Levanna Mclean has become a YouTube sensation thanks to the popularity of videos of her dancing to northern soul music. Captivated by the carefree spirit of 'Northern Soul Girl', the name Mclean goes by on her uploads, longterm soul fan Nick Knight invited the young music enthusiast to create a video exclusively for SHOWstudio. He invited Katy England, a stylist he has a long working relationship with, to select the fashion. Pieces by the likes of Gucci, Lanvin and Valentino all feature, alongside footwear from Robert Clegerie, Tabitha Simmons, Church's and Loeffler Randall. Mclean selected Queen of the Minstrels by Mr Day as the soundtrack for the film.
Mclean became interested in northern soul through contemporary music. 'I discovered northern soul through artists like Amy Winehouse. She spoke a lot about being influenced by sixties music, especially girl groups, which led me down that path,' explains Mclean. 'It was the beautiful girl soul ballads that got me very intrigued. I searched out music online, and it made me really want to go to a Northern Soul Allnighter, and after my first one just a year a half ago, I was hooked. I couldn’t dance but I knew I wanted more than ever to dance to this music. Northern Soul is an endless supply of amazing tracks that are all so different and so beautiful in their own right, I love it all and always want to discover new records I haven’t yet heard.'
She learnt the steps by copying fellow revellers at northern soul nights and practicing in her front room. The decision to film the routines was total unplanned. 'It was a spontaneous moment on holiday when my mum was filming my brother who is a skateboarder, and I was dancing on a slippy surface and so she turned to film me instead. We loved the clip a lot so we put it up and that was how the first video was born,' she explains. 'The response to it was so overwhelming, that we repeated it again and things have just grown from there. Now we just love coming up with an idea, choosing a great record, filming it and bringing it to life. I love choosing tracks which are so special sounding to me but also tracks which may have been underplayed or just should be out there more. The videos are a great way to promote northern soul and it's my way to show my love to those artists who made such beautiful songs.'
To this day McLean's mother Eve Arslett continues to film the videos and help choose the songs. She both filmed and edited the above video for SHOWstudio. 'My mum is very musical too and has loved Northern Soul for many years,' says Mclean. 'She didn’t encourage me to get into it because she wanted me to find northern soul for myself. I think that was the best thing she did. Sometimes she says she is amazed by how much I love the music, and I think she is very proud of that and I love the fact that she has unintentionally passed on a love of this music to me. For her making these videos is her way of expressing her love of the music too.'
And what about the fashion and style of the original northern soul fans, the 'soulies' - is that also an influence? 'I prefer to think of northern soul as not having a particular fashion style, but for me the style is simply being who you are. I love the fact that Northern Soul is a very strong sub culture that doesn’t sway too much to trends, but has classic styles. When you are expressing your soul to a beautiful record, that will always have style.'