We had a chat with the super-talented, fashion-forward and patriotic Lij Tafari Smith, more popularly known online as “Lijitimate” or “Lij”. He’s the Jamaican digital influencer who lijitimately represents Brand Jamaica in every crevice and corner of the earth his life’s journey takes him. He enjoys an impressively large following on most of his social media platforms, being acknowledged by a Jamaica Gleaner writer as ‘one of the most underestimated kings ruling over local Twitter land’. On Tik Tok, you may know him as ‘Uncle Donna’ for one of his hilarious and now viral sketch of Jamaican baker and social media star, Aunty Donna. And when Lij isn’t online, he finds comfort in sharing his awesome Jamaicaness and knowledge in the classroom as an English Language teacher in Japan. Did we mention that he’s super-talented? This man can more than hold a musical note. He’s a superstar singer who recently released his first song, SZN and its accompanying visuals. It’s mind-boggling how he does it all. Well, maybe he will let us in on his secret. Let’s meet, Lijitimate!
1. What is your favourite social media app and why is it Twitter? Seriously, tell us your top three favourite social media app.
(laughs) now you’re putting me on the spot because my favourite social media app is actually Instagram. I love Twitter as well, as you can see I use it a lot but Instagram definitely has my heart. To be able to share pictures and having…closer connections with people there…Clubhouse is actually my third favourite.
2. You have a large community of followers online who believe in you and your work. Tell us about your most memorable ‘fan’ moment.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had any memorable fan moments (chuckles)…but I remember the moments I’ve been a fan of people and they recognize me, so like Donna, Queenie and other public figures in Jamaica. When they notice my work and notice me promoting them, and they say, ‘Thank you’, those things matter to me. So I would say, a flip of the question? I’m more a fan of people than I am too concerned about people being a fan of mine.
3. You’re so humble! Still on social media, you share some of the most hilarious Tik Tok sketches. How long does it take you to produce a Tik Tok sketch?
So as it relates to Tik Tok, as you know, I’ve done Aunty Donna Tik Toks to the point where people call me ‘Uncle Donna’. It was so fun. It actually took me about two hours [to produce]… I always have to tip my hat off to people who do Tik Tok and people who do video creation and content creation every single day because I can tell you, it’s not very easy. I’ve had moments where I’ve recorded Tik Toks and I went to sleep immediately after. It’s so much work but that would be my favourite one, ‘Uncle Donna’.
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4. Sometimes we forget that you live in Japan because it seems as if you’re always tweeting/posting on social media. How do you manage to stay awake and connected on Jamaica time?
I think I manage by first remembering my goal. That is, to always stay connected to and remain involved in my real home. My worst fear is to be so encompassed in Japan and forget my own identity. So because of this, I sleep after work for about 2 hours to re-energise just so I can stay up a little longer in the nights to focus on my family, work and friendship duties. Bear in mind I do school, music and extra-curricular affairs in between. It’s rough but it’s necessary.
5. Trust me, we need a Ted Talk on time management from you! As you mentioned music, we know you’re presently promoting your new single, SZN. What’s the inspiration behind this song?
The inspiration came from us all being in the pandemic and trying to manoeuvre our new way of life. The video speaks to us still remaining focused on our ‘season’ and God’s timing and not anyone else’s. It is a message to social media users because comparison culture is real and we have fallen to it especially during Covid where we see others moving faster than us. But in Jamaican terms, ‘wa a fi yuh, cyaa be un-fi-yuh’.
6. Talk truth! A timely message Lij! And since we’re talking about your music. Which singer would you hope to collab with in the future?
I have so many people I would love to collab with. If we’re talking about Jamaicans then it’s definitely Agent Sasco, Stalk Ashley and my friend Joby Jay (@jobyjaymusic)
7. Still on Jamaica. When you visit Jamaica, what is the first Jamaican meal you must-have?
Well, I visited in August of this year and I was so upset because my mother stopped to get pudding. I really just wanted KFC. You know how it is! I did eat KFC and Stew Peas though. Remembering it even now.
8. We know family is important to you. When you visit, what are three activities you love doing with your family?
The greatest thing about me and my family is that we literally do not have to do much to have the time of our lives. Just being in each other’s presence, making a fool of ourselves, dancing, singing, eating are all that matter to us.
9. And we appreciate it when you share a preview online of those special moments with your family. We also love to see you teach your friends in Japan a few Jamaican words/slangs. Which ones are their favourites?
As you can imagine, they always ask for the wildest things but so far they have mastered ‘Waa gwaan?’ (laughs). The other things need work!
10. Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about travel. Any hot destinations on your 2022 bucket list?
My list included Bali in Indonesia for this Christmas. Doesn’t look possible due to the pandemic, but I still want that for next year! And maybe 2 more!
We’re at 10 questions already? Here’s a bonus one. As more Jamaicans consider migrating for school and work opportunities, share a word of encouragement with them.
You don’t have to have a full plan because I can assure you that when you move away your perspective may become bigger than you would have ever imagined. However, you must put things in place to ensure you are settled and well catered for mentally, physically, emotionally. Especially for my Jamaican friends, I know it’s rough at home, but a foreign country doesn’t promise a better experience. You have to let it work for you. Once you’re committed to that, it can be the best decision of your life!
Thank you so much for sharing a piece of you with us Lij!
Subscribe to Lijitimate’s YouTube channel.
Stream his new single, SZN.
The pandemic has brought a lot of bad but it has also brought forward a lot of good. One of the ‘goods’ is that Jamaicans are everywhere online. You don’t have to scroll too far down a search listing to find authentic Jamaican content on the most popular social platforms. Tik Tok, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, you name them, you’re sure to spot not one, not two but at least five trending conversations initiated by a Jamaican influencer. In this feature series, we will give you a sneak preview of the lives of our most popular Jamaican personalities online. Now tell us, which Jamaican online personality should we feature next?