Being in a music video with Ariana Grande is not as glamorous as it might seem. Sure, the set looks colourful and expensive and you have the chance to work with the best technical crew money can buy. But one thing about these big shoots is there is often a lot of waiting around. Shameka Dwight found that out last year when she was cast as a dancer in Grande's video for her 2018 hit God is a Woman.
Dwight says it was remarkable to see behind the scenes of a major music video production. But she also learnt to be patient.
"We were there from 9am and sat around the whole day in our costumes ready to go, but we didn't really shoot until maybe 7pm," she says. "Grande then walked out and we shot our part for 15 minutes and that was it. But she met us afterwards and we had a chat and she was really lovely. It was an eye-opening experience."
It is one of the many anecdotes Dwight shares about her life as a hard-working creative in Los Angeles. It is a career that includes being a musician, songwriter and model, and she is soon likely to add actress to that list, as she is taking performance classes. While these talents may seem disparate, they all work together when Dwight performs her music live.
As the latest resident act at Dubai's Q's Bar and Lounge, Dwight has been packing in crowds five nights a week with sets full of soulful original songs and covers. Backed by an all-girl three-piece band, Dwight's gigs are dynamic to witness.
When it comes to her female backing artists on stage, Dwight wants to make a statement. "We're in a male-dominated industry. There are several female bands and women musicians who are amazing, but they are rarely highlighted on stage," she says. "I am used to being the only woman in a band and when I had the opportunity to come here I wanted to change it up."
Regular audience members at Q's Bar and Lounge will know what Dwight is talking about. She was in Dubai in April as part of soul singer David Davis's four-piece band and was the only woman in the group. She impressed the crowd when she sat at the piano each night to play a couple of original songs.
Word of her popular performances reached the LA office of music producer Quincy Jones, who curates the line-up for the Dubai venue. He asked Dwight to return to UAE to perform with her own band.
While she says she was grateful for the time she spent performing with Davis, she is clearly relishing her role as headliner in Dubai. "It is different," she says. "It's one thing to support another artist and to be able to provide that backing. But when you're front and centre, you're controlling things and engaging the crowd in a different way. I'm able to do more of my music, original music, and having my own band has been really cool."
The opportunity came at the right time, as Dwight was focusing solely on her music career. In August, she released the single No Good at Love. Fun and vibrant, the song's bouncy musicality is sure to appeal to jazz fans, while Dwight's mixture of rapping and singing is also slick enough for radio play.
"I come from an eclectic background as far as music is concerned. I listen to a little bit of everything," she says. "With this song, I tried to have all of those elements present in it. When I was writing it I knew that I couldn't simply sing it the whole way through. There was something I had to say plainly. When you are writing a song, you need to make decisions on what is the best way to get the message through."
With Dwight performing in Dubai for only about another month, she is looking forward to refining her talents even further on stage. She says that's the whole point of a residency – an artist has to use it as an opportunity to improve or else it is simply a missed opportunity.
"It is great because you perform and engage with the crowd nearly every night and present your music and see how they react," she says. "You also learn how to work different crowds and that's a great skill to have. By the time I leave here, I know I will have grown as an artist."
Shameka Dwight performs every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday until Saturday, November 2. Q’s Bar and Lounge, Palazzo Versace, Dubai, 04 556 8865 or firstname.lastname@example.org