Interviews

A Hummingbird in Heels: Up Close and Personal with Chantelle Fraser of Bravo TV’s Blood, Sweat, and Heels and owner of Flawless, NYC.

Written by Kerri-Ann M. Smith

Sunday nights on Bravo have not been the same since the spunky diva from Great Britain joined the cast of Blood, Sweat, and Heels. Now known for her witty lines and impeccable style, Chantelle Fraser has ignited our television screens with her spicy wit and immeasurable Jamaican charm. We visited her Flawless, NYC office to discuss fame, fortune, and fashion!

We know you’re a graduate of the London School of Economics. You have started your own business and have been successful at many things. Tell us about a moment when you felt most proud of yourself.

I started my business, Flawless, NYC from my bedroom with no money. At the time, I was living in a rent-controlled apartment with a roommate. I had quit my job and decided that I had to do something different and greater, so I picked up my contact list and my laptop and got to work. Within a year, I had generated income and literally created a dollar from a dime. I worked out of my bedroom for a while and then I decided I needed an office. So what did I do? I found a space in SoHo with what little I had at the time. I was so proud of myself because I had done it all from my bedroom without any outside sponsorship or anything. I didn’t have rich parents to help or even much to start with, so I am proud that I followed my heart and started my own company. Knowing I have come this far and my vision has come to fruition is something to celebrate!

Tell us about the work that you do with Flawless, NYC.

Flawless, NYC is a firm that serves our clients by booking promotional models, creative support, and entertainers for special events in and around the tri-state area. Our clients are diverse, and include fashion designers, food companies like Grace Kennedy, makeup companies, and a host of others. Consider us a one-stop-luxury shop for upscale talent and event support.

chantelleFraser

Photo credit: Instagram @chantelle.fraser

On the show, Blood, Sweat, and Heels you explain that you always wanted to come to America to live the dream. What did you imagine was that American dream and how have you lived it thus far?

I watched a lot of American TV when I was growing up and all of the shows portrayed such positive images of Blacks in America. My image of Blacks in America came from The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. So coming here, I felt like this was a place where you could come and regardless of who you are, you can be successful. I saw Americans through rose-colored glasses. I wanted to be like them. Coming here, I felt that it was a place where one could come regardless of who he or she is and be successful. As an immigrant, I brought my ambition and that’s what I expected to use to succeed. That conversation about race at Demetria’s party was a bit misleading. As you know, editing can sometimes be difficult with a TV show and so that did not come across the way I actually said or meant it. I am not ignorant about race, it just isn’t a term we use where I’m from.

How has stardom impacted your daily life?

Since I joined the show, life has become more hectic. My focus was on Flawless, but now I have other appearances, engagements, plus social media to keep up with. Walking down the street, people want to talk to me and tell me what they think of the show. This is very different because I’ve pretty much lived my life being anonymous. When people watch you on reality TV and recognize you in person, they think they know you. I like to give my best to anything I do. I’m a perfectionist by nature, but a regular girl in real life. When you see me, I’m always in gym attire—like I am now because I have boot camp in a few minutes. People might expect me to be glammed up all the time but as a health buff, I spend a lot of time exercising, which means I’m always in gym clothes at work. I recently started a new website, www.flawless-living.com, that represents my personal philosophy of success. The goal of this site is to present weekly content which aids this journey (lifestyle/nutrition). It’s a self-development and beauty blog that focuses on health and wellness for everyone. So, I’m really into these things and because of the image I have on TV, people might expect otherwise when they see me on a regular day.

What’s your earliest memory of Jamaican culture?

My grandma used to rub Bay Rum on my chest. I remember her telling me Brer ‘Nancy stories. There was a time when we ordered a book of Anancy Stories from Jamaica and she would tell me the same stories from memory. As a child, I visited Kingston and Negril frequently. I really love my Jamaican people because they are just lively and energetic and overall, fun. I’m very comfortable around my people and I lived there for a short time a few years ago. Listen, my favorite thing in the world is boiled dumplings with ackee, and steamed vegetables. I’m vegan, so I no longer enjoy this but I used to love jerk chicken too.

What does your family think about your new role on television? What was your father’s reaction to the series?

My family loves it! I am 100% myself on the show and I am okay with how I am portrayed. My family members love the way I asserted myself on the show. For them, they didn’t want anyone to walk all over me. We are proud Jamaicans. I think I came across as proud and witty. As we say in Jamaica, “go hard and done!” They saw me being challenged and were happy I didn’t take anything lying down. They also appreciated the way my business was portrayed.

What’s a Jamaican phrase that motivates you?

When I’m feeling down I’ll listen to a Bob Marley song “Don’t worry—every likkle thing is gonna be all right.” It puts me in a better space.

Tell us how your work could shift the culture in Jamaica in terms of fashion and entertainment. Have you ventured into business there?

Jamaica has a strong culture of music and entertainment. If I were to bring Flawless there, it would probably be to just add dynamism to the culture that already exists. I don’t know how commonplace it is for events to have unique entertainment outside of the norm, which includes luxury services like high-end models, fashion, contortionists, and other unique forms of entertainment. They’re usually at the hotels but I don’t know how common it is outside of those venues, so that’s a service Flawless could add.

What form of Jamaican music do you like?

I love dancehall music! I love Vybez Kartel and Popcaan, and Mavado, and Beenie Man (in the 90s). Growing up, my parents always had music playing in the house on Saturday. We listened to Shabba, Buju, Beenie, and at school, our entire year was based on what we would wear to Carnival. I’m from Birmingham, so you know there are a lot of Jamaicans there and every year there is a big carnival. I have wonderful memories of my Jamaican culture. Jamaican pride was a strong influence in our household and I’m grateful for that.

What Jamaican product must you always have in stock?

I love Jamaican castor oil. I have to have it in my cupboards at all times. My sister put me on to it and now I can’t live without it in my hair. I also take spirulina tablets every day.

What does a diva like Chantelle carry in her purse every day?

I always carry my homemade green smoothie in my Flawless bottle; I also carry digestive enzymes, which I take after every meal; I must carry sneakers because I go to the gym every day. Oh and I have lipstick—Vanessa Blake and Tom Ford—shades of red and pink; I have my skipping rope— Do you know that if you jump rope, you can burn up to 500 calories in 15 mins? So sometimes I just jump in the office. Finally, I can’t live without it, so I must carry my iPhone because every email could be a dollar.

Tell us about some of the powerful women who have influenced you.

Madame CJ Walker. When I read about her, just knowing that a Black woman that lived during a time of extreme segregation and sexism—her father was a slave and she was illiterate—yet she didn’t let her circumstances dictate her place in life. She didn’t care about the proverbial box. She simply told herself, “I’m going to be who I want to be.” Every time I think that life is getting or is difficult, I think of her. She had no head start, yet she created her own destiny, which now lives on.

What do you want people to remember they meet Chantelle Fraser?

People have a misconception often that I’m going to be stuck up or quite reserved. I want people to see me as a sincere person. Someone who is ambitious. Someone who makes them comfortable and someone who is a positive spirit. It’s not what other people can do for me. How do I make people feel? I want people to feel good and leave my presence with a good feeling. When Arzo called me a Jamaican mongoose, I thought, “no, I’m more like a hummingbird.” Why? Because I’m light-hearted and genuine and authentically, uniquely, myself.

What’s on the horizon now that the season has ended?

I’m now focusing on www.Flawless-living.com. It’s a site that’s especially good for Caribbean people because many people have high blood pressure and heart disease in our community.

I’m  going to be in a play called “Georgia,” (http://www.georgiatheplay.com), an adaptation of a one-woman show about rape in relationships. A girl is raped by her boyfriend and I play the mother, who is Jamaican, and we all have different perspectives on how they perceive the situation. Her mother’s point of view is that if she didn’t want to have sex, she should not have gone into the bed. The play brings awareness to rape and relationships and reemphasizes that “no means no.” The play will be staged in two locations: Brooklyn & Manhattan—(The Actor’s Fund in Brooklyn, 160 Schermerhorn Street, July 28-Aug 2). Then the second series will be held in Manhattan on Aug 4-6 at 777 Theater at 777 8th Avenue.

I’m working on a short film— I’m always in the space of opportunity because you never know what doors will open. My philosophy in life is “never let fear sabotage your success.”

 

Follow Chantelle Fraser: @chantelle.fraser (Instagram) @chantyfraser (Twitter) officialchantellefraser (Facebook)

Learn more about Flawless Living: www.flawless-living.com

Learn more about Flawless, NYC: www.flawlessnyc.com

 

About the author

Kerri-Ann M. Smith

Dr. Kerri-Ann M. Smith is an author and educator. She is an Assistant Professor of Academic Literacy at Queensborough Community College, CUNY. She is a patois translator, a wife, and the mother of a gregarious little girl. She is a senior writer for jamaicans.com.