Image Source: Tes
When you hear the name Davina Bennett, you probably think of Miss Universe. The 24-year-old Miss Jamaica made history in 2017 as the first Black woman to be crowned one of the top three finalists as the second runner-up, but now she's making a splash as Maluma's leading lady. On Jan. 28, Maluma surprised fans by releasing a visual album titled 7 Días En Jamaica, which stars Bennett as Maluma's love interest. The project was inspired by the Colombian superstar's recent trip to the island and expertly fuses traditional reggae with Maluma's signature reggaeton-pop sound. It also features collaborations with Jamaican artists Ziggy Marley and Charly Black.
"Those seven days in Jamaica came at a time when I needed to escape and decompress as I had intensely worked non-stop on my career for seven years and I was questioning if I should even continue doing music," Maluma told People in a statement. "I did a lot of soul-searching there and came back a different person, completely inspired and having realised that music is not just what I do, its part of who I am; how I experience and interpret life."
While I certainly wouldn't mind staring at Maluma all day, Bennett definitely stole the show on this one. In honour of her music video debut, I chatted with Bennett about how the project came to be, what it was like working with Maluma, and what other stars she'd love to collaborate with in the future. Oh, and we also talked about those kissing scenes. Check out POPSUGAR's exclusive interview with the star ahead.
Image Source: Tes
POPSUGAR: 2020 was a tough year for many of us, but you seemed to end it on a high note. Back in December, you shared a clip of you and Maluma working on a project together, which we now know was for his visual album, 7 Días En Jamaica. How were you approached about the project?
Davina Bennett: Nardica Phillips, we went to the same high school, and she now works in production in Jamaica. She sent me a message on Instagram, saying, "Davina, there's a huge project coming to Jamaica and I think you would be the perfect person for this job. Would you be interested?" I said, "Of course." She's like, "You have to audition, but I think you're going to make it." I said, "Alright, no problem. This sounds good. Of course, I'd want to be a part of that." I auditioned and I got the part and it's true as it is today.
"It's a big deal to just be Black and beautiful there, and I love that."
PS: Maluma mentioned that he put together the project during a recent trip to Jamaica. Was the entire visual album filmed there? What were some of your favourite locations to shoot at?
DB: Not everything was filmed in Jamaica. We had [part of it in] Jamaica and the other we did in Colombia. I think my favourite parts were — I'd say definitely when we went to Portland Parish in Jamaica. We did a lot of scenes there by myself and with my team, so that was pretty cool. I definitely loved when we were in Cartagena in a small island called Barú. It was unbelievable.
PS: Did this mark your first time in Colombia?
DB: Yes, it was my first time in Colombia, and to be honest, I didn't know there was so much diversity in Colombia. I know that Black beauty is appreciated everywhere, but they are just so appreciative of it. I would be walking on the street and people would just walk up to me like, "Oh, I love your skin. We want to take pictures." Not because they know my my title or anything. It was just an appreciation for Black beauty. That gave me immense pride to be a Black woman from Jamaica. It was so refreshing. I don't think I've experienced anything like that before where people — they just walk up to you and it was just like, "We love your hair, we love your skin! Oh my God, we have the same skin." It's a big deal to just be Black and beautiful there, and I love that.
Image Source: Angelo Faccini
PS: Who came up with the concept for the videos? Did you have any input on how the visuals came to be?
DB: The script was already written before I got there, but my input came during the execution part, in terms of the direction of how something would go or how the talents would perform. I'd be like, "OK, this needs to be more Jamaican. You need to do this to make it be more Jamaican." It's a tribute to my island, Jamaica, so we wanted to make sure that everything was on point in terms of depicting what our culture is.
PS: Maluma explained in a recent interview that he did a lot of soul-searching when he was in Jamaica and that he came back feeling inspired, which is why he dedicated the entire album to the Caribbean island. How does his appreciation for your country make you feel?
DB: It makes me feel good. Jamaica has a lot to offer and to see someone as big as him come to our country . . . and find himself or find another part of himself . . . it's such an honour to see that people from other cultures, from other backgrounds, can come to our island and appreciate its beauty, our culture, our people, our food, and everything that there is. It's a greater pride for me to represent my country on such a big platform. It's really amazing. I'm really grateful.
PS: I also think Maluma went about it the right way. Instead of appropriating the culture, he stayed in his lane and he let the people from Jamaica speak for themselves and showcase their own beauty.
DB: Yes, I'm happy that they selected somebody that is Jamaican to do this role, and not just because it's me. They could've found any Black girl and said, "OK, she's going to represent Jamaica." By [his team not] saying that and doing that, it [said], "Listen, we're not just here to just snatch your culture and walk away. No, we're here to make you a part of it. We're paying homage to you. This is a tribute to you and your country." That was such a major part because we had Jamaican creatives on board. I got to travel with my Jamaican team all the way to Colombia. That was super huge. When we were there, we had Jamaican talents, Jamaican production, Jamaican people — even when we were in Colombia, it was still an homage to Jamaica because the set production was Jamaican. Everything was all Jamaica. I've never experienced anything like that before. It's unbelievable.
Image Source: Angello Faccini
PS: Personally, my favourite song and video is "Agua de Jamaica." What was your favourite video to shoot and why?
DB: I love that one as well, but I really love "Chocolate." It speaks about dark skin, and I get to represent that when he's saying he loves it more than chocolate. I definitely love "Agua de Jamaica" because of all the beach scenery and it was so fun [to shoot]. It was a fun day and we really have good chemistry, so it was very, very easy to work with him. It [felt] like we've known each other from a long time ago.
PS: Speaking of chemistry, were you and Maluma already friends prior to working on the visuals? How did you guys come together?
DB: Nope, the first time I met Maluma was when he came to Jamaica and we were on set. I remember that so vividly because he came, introduced himself, and then they were like, "OK, we're going to shoot now," and I remember they literally took one take and were like, "This is unbelievable. How did we just get one take and it's perfect?" From there on, I think we just clicked because he's like, "This girl knows what she's doing." It was just pure fun. When you see us laughing, people were even are asking, "Are you really giving a joke or is this just acting?" And I'm like, "We're literally giving jokes. We're laughing." Everything they captured was all natural. I had so much fun.
"[I hope it] inspires others to do the same, to connect with different people from different regions, join cultures together, and just make magic."
PS: Were you a fan of Maluma's prior to working with him?
DB: I knew who he was, but the reason I wasn't a major fan was because he speaks Spanish. I'd bop to his music, but I didn't really understand what he's saying because I only speak English. I was like, "Oh, he's cute. He's handsome, he sings great songs," but that was really it. But now that I've actually met him, I'm a super fan. I think he's iconic. He's brilliant at what he does, and I'm just grateful and honoured that I got to work with him on something that means so much to him. If you speak to him, he's going to tell you that this project is not so much about the fame, it's more of a spiritual journey. It's how he connects with Jamaican culture, how he connects with himself, how he connects with his music, the art.
PS: What was it like getting to work with such a huge superstar. Did you get starstruck at all — specifically, during those kissing scenes?
DB: I was more nervous in those particular scenes than starstruck. At first, I was, but as we moved along, he became like a friend, so it was just like we were one. Throughout the entire project, he kept thanking me. He was very polite, very sincere, and I feel like I was just as important as he was on this project. I know I'm a major part, but he made me feel like, "Listen, you're making this all come together." Every step of the way, each time we shot something, he would literally say, "Thank you so much. This is perfection." Or, he would just boost me up or teach me some Spanish slang. It felt like we were friends and we just connected. I'm super proud of the outcome. I'm overwhelmed. My social media, everybody's just going crazy. The Jamaicans are going crazy and that's big for me because everybody's like, "Listen, we couldn't have asked for a better representation." It feels good to see that a Latin culture, a reggae, and a Jamaican culture can come together as one. [I hope it] inspires others to do the same, to connect with different people from different regions, join cultures together, and just make magic.
Image Source: Tes
PS: You've obviously cemented your star status as Miss Jamaica and the second runner-up of 2017's Miss Universe, but was this your first time working on a music project like this?
DB: Yes, it was my first time. I was a bit nervous because this was nothing like the ordinary, in terms of just shooting one video or doing a couple of scenes. This is a movie. So, I was just like, "Oh my gosh, I hope I have this in the bag because I know it's going to take some acting skills." I don't have any real experience in that field per se. Mostly, just through modelling. It was a completely new experience for me and it's something that I definitely know I'm going to do again. If the opportunity comes, I'm going to do it again.
PS: Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?
DB: I would definitely want to collab with Rihanna because she's a Caribbean woman as well. I don't care what it is or what it is about, [if I get the opportunity to do] something with her, it's going to be the pinnacle for me. I also really like Beyoncé. I like strong female women, so definitely Rihanna or Beyoncé. [In terms of men], it would probably be Drake.
PS: What can fans look forward to from you next?
DB: I would just say, stay tuned and follow my social media. Everything will be posted there. Everybody will know what I'm up to next there, but I have my mind open. I am praying, I am willing, I am going to keep working. I know that there are other major things coming my way and I'm just ready to accept them, execute, and just keep making my country, my family, and myself proud.
Watch Bennett star as Maluma's leading lady in 7 Días En Jamaica below.