Two women from Leeds who have spent years on stage as tribute acts tell Neil Hudson why they want their new venture to really take off
There can’t be many people from Leeds who can say they have played the centre court of the ATP Tennis Tournament in Dubai but mother-of-two Jeni Jaye, who grew up in Adel, is one.
When she says “played” however, she doesn’t mean with a racket - rather, the 36-year-old was the headlining act, as part of a week-long banquet of entertainment and pageantry which accompanies such sporting festivals.
Now, after twenty years in the business, she has teamed up with one of her former acts to create a new all-singing, all-dancing entertainment agency, Svnteen Entertainment. Her business partner is Lauren Green, whose credentials are equally impressive, having appeared on The X Factor in 2009 as Project A and won through all the way to the judge’s houses stage, after which she ended up forming her own band, the Ultra Girls.
They were, in turn, chosen by none other than Kylie Minogue to be the opening act of the UK leg of her Aphrodite Tour.
As if that wasn’t enough, Lauren and Jeni have appeared as the headline act for new year celebrations at Universal Studios in Singapore, a gig they did for two consecutive years in 2013 and 2014.
There are two times I recall being nervous... during X Factor auditions and when we played as the opening act for Kylie at the O2Lauren Green
Lauren, 29, who began dancing when she was five, said: “The idea was to create an entertainment company, offering a full range of acts to people and businesses, whether it’s a tribute act for a wedding or something bigger. We both sing and dance and do a bit of acting and we have been in the entertainment industry all our lives. It’s something we are both so used to doing now, so it was time to take it to the next level.”
Lauren started dancing as a child, with lessons in Latin and ballroom and went on to win disco dancer of the year in Blackpool when she was just 10. She trained for some time at Footloose Academy of Dance and Theatre Arts, Roundhay, Leeds, became a cheerleader for Leeds Rhinos, after which she went on to study dance at the University of Leeds.
She has appeared on stage in her own bands and in tribute acts to Abba, The Spice Girls and Girls Aloud and during her tour with Kylie, she even performed at London’s O2 Arena.
“There are two times in my life when I recall being nervous on stage. One was during the X Factor auditions and the other was when we played as the opening act for Kylie at the O2. The nerves went about half way through the first song, though. After doing this for so long, at times like that, you fall back on the training you have put in, all the hours rehearsing and so on.”
It was that level of dedication and determination which lead to Lauren’s band being chosen by Kylie. She explained: “It came about after a sound engineer who had worked on the X Factor mentioned us to a producer he knew who was looking for a new girl group. We just got an email out of the blue one day and to begin with we didn’t know what to make of it.
“Then there was a process of us being auditioned and eventually chose by Kylie to perform.”
Jeni, who has two boys aged nine and five, has an equally impressive background, having played at gigs across the world. She’s just finished filming a cameo for Emmerdale, which will be aired shortly.
“I play a character called DS Armitage,” she explained. “Acting it something I got into when I was younger, in fact, I ended up getting my mum into it. She used to take me to classes and one week they were looking for someone to stand in and my mum ended up doing it and really liking it. I’ve performed with Leeds Girls Choir and Leeds Youth Opera. As a child I did gymnastics and later went to Newcastle College to study musical theatre. This is something I’ve been doing so long now that I don’t think I know how to do anything else.
“I think the appeal of tribute acts is, firstly it’s not as expensive as the real thing but it still has the thrill associated with the artist, it’s something which really makes an occasion special. It’s not the actual star but sometimes it’s nice to have the next best thing.”
Jeni and Lauren became friends after Lauren auditioned as a tribute act to the Pussycat Dolls with a management company with which Jeni was previously associated.
However, it was while Jeni was filming an episode of The Weakest Link in Glasgow several years ago that the pair got together.
Jeni recalls the moment: “I was in Glasgow filming and I knew Lauren was there with Kylie at the same time, so I messaged her saying we should keep in touch.
“We are really thrilled about the new company, we already have a lot of people on our books but what we also have is the experience to take them forward. That’s things like the relationships with the venues, the knowledge of how to choreograph and costume a show.
“Every day is different. One day you might be playing a pub and the other you might be on a huge stage at a major venue - that’s part of the excitement of the job.”
Together, the pair take off a dizzying array of top female pop stars, including Girls Aloud, the Spice Girls, Abba,Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Madonna and the Pussycat Dolls.
On May 5, the pair will be doing what they do best: performing live on stage as part of a 90s themed evening, with the UK’s leading Spice Girls tribute act, The Spicey Girls, headlining, at The Venue, Selby.
Lauren said: “We’re taking all of our experience from performing at top venues across the world and we’re at the stage now where we are able to offer entertainment packages to people, clubs, giving them just about anything they want.”
Jeni added: “We’re hiring and we’re available for hire.”
SVNTEEN entertainment founders Jeni Jaye and Lauren Green have over 20 years combined experience in the entertainment industry. With credits that include X Factor, MTV UK, Universal Studios Singapore and touring with Kylie Minogue
The agency cover all aspects of entertainment including tribute shows, wedding functions, private parties, children’s parties and tutorial classes