffrey Osbourne.
Wendi who has been singing since she was four years old says even though she was really young, that she can still recall her first public performance, which was at her graduation from St. John’s Native Baptist Preschool. She sang Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All”.
She credits her father Wendell Lewis with really recognizing that she had an extraordinary ability to sing. Upon that discovery, Wendi, who was then known as Little Sister Wendi Lewis was called upon consistently between the age of four and 12 to sing at state and public events.
She eventually decided to study medicine with the view to becoming a doctor, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry before moving on to the University of the West Indies’ medical program. That’s when it hit her that she didn’t want to be a doctor and that her passion was in music.
She left the UWI program with her father’s blessing.
“My father always said your gifts will make room for you, so I left UWI and came back home.”
Wendi says quitting medical school was nerve-wracking.
“I was a little nervous because every parent wants that doctor, but what really encouraged me was that my parents [Wendell and Naomi Lewis] were very supportive. And my dad … I wouldn’t say he didn’t want me to be a doctor, but he always wanted me to pursue my dream.”
Wendi applied to Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, which she attended on scholarship and obtained a second Bachelor’s degree in music business and vocal performance.
“Getting that music degree, I felt like I was doing what I should have been doing. It felt natural.”
She recalled it being a financial struggle when she studied medicine, even though tuition for her was funded at 80 percent, but that surprisingly when she attended Berkley the financial struggle wasn’t there.
“It was just all God. All of the scholarship monies came. This was a private university where tuition at that time was like $40,000 [annually] and when I graduated Berkley, I graduated with a refund check because my scholarships kept coming in.”
It was during her collegiate years that Wendi who had been lauded at home for her vocal ability was stripped down to her bare bones and built back up to become the person she is today as she sought to hone her craft.
“Berklee wasn’t just your typical university or college, it was really a breeding ground for musicians. My Berklee experience really shaped a lot of who I am right now. I went there thinking I was all awesome — and I got there and was like oh I’m not that awesome. It really exposes you to the fact that there’s so much talent in the world. It broke me all the way down just to build me back up. And that’s an important step in an artist’s life I believe — especially in a singer’s career — to really accept where you are, get rid of all your ego, and then learn from all these different cultures.”
After graduating Berklee, Wendi moved to New York where she worked at two record labels and wracked up tons of experience as she experienced the other side of the business than just being onstage.
Wendi returned home to a less than ideal music industry where she did not know if she could earn the kind of living that she wanted to earn. (Like most women, she does like nice things.)
The Bahamian market is not known as a music buying public. Like many other artists, she puts her music out to get popular so that she can get hired for performances.
“I have a friend who is a mega superstar in Nigeria, but that’s a country with millions of people, so you can make the music you love and do very well financially, and sometimes I wish I had that opportunity, but you have to play the cards you’re dealt in life and do the do — make it work,” she said.
The singer/songwriter focused on her songwriting and worked towards getting a songwriting deal for the first year-and-a-half after she returned home. She was underground and the only people that knew about Wendi the singer and the musician were people who were in the industry already.
During that period she also went through the breakup of a long-term relationship, a break-up she said shook her to her core, and caused her to reevaluate a lot of things in her life. Not wanting to be “that girl” who wallowed in nothingness, she wanted to keep busy and auditioned to join the popular band Visage. She joined Visage in 2011.
“I thought I was killing a lot of birds with one stone — keeping myself busy, getting back into performing and building my vocal stamina because I knew Visage was a really high energy band, and I loved Visage. I was a fan,” she said.
Those experiences “birthed” her first EP (extended play musical recording that contains more music than a single, but is usually too short to qualify as a full studio album or LP) “Lunar” which was released in November 2013.
“’Lunar’ which would have been my first project birthed out of that heartbreak is the thing that kind of put me in the eyes of The Bahamas again as a frontline singer,” she said. “When I did ‘Lunar’ my goal was to expose myself to The Bahamas. I remember sitting in meetings and saying from this record, I want people to identify Wendi when they think of leading female performer in the country.”
Wendi has worked hard to make her name a household one, and says she’s still surprised when she’s recognized when she’s out and about and that people recognize her as Wendi, and not just that girl from Visage.
Wendi who says her ultimate dream is world domination says her message and music are powerful enough and important enough for her to want people to hear.
“I’ve been told that my talent is bigger than my country. The Bahamas is very small, and what I have to offer is so much bigger than what I’ve been able to do,” she said.”
For the songstress, music is natural and the universal language.
“I don’t care how cliché it may sound, but you don’t need to be speaking my language in order for you to feel my music, and I think that’s powerful. Anyone that can play music, or convey any type of art is charged with a very important responsibility because not everyone in the world can communicate with everyone in the world, and as a musician I have that ability, and I’m very blessed.”
Wendi does not take her musical ability for granted.
“I’ve always said to people that when I perform and write music and sing, I want people to feel me with their ears and listen with their hearts,” she said.
By day, Wendi is a businesswoman. She has her glasses on, her hair is up and manages her father’s business. At night she does music business stuff — studio, rehearsals and gigs. And when she’s onstage, the woman who her friends call “Thumbelina” is rocks the stilettos to boost her petite her five-foot frame.
“I used to pray to God for three more inches, but you know what — heels are made for a reason, and you will never catch me performing without heels.”
She also admits a bout of nerves before she takes to the stage every time, especially if she’s performing solo, but says three minutes into her set she gets past it. Her stage persona is not scared and all about entertaining her fans.
“When I’m with my Visage family it’s all good, because I know we’re going to have fun on stage, and we vibe off each other’s energy. I challenge those nerves into energy and make it something else. You feed off the energy that the people give and you give it right back,” she said.
While many people see her on stage, she said that many of them don’t know that she has depth of character.
“I’m a lady. I have a brain. I’m smart. I have a point of view. I’m an island girl having grown up on the Family Island, moving back to [New Providence] when I was 12, so I can catch crab … I can catch fish and I can gut the fish and all of that.” She said Wendi is an approachable, regular woman.
Wendi is currently in studio preparing to put out a new solo EP. Visage is in the process of recording a new album. She is also preparing to do another showcase and will be putting out more Soca and Bahamian music as well as more Pop music. She has two music videos in the pipeline — one for her hit single “One Song” and one for her R&B song “Where You At”. Summer she said is going to be very busy for Wendi and Visage.
After world domination she says she would be happy being a studio session arranger and songwriter. She also has aspirations of opening a performance art type of school.
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