In Minnesota, the world of event promotions is pretty small.
Actually, that goes beyond the state. For those who are truly committed to being a promoter, it seems in one way or another, we are all connected. And let’s be clear, there are promoters and then there are event producers. Promoters are fly by night. They come and they go. They are the ones who just hand out flyers and hope. Event producers are dedicated. They are obsessive. They know every aspect of the show or event they’re producing. They’re travel agents, they’re the marketing department; they’re ad hoc sound engineers, hosts and chauffers. An event producer in Detroit will know about an event producer in Dallas, so when Minnesota’s Trinny Cee got a call from Jamaica, it was confirmed, she wasn’t just some promoter – she is an event producer at the top of her game. Simply put, Trinny Cee is Minnesota’s “Dancehall Queen.”
Ask someone who Merina Neal (Trinny’s “government name”) is and minus a family and a few friends, the likely answer is, “hell if I know,” but in the niche scene of dancehall – a subgenre of reggae – ask someone who Trinny Cee is and the answer is, “that’s the promoter (um, event producer) who has dancehall on lock for the Midwest … and Australia … and Canada … and even in Slovakia.” To be more specific, Trinny is one of the major players on the even more niche “dancehall queen” scene.
That’s saying an awful lot considering the uniqueness of her uprising. First, event production in general is a male dominated industry. I too am an event producer and my business partner is a woman and she often jokes, “I’m just the door girl” because of how she’s initially viewed until she takes charge and shows who’s really running the show. Dancehall’s roots are in Jamaica. Neal was born in Canada and lived her teen years in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, hence her more common name, Trinny Cee (Trinny for Trinidad and Cee for Canada). Not being Jamaican, some shunned Trinny for being an outsider … a “Trinny.”
For those not familiar with dancehall, consider it to reggae what hip-hop is to soul music. For those not familiar with dancehall queens … um, well, um …
“Dancehall queen is very exotic; very erotic. I like to call it erotica,” said Trinny.
For someone unfamiliar with the culture, dancehall queen culture might seem like simulated public sex. It’s dancing that is as aggressive as it is sensual. This isn’t making love, this is straight going at it in an almost animalistic form, which can instantly give some a preconceived impression of the art and of the women who perform the art.
And trust, there is art to being a dancehall queen. If nothing else, the stamina, athleticism and acrobatic moves of the dancers should be applauded. But still others will just dismiss the art as smut and the women as tramps.
“There’s a huge misconception when it comes to the women who are in dancehall. They are looked at as (garden tools) on the street; but they are doctors, lawyers, models, businesswomen,” said Trinny. “(The dancing) doesn’t define them … it doesn’t define me.”
So what does define Trinny Cee? First let’s go back to her beginning as an event producer.
“I was 16 (years old) living with my aunt in Trinidad and I was pretty cool with one of the biggest selectors (disc jockeys) there. We wanted to throw a party and my family lived on an old sugar plantation, so I asked my aunt if I could have a party … it was around Christmas time,” said Trinny. “She was thinking about 30 people, so she said yes. Three-hundred people showed up. At first she was upset, but then she was proud of me.”
Splitting time between Trinidad and the Edmonton area in the province of Alberta, Canada, Neal began singing and took on the stage name, Trinny Cee. Frequent visits to an aunt here in the Twin Cities led the then singer to move to Minnesota and it was a particularly memorable gig that transformed the singer into an event producer.
“In 2006 I opened for Elephant Man and it was the worst frickin’ show of my life as far as how the show was managed,” said Trinny. “It was just horrible. I was like this is a disgrace and so I started promoting my own shows.”
Shows that have been produced by Trinny, or she was heavily affiliated with via her contract with AEG – one of the world’s top production companies – include Chaka Demus & Pliers (“Murder She Wrote”), Stephen Marley and the recent “Catch a Fire” tour featuring the Marley family.
But what Trinny is best known for is for the past eight years she’s produced the Minnesota Dancehall Queen competition, where the winner is flown to Jamaica to compete for the title “Dancehall Queen International.” Trinny gained such a reputation that according to her, the foremost producer of dancehall events, Big Head, called her and asked her to assist other promoters around the world.
“Big Head asked me to be the North American representative for Dancehall Queen International. There were a lot of promoters who were really bad, so they would fly me out, pay me a fee,” said Neal.
Neal’s notoriety in the world of dancehall has led her to be prominently featured in a forthcoming documentary, “Bruk Out,” a film about the life of dancehall queen participants from everywhere from Japan, Spain and New York to its home of Jamaica.
Yet, for all her international notoriety, in the Twin Cities, some see Trinny Cee as “just another promoter.”
“That’s fine with me. I know who I am and what I’ve done. I broke barriers here in Minnesota. I’ve made eight women here international celebrities,” said a confident and proud Trinny. “I’m underrated and that’s OK … the big players know who I am.”