Who we picked: New York City singer Jennuine (@Jennyouen), who caught our attention when she was recently featured on the popular Humans of New York Instagram. Jennuine performs on New York City subway platforms in hopes of bringing culture to commutes.
Why we picked her: Within a span of only a few days, Jennuine quit her job and launched her music career on 125th Street, throwing caution to the wind and embarking on a path that seemed like a long shot.
“My first day was a Tuesday,” she told Humans of New York. “I stood on the downtown platform. I’d never sung in public before. I was so nervous that I couldn’t find my voice. I wasn’t exactly mute, but I wasn’t fully singing either. Then an old lady came up to me. I’m pretty sure she was an angel. She told me: ‘Sing Whitney Houston.’ Then she stood there and kept saying: ‘Louder, louder, louder,’ until I was singing full volume. I made $60 that day.”
Since then, Jennuine has managed to amass a considerable following on social media — she currently has around 25,000 followers on her Instagram account, @Jennyouen. Many of her fans live outside New York but follow the page to watch videos of her singing and read upbeat daily updates about her life with her daughter. Scroll down to see videos of Jennuine singing and to read our Q&A with the rising artist.
ALL ARTS: Can you explain how you began performing at subway stations in New York City?
JENNUINE: I decided to perform at the subway station when I realized how much my community needed inspiration. I wanted to set an example as to how you don’t need much to make a dream come true. We don’t need arenas or stadiums to get culture. Sometimes the culture happens to be in your own neighborhood and community, and I wanted to make it more accessible.
AA: What have been some of your most memorable experiences while performing?
J: My most memorable experiences singing are just when I dramatically change someone’s day. Or even help shift perspectives. A lot of us are surrounded by people, especially in New York City. So, naturally, we don’t know what someone goes through until we inspire them to break through the self. Experiences like that are really what shapes my courage because I can really help shape someone’s day just by sharing encouraging energy.
AA: Were you originally nervous about performing? What has the response been like from people listening to you?
J: I was very nervous about singing when I started. Simply because I don’t know what I sound like to others. I didn’t know which songs fit and which songs didn’t. So when I first started the encouragement I received from others was incredibly refreshing. I didn’t know so many people would respond with so much love and acceptance. It was almost unexpected.
AA: What is your favorite song to sing, and why? Do you also write your own music?
My favorite song(s) to sing is usually any Amy Winehouse or Billie Holiday song. These singers really strike and inspire something in my voice that is very inspiring and felt. I do write my own music and am currently working on it, so stay tuned!
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“It happened so quickly. I’d just quit my job at an after school program. I’d been unemployed for three days. I was waiting for my train at the 125th Street Station, and I noticed so much animosity. It didn’t feel like a sharing and caring kind of place. So I said to myself: ‘I’m going to help change the pace.’ I went to visit my high school chorus teacher– Mr. Williams, and I told him: ‘I want to sing on 125th Street.’ He thought it was great idea. He said that he’d done the same thing when he was my age. Together we found a cheap amp and microphone, and I gave it a try. My first day was a Tuesday. I stood on the downtown platform. I’d never sung in public before. I was so nervous that I couldn’t find my voice. I wasn’t exactly mute, but I wasn’t fully singing either. Then an old lady came up to me. I’m pretty sure she was an angel. She told me: ‘Sing Whitney Houston.’ Then she stood there, and kept saying: ‘Louder, louder, louder,’ until I was singing full volume. I made $60 that day. And I got so much positive feedback. Now I’m singing four days a week and making enough to provide for me and my daughter. And I get so much love. So much love. So, so much love."
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Top Image: Courtesy of @Jennuine; Instagram