Fri | Sep 22, 2017

VIDEO: Latifa Brown ... Strengthened by her scars

Published:Monday | February 20, 2017 | 2:00 AMTickoya Joseph

Hidden between the sensual beats and infectious rhythms are stories that no doubt have a major impact on the creative process of the players in the music industry.

Latifa Brown, known to most as 'Tifa', took persons back to school with her song  Spell It Out and has been hammering the local and international charts ever since. But behind the energetic and captivating performances are scars that continue to fuel her drive and passion to be successful.

For most women, the months of pregnancy are normally precious and are cemented in their memories, and for Margaret Miller it was no different.

However, the experience was made even more memorable as at about six months into her pregnancy, she was stung by a scorpion in her belly button, poisoning her and her unborn child. For the remainder of her pregnancy, she could only ingest cerasee tea, thus lacking the proper nutrients she needed to nourish the foetus. Miller's daughter, Latifa, was born with her legs at a 45-degree angle, and even though surgery was suggested she opted not to have one on her newborn.

After doing adequate research, Brown had her first surgery at age six. It was then that German surgeons diagnosed her with Blount's disease. Blount's disease is a growth disorder of the tibia (shin bone) that causes the lower leg to angle inward, resembling a bowleg. Brown explained that one in every 16 million has this disease. She did three surgeries. After each surgery, her legs would straighten; however, as she grew they would revert to their original position. After the third surgery, experts took the decision to stop the growth of both her legs. "I have 11-year-old legs," Brown told Flair with a chuckle.

 

OTHER EFFECTS OF THE DISEASE

Her legs were not the only things that were affected by the disease. Brown told Flair that her teeth did not develop until she was almost three years old. In fact, after they fully came up, they did not fall out as 'regular' milk teeth did. All her teeth had to be extracted to allow the new ones to grow. To this day, she still doesn't have her full complement.

Through it all, her mother was a constant tower of strength who did whatever was necessary to ensure that her daughter was comfortable emotionally, mentally and, for the most part, physically. "I did not know that something was wrong with me until I left the house," Brown told Flair.

She grew up among cousins and other relatives who made her feel normal. Brown was very active growing up. She started high school in a wheelchair as she had done her last surgery just before entering high school. But being the heroine she was, her mother made ramps so that she could access her classrooms and bathrooms. Brown took part in the performing arts and sports as her mother constantly told her that there was nothing wrong with her and she could do whatever she wanted. She was also a part of Ashe performing group. She glowed as she spoke of the days of performing all over the island. "It was great for me because it was the only time I was getting so much positive attention," she said.

 

PUBLIC RIDICULE

Brown also shared that there were always the stares and people pointing, and the occasional shouts of "ben' up foot girl", but after a while, she found her group and was soon comfortable. Surprisingly, it was as she got older that people started being vocal about having issues with her legs again. She recalled one incident while having lunch, a very attractive guy sat with her and struck up a conversation. But as she got up to throw something in the garbage, he just got up and left. She noted that people openly showed their disapproval of her legs.

Her cheeks reddened as she recalled an incident in which she was buying gas and came out of the car and was verbally attacked for wearing a skirt because of her legs. After a heated argument, the woman spat on her car to cement her disgust.

After obtaining her degree in psychology, and having tried the corporate world, Brown decided it was not what she wanted. Having been a performer most of her life, she decided to go back into the arts. Again, there were the naysayers telling her that she was too uptown, she was too pretty. Some even went as far as telling her she was a handicap so people wouldn't take her seriously.

But having the talent and drive, she launched into what is now a very successful career - a career that has allowed her to touch the lives of many - inspiring people to be the best in whatever they do. She advises persons to be true to themselves and not get lost in social media or other people's idea of them. She shared where a recent social-media post by The Gleaner had people leaving rude comments questioning why she was standing the way she did, exposing her scars, but little do they know, they are proud battle scars and a daily reminder to be her best.

tickoya.joseph@gleanerjm.com