Junglepussy Talks Christianity, Leopard Print and Rasta Babies
As MADE Fashion Week cooled down, the Milk team turned the heat up in the basement jam room to British hip-hop act Theophilus London—whose new protégé Junglepussy closed the show in a searing frenzy. As the final track’s lyrics climaxed to “Where my stripper at,” a semi-naked male audience member even leapt on stage in response, embraced by her—literally and metaphorically. Like Justin Bieber, Junglepussy—whose real name is Shayna McHayle—is a social media success story: She happens to be clean-living Christian with a genius sense of humor. On top of indisputable musical and writing talent, inherent paradoxes like this are what make her so fascinating and new.
Though McHayle’s stage name was an accident rather than a publicity stunt, it has obviously added controversy: “I wanted a name that nobody’s gonna steal…New York City is a concrete jungle, and I have a pussy, so it just fell into place!” It also speaks to an obsession with leopard print, which appears all over her clothes, curtains, and even plates and cups. Despite bombardment on Twitter—largely because people take her name literally and imagine she isn’t a devotee of depilation down there—she stands her ground. “It’s just my moniker,” she says. “People are more disturbed by the ‘Jungle’ than the ‘Pussy.’ There’s Pussy Riot, there’s The Pussycat Dolls, and then there are guys with names like Dick Cheney—I’m like, ‘So you can be called Dick, but I can’t be called Junglepussy?’”
A shrinking violet she certainly ain’t. In her “Stitches” video, McHayle lights a joint from a flaming Polaroid depicting her and a girlfriend, brandishes a knife, and issues staunch warnings: “To all these bitches—if you are fuckin’ with my man, I’ma leave yo’ ass in stitches.” “Cream Team” opens with her milk pouring down bikini- clad cleavage saying “Hustle, hustle, that pussy muscle.” But in person, McHayle is the opposite of that girl—she’s twinkly, self-deprecating, giggly and humble, insisting she was “blessed” to perform with Theophilus—who discovered her via Instagram—especially as they both have Trinidadian origins. “All my aunts and cousins knew about him. My mother was like ‘I’m coming to see Theophilus!’ I don’t even think she came for me. They took a bunch of pictures with him and none with me!”
McHayle is also endearingly set on family values. Her best friend? Her six-year- old sister, Rayelle. “I want to hang out with her all the time,” she says. “I can’t wait until she can use my I.D.!” It was also her family who triggered her love of music. “It’s in my DNA. My father is Jamaican—I just remember him roller skate dancing in the house. He loved Busta Rhymes, Beenie Man and all Jamaican music.”
After putting out random snippets on social media, Junglepussy’s music came about sort of by accident. “I was just talking shit on the Internet and doing little things with my friends—making music, posting mixtapes,” she says. She has since performed with Lil’ Kim, and Erykah Badu posted one of her videos on Facebook—which she said has been her crowning moment to date. “I was like, ‘How did she even find me?’ I literally just started crying. But once Erykah gave me the seal of approval I was like, ‘It’s done—I’m gonna keep on going! She’s the queen!”
Even if her star is blowing up, McHayle remains charmingly unaffected and grounded. On religion, she has her own distinct approach: On one hand she loves the Bible, especially the Book of Proverbs, which inspired her first single: “It’s full of wisdom and teaching: patience, and how to pray for people that you might not approve of,” she says. On the other, she doesn’t feel pressured to go to church, but prays constantly and meditates daily. “I’m very thankful for everything that happens to me,” McHayle says. “Some people don’t believe me until we go out to dinner and they’re all laughing at me trying to say grace.”
On that subject of eating, McHayle reveals another artist within: She is addicted to fruit and vegetables because of their color palette, which links to another obsession—painting. “I paint abstract—different stuff, mostly naked women from my imagination, and they’ll have different heads,” she says. “Or instead of having a regular pussy they’ll have like something else like a heart.” McHayle pulls up the arm of an acid yellow hoody to show her own hand-drawn tattoos, one of which is her imaginary son, her “Rasta baby,” Ziggy.
If it is not enough at the tender age of 22 to be a rising star, a religious devotee of sorts and a painter, McHayle is, above all else, a poet. She writes non-stop. “I will literally write all day long,” she said. “Everywhere. I’ll write on little scraps of paper. I have notebooks everywhere.” When I suggest she try using Siri instead, that doesn’t work for her. “My Siri doesn’t work past 10 p.m! I don’t know what’s wrong with her—she’ll be like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ She’s shady. She’s probably mad I haven’t gotten iOS7 yet!”
But even if Siri doesn’t respond, her online following is the opposite. McHayle refuses to call her Twitter followers “fans,” and loves talking to them. “Everybody is somebody,” she says. “Everybody has feelings; everybody wants to talk to someone they love, or just converse in general—it’s human nature!” She also takes conversing to another level by having pen-pal relationships with a handful of her them; “I write them letters and now they know where I live,” she says. “It’s real intimate.” Somewhere not long ago in one of her writing frenzies she penned the lyric “Let it rain champagne”—one of her most celebrated lines from “Cream Team.” Perhaps that was her spirituality channeling the future: It sure looks like it is already raining champagne for her.
Photography by Erez Avissar
Follow Junglepussy on Twitter @junglepussy
Follow Mary Fellowes on Twitter @MaryFellowes