Culture 

Jazzmyne Jay Talks Being a Plus-Size Woman and Creating Body-Positive Content

The queer creative opens up about the life of an influencer, her coming out story and more.

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Content creator Jazzmyne Jay has always made it her goal to stand out from the crowd and be different. Whether by posting pictures of her eccentric outfits on Instagram or being the face of BuzzFeed’s As/Is YouTube channel, she remains unapologetically authentic in everything she creates. Her unique public image ultimately led her to walk her first runway show during New York Fashion Week in 2016.

Apart from being a plus-size model, Jazzmyne is an LGBTQ+ advocate. On social media, she has consistently used her platform to promote body positivity and to empower women, women of color and the queer community. Since moving to Los Angeles and launching her creative career in 2014, Jazzmyne has found her niche by becoming a diversity and inclusion consultant.

Get to know Jazzmyne by reading our interview below, where she shares her NYFW experience, her coming out story and the challenges she faces as an influencer.

Take us back to the beginning, how did you jumpstart your career in modeling?

Firstly, I would like to put it out there that when I am picked to be a model, I do not consider myself a whole model. Models work their butts off, and I know I do, but not like a model does. I have so much respect for them.

To answer your question though, I was sought out by companies about four years ago thanks to BuzzFeed. I started showing up in videos, which clearly is a great way to be seen. But I also made sure the audience could tell I always had on a certain look, no matter what video I was in. I was one of the only plus-size, bald, lesbian, Black women that BuzzFeed had. So, going in, I wanted to show my style, makeup and personality.

With people seeing me more in BuzzFeed videos, that brought them to my Instagram. I made sure my profile was less about my job and more about my style, and just how I express myself and my confidence. That’s when brands started asking me to work with them. It’s a privileged position to be in, but I am very thankful for the work I have done because when brands come to me, they go on my social media or see me in a video and know what they are getting. I don’t have to play a role or be someone I am not. They already accept me for who I am when they reach out, and it is something that I am so thankful for.

 

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What initially went through your head when you got offered to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week in 2016?

I honestly don’t even think I thought about it when Stuzo Clothing asked me to walk for them at the biggest queer show at NYFW.  I immediately thought to myself, “Yes, I have to do this!” Also, my best friend Lindsay came to film the whole process. It was so cool to be with someone who supported me and to have it documented.

What was the experience like?

Walking with Stuzo and the whole experience altogether was absolutely unforgettable. Everyone involved was so open and supportive. Whether you have walked a runway or not, everyone was cheering each other on. That fashion show was such a warm, inviting and dope place for the audience, designers, models and crew – I am so happy to have been a part of it.

Who were some of your style icons growing up?

Growing up, I was obsessed with the style of Tia and Tamera Mowry, Lisa Turtle, the Spice Girls (Scary Spice the most), The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cast, Raven-Symoné, Selena and TLC. When I think about it, I am truly a mix of all of those examples.

“Coming out is such an interesting topic and a lot of people ask me about how to come out. My advice is to come out when you are ready, when you are supported and when you are safe.”

You’re known for championing the LGBTQ+ community through your empowering posts and educating your followers on identity. Can you share with us your coming out story, and how that experience has shaped you into the person you are today?

My coming out story was something that I look back at now and think, “This would be how this happened for me.” On the night of the Super Bowl, my mom walked into my room where me and my girlfriend at the time were holding hands. Previously, my mom had asked me several times if my girlfriend was in fact my girlfriend, and I had lied to her. Being a lesbian was a big deal at 16 years old, and my girlfriend and I both decided we were not going to tell anyone (although this hurt me because I am close with my family.)

Anyway, my mom walked into the room and saw us holding hands. She asked my girlfriend to leave and called me into the living room. I went into the living room with my parents and my brother, and they asked me what was going on. At that moment I told them I was dating my best friend. And of course, as I tell my parents I am gay, Katy Perry starts to perform “I Kissed a Girl” at the Super Bowl on our big screen. To make matters worse, I am a nervous laugher, so I was also just laughing the whole time.

Even though that is a funny story to me, I did learn a lot about myself through the process of coming out, and just realizing that I will always have my own back and just be me. Coming out is such an interesting topic and a lot of people ask me about how to come out. My advice is to come out when you are ready, when you are supported and when you are safe. There is no shame at all if you do not come out, especially when it is for your safety. Whenever you decide to let people know, you will have a community here for you.

 

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What prompted you to start putting out body-positive content on your account?

I really do not think that I had a choice. We live in a society where people who look like me are supposed to feel bad about themselves and honestly, I did that for most of my teenage life and into my 20s – it wasn’t fun. I just started posting pictures that were truly me: wearing dope outfits, wearing cool makeup, showing my self-love and genuine happiness. I also show my times of struggle and talk about things that I go through. I think people take this phrase “body-positive” and hold it to some unrealistic standard as if there is an ultimate goal you will unlock. For me, I just love myself. Sometimes I struggle with it and sometimes I don’t.

What are some challenges you’ve had to face as an influencer?

Reading comments of people making fun of you or saying mean things is never fun. I don’t care how famous you are or how much it doesn’t matter, it is never something that you are excited to see. I definitely had to understand and let myself process when seeing those comments, and just overall recognizing my power in the situation, which is something that I am still working on.

“I think what needs to be realized, specifically within the fashion world, is that the term ‘plus-size’ is more than just a size 16 person.”

What is your take on the label “plus-size”? Do you think it’s necessary?

You know, I really think it depends. I don’t have a problem with the term “plus-size,” but I understand people that don’t use it. I used to feel very uncomfortable with the term “fat,” until I embraced that sh*t and called myself “Fat Rihanna.” If literal strangers can call me fat under a photo, then I can too. With “plus-size,” I would love for models and people to just be known as models and people. However the term “plus-size,” especially in fashion and business, is still just being considered. So for that reason, I think it is useful until the “mainstream” can just deal with people being people. I think what needs to be realized, specifically within the fashion world, is that “plus-size” is more than just a size 16 person. Companies have gotten by with using plus-size models and deemed inclusive, when in all reality they are not being inclusive to people who wear more than a 16.

What’s a day in the life of working as a diversity and inclusion consultant like?

This is possibly my favorite part of my day. With this new role for the BuzzFeed As/Is channel, I am so grateful to be with a team that I have been working with on different levels for the past years. My new role was important for me to pitch, because I wanted to attempt to get the producers on As/Is to think of diversity and inclusion before they put all the work in to make a video.

So usually, I will meet up with a producer and talk about the video through the lens of diversity and inclusion. We ask important questions to ourselves like, “Who is the cast?,” “What are the relationships shown?” and “What are the stories being told?” Then of course we dig deeper into the cast of presentation, size, race, skin tone, sexual orientation, etc. This job is something so special to me because I love connecting with people and it keeps my creativity flowing. Other than my one-on-one meetings, I attend the group meetings just to see what the vibe of the producers are, check the stats of the videos that I have helped with and also remind the team of our expectations.

 

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Are you working on any exciting projects for 2021?

Currently, I am part of a fun BuzzFeed Instagram series called “Show Off’ where rising creators compete for a chance to star in a video with their favorite BuzzFeed creators. For my episode, I styled a girl who I have never worked with before and I put her in her fashion feats. This was one of my favorite videos I have ever made and she looked so good.

As for the rest of the year, the most exciting project for me is following this new path of diversity and inclusion consulting. I would love to stay with BuzzFeed, and until I am needed there, I definitely want to work with digital media companies on this topic. I also hope 2021 is when I can get a clothing line collaboration or maybe some merch. I have been wanting to do a clothing line collaboration for some time now, and I think this is the year I am ready to really put work into it.

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