As part of our Nonchalant Role Models series, we catch up with the gorgeous and talented modal, actress and producer Jessica Clark. Hear all about her career as a model, her experience as a lesbian in the industry, being outed and more in our interview with her below.
Responses written by Jessica Clark.
1. Firstly, we’d love to hear about your experience with presenting ‘Coming out for love’?
Presenting and having the opportunity to contribute to Coming Out For Love as a Producer was exciting for me as a queer brown woman. It was an opportunity to further broaden the representation of queer, women loving women in the reality TV landscape. I was very lucky that the Exec Producers gave me more scope as a presenter to delve deeper in the issues that came up during the course of filming the show. Our amazing cast was so open and courageous, and together we were able to have these difficult conversations about our community, how it’s evolving and where there is further work to be done.
Of course, it was very difficult to be around so many charismatic, beautiful women but I managed to cope!
2. You started your career in modelling, how did you find it working in the fashion and modelling industry as a lesbian?
On a personal level I didn’t find it particularly difficult. There were multiple, trailblazing LGBTQ models that had come before me; Jenny Shimizu, Gia Carangi, Tasha Tilberg. There were also other out models amongst my peers at the time; Freja Beha Erichson, Stella Maxwell, Catherine McNeil, etc. I wasn’t the first by any stretch of the imagination.
Professionally it’s harder to gauge. Success in the fashion and the entertainment industries are by their nature subjective, you can never really know why you do or do not book the job. So perhaps it factored into my not being cast in some, more corporate bookings. But I am appreciative for the successes I have been lucky to get and certainly in my day to day career, I didn’t find it an issue at all. I think it matters that I’ve been fortunate to have extremely supportive agents in the UK and the USA. Another models experience may be very different and I can’t speak to that other than to say I believe them.
3. For any of our readers that would like to get into acting and modelling, what’s the first thing they should do?
Whew. I would say that you need to feel very strongly that it’s where you’re meant to be. Don’t do it because you want to be rich or famous. There are many other career paths where you have a much more linear journey to consistent large paychecks. Develop a very thick skin, while also somehow remaining sensitive enough to bring the vulnerable parts of yourself to the fore in your work. Trust your gut. Ultimately it’s your face and body out there forever, saying those lines or representing that brand. Build a team that believes in you as a person and not just a commodity. But also accept that it’s the ‘business’ of fashion and/or show. You are a commodity whether you like it or not. If you love to act, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to become a professional actor. There have definitely been points in my career where I’ve been in tears on the floor, wishing I was doing amazing community theatre instead. Sometimes you’re ‘hot’ and sometimes you’re ‘not’. And then try to have fun despite all of that.
4. As an actress, what would you say is your proudest piece?
The creator and director of Coming Out For Love, Nicole Conn, cast me in my first feature film ‘A Perfect Ending’ which can be seen on Netflix. I play Paris, a woman that has chosen to work as a high-end escort to try and process immense pain by giving joy and comfort. APE was my first feature film and it was incredible to spend that time and depth pouring myself into Paris. I’m very proud of my work and it is very gratifying to me that it has reached, and continues to touch so many different kinds of viewers. I also am incredibly proud of playing Lilith, the God of all Vampires in the iconic HBO show ‘True Blood’. To get to embody a character of such strength. Who is a real part of so many different cultures histories. On a show that used the supernatural to delve into the stories of marginalized communities, very much including the Queer community, was a gift. Alan Ball is a genius.
5. What is your coming out story? Sorry, but everyone loves a coming out story..
Lol, I don’t mind. It’s not very dramatic. I’m a very direct person, so the people in my personal world, be they family or friends, knew about my growing understanding of my sexuality as my understanding grew. I think I told my Mum at about 11 that I was going to be a lesbian when I grew up. My friends always knew. Professionally I didn’t discuss it in the earlier years of my career. I was technically outed in that sense. It was on the original AfterEllen.com (not the bought out male cis-het version that exists today). Usher, the RnB singer was in the news for saying something ignorant about why women were ‘becoming’ lesbians. At the time, his song ‘Burn’ was a huge hot and I am the lead in that music video. Somebody commented on AfterEllen that in fact the lead in his video was gay. They knew because we were MySpace friends. That really dates me, I’ve been working for a long time!
6. If you could use a magic telephone to call yourself at 15 years old what would you say?
Hang in there.
7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
That as much as possible, don’t waste time worrying about what other people think of you. For the most part, everyone is just trying to figure out their own life. They don’t care as much as you think they do, and they certainly won’t remember whatever it is in a few years. You’re only the main character in your own story. So you may as well write it your way.
8. Who are your role models and why?
Viola Davis and Cicely Tyson. Both absolute phenoms in terms of their craft and dedication. The forging of their own paths. Their refusal to accept less than their accomplishments deserved and deserve. Their vocal support of younger actors who also don’t necessarily fit into any narrow, bigoted category. And their generosity in allowing us to learn from them.
9. You left sunny London for California, we’re not sure why. What do you think of the Lesbian Scene in London, where did you used to go out? And, how do you find the scene in California – should we all come to check it out?
I used to go to Candy Bar back in the day. I pop into She Bar in Soho when I’m town. My absolute favorite Queer/lesbian party though is LICK @lickevents, thrown by Teddy Edwardes. Beyond amazing energy, music, performers, completely inclusive of ALL women and Non-binary, super diverse. It’s the vibe to end all vibes for me.
The queer scene in California is popping, LA in SoCal and San Francisco/the Bay Area in the North are definitely scenes to be experienced! So. Many. Women and NBs. I’m also bi- coastal between LA and St Pete/Tampa Bay in Florida and that Queer scene is booming and also to be experienced. I really love the Girls In Wonderland (GIW) giant pool parties that Pandora Events throws in Orlando and St Pete Beach, FL. Amazing body diversity acceptance, ethnic diversity and acceptance, great performers and everyone is there to have fun and not too focused on being perceived as ‘cool’. Which in itself is cool in my opinion.
10. Who’s your celebrity crush and why?
Well were both very happily married so I would respectfully call it an intellectual crush, but Roxane Gay. I read/listen to everything she writes, and also belong to her book club, (although I do have several of those recommended books on my nightstand waiting to be read).
11. You’ve worked with Nicole Conn on a few projects, how did you meet?
Nicole Conn cast me in my first feature film ‘A Perfect Ending’ as a Los Angeles newbie. It was a fantastic experience, the set had a majority of queer women on the crew, and Nicole is such an actors director. She really prioritizes us and our work, which not every production does. Actors are very often just one of the final cogs in the giant wheel of TV or Film production (by necessity much of the time), so you learn to love and appreciate those times where you really get to explore and play in rehearsals.
12. Finally, what do you have lined up for 2023?
I’ve been working on a project for the last 3 years that will release in 2023. A new medium for me and something I really hope the Gamers among us will love. That’s about all I can say about that, other than I’m pretty excited and intrigued to see the final product.
Myself and my wife Rubys Ink are opening our 3rd High Art Tattoo and Piercing studio location (@higharttattoo, @medusaxhighartatttoo). We’re in Los Angeles, and we’re opening in St Pete Beach, FL any day now. It’s pretty exciting and a ton of work! We pride ourselves on creating an entirely safe space where anyone (but especially members of the LGBTQ community) can get custom work by award winning artists that truly reflects who they are and how they want their external to represent their internal lives. It is an honor to have such trust placed in our hands, and Ruby has worked on chest pieces for trans-mass and NB individuals post top surgery, nipple tattoos for survivors of breast cancer post mastectomy, and then custom work that the individual just hasn’t felt comfortable or safe in other tattoo studios. Many of our artists are LGBTQIA and those that are not have been open to, and trained in active ally-ship. Sidebar, I’m also a trained Body Piercer so you may find its me when you come in to get your new piercing.
And I’m auditioning for great projects! That’s what rarely get talked about, much of an actors real job is auditioning, playing with new characters and material and seeing what would be a great fit between yourself and the director and producers vision. So feel free to contact my agents!
Thanks for chatting to us Jessica.