GW Newcastle: Jazzmin

‘One week I was in a leotard, the next week I had the keys to the venue’

In her twenties, Jazzmin Warren was the manager of a luxury nightclub in the centre of Newcastle, a city voted one of the world’s greatest night outs in the world. Every week of her life was spent partying around celebrities and 1000s of people.
When Jazzmin started her career, as a teenager she was a flyerer for a nightclub where she met Nick Donnelly who was also a teenager and flyerer for a nightclub at the time. Nick is a former music video director and events promoter that started Generation W seeking an authentic voice for women like Jazzmin who inspired him in life, challenging the status quo in industries they were the minority.
Nick Donnelly spoke to Jazzmin for Generation W, now a mother in her 30s about her recent experiences overcoming Breast Cancer.


ND: We met when both flyering outside The Gate in Newcastle, probably around 2008. How did you get that job?
Jazz: I don’t even know. I think it was through a friend, I can’t remember. Since my treatment, my memory is just gone. I think I met that friend during college and they got me the job.

ND: So what did you study at college?
Jazz: Musical theatre. It was so good Nick, one of the best things I’ve ever done.

ND: Were the dreams to be a performer all over the world?
Jazz: I wanted to do Broadway you know, but they were so harsh during training, really harsh. We had to do auditions singing songs and stuff, there was a casting director from Oliver who was in. She said to me “that was great but can you do me a favour, can you just open your mouth and smile?”, I smiled and she said “you’ll never get anywhere with teeth like that, get a brace, next.” It was really harsh, and I was I think the only black girl in the cast so I would automatically get cast for Black roles and stuff. I didn’t really get that much audition experience because they would automatically cast me as whatever the Black role was. In the end I didn’t know whether I wanted to pursue this, after years of training I was really crushed. So yeah I just started working in nightclubs.

ND: Did you not find the conditions when flyering in minus degrees outside in Newcastle harsh either though?
Jazz: It was horrible, but I used to get wrapped up and it was good craic, I just used to speak to a lot people, I was finding my confidence.

ND: You then became the manager of a nightclub later on, how did that transition go from outside to inside?
Jazz: I was a dancer in a nightclub and then I was made a manager. One week I was in a leotard, the next week I had the keys to the venue, putting floats in tills, it was crazy. People would come in and say “eh, you were literally dancing here last week”.

ND: Did people change around you when that happened?
Jazz: A lot of people were hating on that I got that job, they said “she’s just a dancer.” And then on the other side, everyone is trying to be nice to you to get free stuff and discounts.

Nick: You were born in London right?

Jazz: People in London are not playing… When I was little I was chased with knives before, I had a knife held to me for lunch money. I moved from London to Newcastle when I was about 11, we moved up because my little brother was disabled and my mum was a single parent and needed help. The school I went to when I was 8, there was an all female secondary school next to my primary and those girls were radge, they used to start on us all the time, push us in the mud, take things off us. I went to the same primary school and then same secondary school as the rapper Chip. He actually came up to Newcastle to the club I was a host at and it was amazing to see him again.

ND: You’ve obviously gone through a lot of hard times since all these years ago, did you find those people were still around to support you?
Jazz: When I got diagnosed (with breast cancer) I didn’t want to go through the whole conversation of “you are so young… does your daughter know?” I didn’t want people to say “you’ll be able to get through it because you are the strongest person I know”. At the time I really wasn’t. It felt like my whole world just stopped. When people found out, a lot of people who hadn’t bothered with us, and myself vice versa, were realising that I had Cancer and they wanted to catch up with me. A lot apologised that they hadn’t seen me for a long time, but I got it, it’s life, there’s so much going on in everyone’s life, I can’t expect them to drop everything for me. When I got diagnosed I rekindled a lot of friendships that got fizzled out but at the same time I only told a small handful of people. I didn’t want messages from the whole of Newcastle feeling sorry for me. I did have a good support network around me but it was really hard and did get lonely at times, the lowest I have ever been in my life.

ND: Where were you when you found out?
Jazz: I had a lump in my right breast. My mam’s been a nurse for years she didn’t think it would be much wrong but I rang the doctor and they said for me to come in today. I went that day, they checked us over and said “yep it’s benign but I will still send you to the clinic anyway just to get checked over.” A week later, I had my appointment. The first person who saw me had a feel and said “yep, it feels like it’s benign but we will still go through with the ultrasound anyways to see how big it is, how deep it is.” I go into the ultrasound thing, two lasses, dead chatty, they get the machine on my breast and both of them just went silent. They just said “we’re going to get a specialist in to have another look.” As soon as they said specialist I was like ‘this is bad’.
The guy came in and he said “can you point to where you found the lump?” I’m thinking like ‘eh can you not see it?’, I said “I’ve already told you, it’s here”, and he said “yeah, you’ve actually got five”. I couldn’t believe it, he said I had one in my lymph nodes too, how did I never feel them? That same day I had to have a biopsy and everything else, then they told me they would tell me in two weeks what it is. I went back two weeks later, and before I went to see the doctors the hospital wanted me to do a mammogram for them for something, I went in and it was the specialist guy and he was real friendly, I was a nervous wreck but I thought it would be sound for just the mammogram so I just was friendly, he got out paperwork and he said “right, so has the doctor told you about your Cancer treatment plan?” I went what? I’ve not spoken to anyone yet. The guy’s face dropped because he had accidentally just told someone they have Cancer. My boyfriend wasn’t even in the room with me, he was in the reception just waiting because this was supposed to just be a mammogram. I didn’t have time to process it, I didn’t even cry, so I was just like “okay what happens next” and they got me in for surgery in two weeks time. The specialist was so apologetic but I said “hey, you probably done us a favour mate” and I started laughing, I thought, if I don’t laugh I’ll cry.

ND: What year was this?
Jazz: That was last year (2022),January.

ND: So how is everything going now?
Jazz: My official diagnosis date was the 1st of February, then they got me in 23rd February for surgery, I had five tumours removed, then I started chemo and did that for five and a half months, six months, wouldn’t recommend, it was horrible. Straight after that I had radiotherapy, towards the end of last year, I had 15 sessions of radiotherapy then I had a really nice Xmas of trying to recover, chilling. At one point I couldn’t even walk,I couldn’t even open a packet of crisps on my own. I had my final surgery in March which is good because they matched both (of my breasts) up. I didn’t know they only did one at a time which was horrific cause I had one tit bigger than the other. Now I’m just on my treatment plan. The tablets make me feel rough, like really rough, but it’s manageable. I’m a year technically Cancer free so I’m just chilling, trying to live a peaceful life. I wanted to get back to work straight away but I’m told I need to rest more. I’ve worked non-stop literally since I turned 16, straight away I handed my CV around and worked ever since then. But it’s nice to have this time with my daughter who is 7 now.

ND: So what do you do when Olivia is at school?
Jazz: I play computer games. I’m trying to start my own business. I’ve been going to the gym, nothing extreme I just walk on the treadmill, my feet are completely numb so my balance is all over the place. Gyming, gaming, hustling. I’m tired a lot and constantly feeling sick so can’t see how I could work in an environment where I can’t have breaks when I need them.

ND: Do you have any advice on how long this feeling will last for?
Jazz: Some of the drugs I’m on three years, some five years, some are a ten year plan… I’m constantly popping pills. It could be worse, I’m just trying to get through it.

ND: Please don’t tell me you are going to use this time to start that tee-shirt company you wanted to start?
Jazz: (Laughing) Contraband.. You were like ‘you cannot start a business called Contraband…

(ND: The last time I saw Jazzmin was around 2019 and we went for breakfast together and she told me about starting a clothing line called Contraband)

ND: You are allowed to call it Contraband now, you are on so many drugs so you can get away with that title now.
Jazz: I’m trying to focus on hair at the moment actually. I’m doing a lot of crystal hair accessories. It was my hobby during chemo, I was always wrapping crystals.

ND: For spiritual reasons?
Jazz: Not really. I’ve always love Amethyst, it’s calming. It was my birthday actually, I had lost my hair but just done my faux locks, I started doing dreadlocks and people loved it. Nobody could believe I did it myself, so asked me to do theirs and told me to start selling them.

ND: You worked in nightclubs like I did, but I know when I was working in the city, I didn’t know much about live music, what about yourself?
Jazz: I’ve never been to any live music in town. I think I went to one, an Irish bar, and thought ‘this isn’t really for me’.

ND: Nothing wrong with the Irish! But you know, the champagne lifestyles, they are things that eventually we all grow out of, even without what you have been through, and you have a daughter etc. none of us are kids anymore, have your tastes changed at all?
Jazz: When I first had Olivia, I never thought I would give up the party girl lifestyle. You know me, I was the party girl, I loved it, up in the club always on the tables, popping bottles, always me getting a round of shops. When I had Olivia, I realised I can’t be that person anymore. I couldn’t do the late nights. Even up until I was ill, I usedto be jealous of everyone still going out partying and I felt so boring because all I do is stay in. Since I got ill, I can’t drink, I had a couple of drinks the other night and I had to step outside to take a breather. I felt like I was hungover all the time on chemo, you know your worst hangover, a two to three day hangover?

ND: I’m not a Geordie so I don’t.
Jazz: I used to have some disgustinggg hangovers. Now when I go out, I like non-alcoholic mocktails. But recently I cancelled two nights out, obviously I still listen to RnB – still listen to Hip-Hop. I think I’m done with partying, I want a peaceful life, I want to start my own business, I don’t want to spend £100 on a night out when I could be spending that on materials, on a website.
My whole mindset has shifted since I got ill, and shifted for the best. I passed my driving test, not for me, but for Olivia. I want to do wholesome things, going to the park, feeding the ducks. Before I was just ‘let’s go lit’. Finally at the age of 32 I’m giving it up.

ND: You coming to our live show though right? 4th October in Newcastle at The Cluny.
Jazz: I’ll be there! We’ll have a couple of drinks but nothing too radge…

ND: No, it’s live music, you don’t need to drink, enjoy the music… You don’t need to get wasted to listen to female musicians sing songs they wrote honestly about life.
Jazz: I’m actually really glad you said that, I don’t want to get wasted.

ND: I certainly don’t want to make you feel ill! Clubs are all about the crazy late nights, this is about just a good time and being around friends, and making new friends with similar interests.
Jazz: I’m definitely here for that. I’ve changed so much since we last saw each other, people said to me “you will have a second chance at life”, and I was like “nah, I’m going to get better and start partying again.” Now I feel a completely different person and I’m happy for it.