If the name Melissa Roberts doesn’t quite ring a bell, perhaps ‘VANiLLA’ will. Having enjoyed a successful local music career since 2005 when she recorded her first song, the soca artiste has since become a household name. In fact, her music is so well known among the local fans, that upon mention of VANiLLA, her energy filled performances and party themed music is mostly what comes to mind. But over the past 11 years, this dynamic woman has not only built her music career, but has also added several other achievements from varying industries under her belt. And though music is one of her biggest loves, there are other parts of her life that make up the whole of what VANiLLA- the brand- is all about.
Hailing from Hopetown, West Coast Berbice, VANiLLA was the name given to Melissa by her boyfriend a few years into their relationship, and the name stuck with her as she ventured into her music career. It all began when she was encouraged to record a tune by her fellow artiste, but only took up the challenge when she was approached by Mr. Burchmore Simon of Kross Kolor Records.
In 2005 she recorded her first song “Koc It Up” on the Kross Kolor Label which was featured on the annual compilation album “Wine Till Yuh Drop Volume 2”. Later that year Vanilla recorded her second song “Boy” and that propelled her into the realms of the elite performers in Guyana, and in that same year she teamed up with Guyanese Soca sensation Lilman to record the single “Wine it up”. By that time Vanilla realised that she had hidden talents and wanted to take advantage of it.
For Mashramani 2007, she recorded the song “Queen of the Band” which won the Road March competition beating the reigning Soca monarch that year and thirty others. This was a significant achievement since that was her first year in that competition. In 2009 she placed second at the sixth annual Carib Soca Monarch competition with the song “Rude” and also regained her title as Queen of the road. In 2010 she once again placed second at the Soca Monarch competition and remains undefeated as the Queen of the road, making her the only female artist in Guyana to have won the title three times. After taking a break from the competition for a few years, she returned in 2014 and once again captured the title Road March title. For the year 2016, with a packed agenda of other interests becoming increasingly significant, VANiLLA began to start focusing on expanding her brand. In 2017 her song “Mash Up De Place” rule the road making her the queen of the road once again. 2018 she placed 2nd at the Soca Monarch competition.
While pursuing her singing dreams, however, VANiLLA also proved that she was a woman of dynamic capabilities, by balancing both business and artistic aspects within the industry. She first started as an office assistant at Kross Kolor Records some years ago, quickly developing the passion to live up to the company's motto of "taking Guyanese music to the world". Soon, she worked her way up the ladder and through her quick learning abilities and the interest shown in wanting to help build the company, head of the company, Mr. Burchmore Simon, saw it fit to have a woman of such value apart of his plan to help build the Guyanese music industry. Melissa is now the Manager at Kross Kolor Records and is often times referred to as the “right hand” of the company.
The year 2005 saw Melissa branching into the world of television production and film when she started producing music videos for Kross Kolor Records. It was while on set of the music video “Krazy” by X2 that Melissa realised that she had a vision for what she wanted to see in the video. After giving her input and realising that she was good behind the scenes, Melissa petitioned from an uncle overseas for a Hi8 Camera to help her practice her videoing and producing skills.
Over the years she has produced more than twenty five music videos. She graduated from the University of Guyana with a certificate in Television Production in 2009. In July 2011, she had written the best screen play and graduated at the top her class at the University of the West Indies, Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination in the field of Motion Picture Arts. Apart from directing and editing music videos, she became the 2nd assistant director on a feature filmed and a sizzle reel filmed in Barbados titled “Sweet Bottom” and “Bajan Blue” respectively. In 2014 She became the production manager on the international film “A Bitter Lime” directed my Max De Bowen. Her most recent project on the short film “Agero” where she performed duties as the producer She has worked with.
Fitness is a love that has been in Melissa’s life for several years, but which has, until now, remained not so recognised as part of who she is. Yet, it certainly remains a significant role in the multifaceted persona of VANiLLA and has significantly contributed to her all-round success to date. Melissa admits that, growing up a tomboy, the idea of being active came naturally to her, but it wasn’t until she was 17 and started weight training, that she really fell in love with fitness. When she suffered a knee injury during her weight training as a result of practicing squats incorrectly, Melissa decided to take her love more seriously and become more involved in studying fitness.
Her studies at the International Sport and Science Association over the years have since seen her certified in several core areas of fitness such as nutrition, personal training, youth fitness, sports and conditioning and other areas. Moreover, her love of fitness has even led to her winning several prizes such as GABBF’s Miss Body Fitness Novice 2006 and Miss Body Fitness Intermediate 2007. Melissa also serves a personal trainer and teaches Zumba, Plyo-Aerobics, Kick dance Aerobics and other styles. She attests that the most gratifying thing about her fitness life, is advising persons on a healthy lifestyle and seeing them reap the results that they have longed for.
You’ll find over 8 music videos at the link below
Live on Morning Times
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