"I fought to become what I am."


On a summer Monday, while Grand-Case seems still asleep, we meet Shernel Xavier-Lake in front of the “lolos”, who are quietly preparing to start their day. At the age of 31, the young bride left Sandy Ground to live with her spouse in the gastronomic capital of the island. Her lavish smile and her mischievous look contrast with a slight shyness. “When I was younger, no one knew that I could sing because I was very shy” she says.  Although she grew up in a family of musicians, it is at the church Christ Ambassadors that she really begins to sing: “everything started with Gospel music.” This is also what the priest who saw her grow up reminded her during a visit to Saint-Martin. An anecdote that her mother often repeats to her: “at the Church, when it is for the music, you sing and you dance, but as soon as the pastor begins to preach, you sleep.”

First steps on stage

One day, while she is 15 years old and attending a polyvalent high school, her friend Mario, who knows her hidden talent, encourages her to dare enrolling in the high schools contest of Guadeloupe. Her older sister further encourages her and eventually convinces her with words she will never forget: “I missed too many things in my life, I don't want that to happen to you.” The transition to the year 2000 marks the year where she begins singing in public and where, at least on stage, she manages to tame her shyness.  A year later, she writes her first songs. Since then, she has never ceased to compose, supported by her brother Alain, helping her with the piano to expand lyrics and accompaniments. “I write from my personal experiences and those of my entourage,” she explains.

The power of words

She has already released an EP with 3 tracks: “Don't give up” / “Writing on the Wall” / “I belong to you”, distributed at her first concert on December 12, 2015 at the Bel Air Community Center. Recorded at ZAMA music studio in Saint-Martin, this EP pressed in 300 copies also helped her finance her album to be released in 2017, and which title she still doesn’t know. 

She does not wish to be labeled, but her style ranges from reggae, soul and R&B. “I am not in a specific style, these are the words that are important. The idea is that everybody loves at least a song."

The words seem all the more important that they are intended to convey a message. Sometimes, they are clearly personalized. When Shernel is called to sing in weddings or for graduations, her songs are custom-made. “I do” the first title of her next album is a love song dedicated to her husband Pierre Lake, that she has interpreted at their wedding.

Most of her lyrics are addressed to “those who are hurt or broken hearts”, but Shernel also sings the praises of God. A legacy of the gospel, but not only. The genres that she is addressing (soul, reggae...) traditionally celebrate the divine. 

“Don't give up”

Shernel is above all a fighter. Originally from Dominica, she is twelve years old when she arrives in Saint-Martin. “I then had to learn to speak French. It was not easy but I fought to become what I am today.” Encouraged by her parents, she has persevered in her studies. After vocational qualifications (BEP, Bac Pro), and a diploma in English language, she recently graduated as a professional integration consultant, and is now looking for a job with which she can help young people.

“Don't give up” her hit title, resolutely reggae, echoes her career. “I do not seek to prove something, just to send a message. Especially to young people, but not only. If you dream of something you want to do, don’t give up.” 

To listen to the song, click here: 01_dont_give_up_-_mastered.mp3


Fanny Fontan