Gigi Lamayne, real name Genesis Gabriella Tina Manney is a four-time South African Hip Hop Award-winning MC, poet, songwriter and more. But if you search for her on the internet, the first page of Google shows a tweet about suicide that caused a bit of a frenzy on social media.
Speculations about what happened have been doing the rounds on social media and while the rapper has remained mum about it, in this exclusive interview with ZAlebs, Gigi breaks her silence on what happened leading up to that day, her support system and her future plans.
Gigi is born and bred in the South of Johannesburg. “I came from a home that was quite destructive, so school was my escape, my father was and still is an alcoholic and was very abusive especially towards my mom. Although I’ve grown to love him even more and understand that he was failed by the system.”
Gigi admits that her household shaped her in good and bad ways. “My mom introduced me to the era of Salt ‘n Pepper and I loved the stories that were being told by Bob Marley and Tupac and I had an older brother who was musically inclined and listened to Biggie and my older sister was a huge fan of Eve and Da Brat. So, that helped shape my interest for poetry and rap.” But on the flip side, the rapper says growing up in an abusive home has affected her in a bad way. “My father has impacted my relationships in the sense that I always find myself with people that have similar characteristics with him. I’ve also noticed that sometimes I have run away from good men because I’d think he is boring because I was conditioned that that was what love is.”
When Gigi’s mom’s profession took her to the United Kingdom (UK), she had to enroll in boarding school. But that wasn’t smooth sailing. Gigi’s poetic skills were developed at the tender age of 11 by her teacher. “Because of my talent, some kids felt like that teachers gave me special treatment, and that’s when the bullying started. What made things worse for me was that it was around the same time my parents were getting a divorce. I couldn’t find solace at home and at school.”
The rapper was in a school that started from grade 1 to grade 12, so the bullying never stopped because she was with the same kids throughout school. This went on until she was in matric, and that’s when she couldn’t take it anymore. “I had been hit and bullied at school and I couldn’t run home either. In matric, I woke up in the morning and I just couldn’t go to school, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had a breakdown and got admitted to Akeso Psychiatric Hospital. Luckily, I was able to change schools in the middle of the year. As helpful as that was, it meant I had to work 10 times harder to prove myself and the pupils of the previous school because nobody thought I’d be able to complete my matric. I proved them wrong and got distinctions.”
Let me die
In November this year, the 24-year-old tweeted her birth date and her date of death – which left a lot of her fans on Twitter worried about her well-being.
“I recently tried to take my life. It was because of a buildup of things in my life, from society pressures to me questioning my existence. I felt like life was a lot. The cyberbullying is something I thought wasn’t getting to be because I’d read things and it wouldn’t get to me but I guess it went in subconsciously.”
Gigi says she started questioning her existence because she didn’t understand why life was unfair. “I did everything by the book, I excelled at school, I didn’t get pregnant, I then excelled in university but things aren’t working for me. I seem strong but because of my past and conditioning, I’m easily bullied. I continue to get bullied and controlled because that’s all I know.”
The rapper was close to the late Pro Kid and his death made her question a lot of things. “Pro Kid kinda discovered me before Khuli Chana but we didn’t work out because of management issues. But we remained close, so when he died it triggered the fact of how entertainers are treated in society and how we’re, especially as female artists, just expected to shake our asses.”
She continues: “I felt like I played everything by the book yet I’m still reduced to this. So, all these things just brought up emotions that were suppressed and I landed up in hospital. And even before Pro’s death I had existential questions; who am I? Why do wake up every morning? It got deep and people around me started noticing. It got to a point where I started questioning God, and why Pro? I started thinking about all the entertainers that are in backrooms and broke, is this what awaits me? Is this what I worked hard for? I have a degree and it’s still not happening. I want to be able to pay for my mother’s bills cash, why can’t I do that? I work for money but where is this money going? Why does that kid believe in me? Does he know he will just be like me?”
All of this ran through Gigi’s mind and on 3 November, she decided it was time. She tweeted “7 July 1994 – 3 November 2018” which alluded that she was taking her own life. The rapper, who has previously opened up about struggling with depression also shared another tweet, “The end.”
Fortunately, someone picked up the tweet and alerted Gigi’s cousin who rushed to her home and sent the rapper to hospital. “When I was drifting in and out of consciousness, I remember telling my cousin to just let me die. I saw a light and I thought it was hospital lights, but I wasn’t in the ICU so it couldn’t have been hospital lights. I just remember that there was a lot of warmth there, and I wanted to go.”
Almost a week in hospital, Gigi took to social media to let her fans know, she’s still holding on. “Awake. Wasn’t time huh.”
“Strangely, I got a lot of negative comments on social media, people accused me of being an attention seeker. But since my incident, I am able to handle social media better, I post less, I log on less and because I have a great team at Ambitiouz Entertainment, on days I don’t feel like posting, they help me out. But I’ve been good at blocking outside noise, it was the inner noise that got too much.”
Besides laying low on social media, Gigi is seeking professional help and self-discovery. “I speak to a therapist once in a while, I’ve shed a lot negative people in my life, I’m more focused on my organization that helps young creatives in the industry that find themselves in sticky situations and need guidance. I’m focusing on the positives now,” Gigi says proudly.
What lies ahead
Gigi’s latest hit, Bhozza , is currently doing well and she is working on an album that she’s hoping to drop early next year. “My song has actually been doing well and I was nervous dropping now. I’m hoping to work with female artists like Rouge, Nomuzi, Nadia Nakai and Londi London.” Gigi also rightfully brags about the support she’s received from her family and friends, especially Nadia Nakai.
“Nadia has been my rock in this industry. She keeps checking on me, she shouts, she’s close to beating, but she won’t because of her nails (laughs), she’s real.” The multi-talented rapper is looking forward to what lies ahead and so do we.