With Miami Carnival coming up, I had the chance to sit down with Alison Hinds, the Queen of Soca herself. We chatted about her career, women’s empowerment and tips for a fun carnival experience.
When I first sit down to pitch this piece, I have the above words already written out. I thought it could be a fun, quick piece about how to have fun at Miami Carnival 2021, with tips from the Queen of Soca herself. Then, the morning of our interview, I meet Hinds over Zoom, and something is obviously upsetting her. She soon shares with me that she has been grieving the death of 19-year-old Miya Marcano, daughter of Marlon Marcano, better known as DJ Eternal Vibes, and Giselle Suling Marcano, a radio presenter and ambassador for Caribbean culture.
Marcano’s life was taken by Armando Manuel Caballero after she repeatedly turned down his romantic advances. Caballero then took his own life in the subsequent days. Unfortunately, this tragic incident reminds me that sometimes we have to continuously engage in discussions about women’s empowerment, sexual violence and systemic inequity in order to make any change, regardless of whether or not it is carnival season.
I ask Hinds about how she navigates an industry largely dictated by the male gaze. “I embrace my sexuality, and my curves and how I look, and we, as women should be proud to be able to embrace those things about ourselves.” Hinds relates that one of the issues is that women are “continually seen as, for lack of a better word, sex dolls. A doll has no feelings, or emotions, or anything like that. But we’re not dolls, we are human beings.” Hinds goes on to lament, “some men just feel like they’re entitled, they’re entitled to be able to abuse women, and to mistreat them, then throw them away. But we’re not disposable.”
In our conversation, Hinds talks about her desires for women artists coming up in the music business. “I will do everything that I can to help them…to boost their confidence to be who they’re going to be without apology. I think sometimes some women still feel like they need to ask permission to be who they are. And it’s like, no, you don’t need to ask anybody’s permission. Be who you are, be strong, be confident, be in charge.” Hinds cites her love for other established up-and-coming artists in Caribbean music, namedropping artists like Faith Callender and Nikita, both singers out of Barbados, as well as Trinidadian Nessa Preppy, and Jamaican Nailah.
She is excited to have released a new single “Go Gal” and to be featured on the recently released Queendom Riddim, which features other artists like Patrice Roberts, Leonce, Nadia Batson, Jadel, and Adana Roberts. On other female artists, she aspires for solidarity over competition: “Let’s look at lifting each other up. Let’s look at being there for each other. As sisters.” She thinks this is especially true for women of color.
“For our black and brown girls, we need to put it out there that they are beautiful, strong and accepted as they are.”
With all of that being said, no amount of tips can ever truly prepare someone for the carnival experience, both its lighter and darker sides. Think of Hinds’ Carnival tips not as solutions to the issues that women and femmes face, but as small tools in the fight to protect all people from the harm of toxic masculinity. Hinds advises “as far as women have come, we still have more work to do. We still have more fight in us.” Make sure to follow Alison Hinds on Instagram, Twitter and check out her single “Go Gal” available now.
5 Tips for a Successful Miami Carnival From the Queen of Soca Alison Hinds
- Have a Plan: Before you go out, make sure that you and everyone in your group are on the same page. Try and have at least one person who is responsible for staying relatively sober and in contact with the rest of the group. When operating in large groups, it is likely that you may not all be together the whole time. “The buddy system works really well. Make sure that all your girls are taken care of, make sure everyone knows where everyone else is, have that group chat up and active.”
- Dress For You: Counter to what many might say, how a person dresses is not an indication of consent. “Dress how you want. Be comfortable.” Regardless of whether you’re wearing an elaborate costume, or short-shorts and a tank top, Hinds urges “that doesn’t give anybody the right to say anything to you or to do anything to you that you do not want.“
- Trust Your Gut: Go ahead, dance with that cute person consensually. That doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind or slow things down. “If things start to feel weird, don’t ignore your gut. If your gut is telling you something isn’t quite right, figure out how to extricate yourself from the situation.” Part of consent is being able to communicate and change your mind with impunity. It is about your comfort and safety first and foremost.
- Play Responsibly: Hinds encourages carnival-goers to have fun, but don’t forget to be responsible. Enjoying your time with a drink is not illegal for those 21+, but remember that even for those that can legally consume, alcohol is still a drug. “If you realize that one of your friends has gone too far, make sure that you look after them. Make sure that they’re taken care of. If there’s no designated driver, make sure that when you call an Uber, or Lyft, or a taxi, that you make sure that everybody gets back to wherever they are staying safely.” When it comes to health and safety during the pandemic, Hinds urges taking all precautions to keep yourself and others safe. “The protocols are very, very simple. Wear a mask, sanitize and social distance.”
- Enjoy Yourself: For many, this carnival season is a chance to destress, relax and have fun in a time when doing so has been especially difficult. “Especially our young women coming down for Carnival, they want to come, enjoy themselves, be with the girlfriends and just hang out.” Hinds wants you to remember, “Soca is amazing, amazing music! It represents all of us, every island in the Caribbean. Please do come, enjoy yourself, have fun, but be safe and look out for each other.”