I have friends who seem unapologetically, unflinchingly bold.
Not me. Growing up, I was inwardly anxious at times, but never the most shy person in a room. I won “Most Likely to Be Famous” in high school and had a close call for class clown (one of my best friends clinched that, which is the next best thing). I was runner up for Prom Queen despite somehow also being Thespian President. I wore a neon gown to prom one year and something clearly out of dress code the next-crossing my arms when I went to the front of the banquet hall for the crowning (something I still do when I am wearing something sexy). As a kid, I started Spice Girls cover bands and spent recess illegally practicing back flips.
I like to be a bit bold. I like to do my thing and enjoy every moment.
But whether inwardly or outwardly, I find I am feeling constantly, unceasingly sorry about it.
I don’t go over the top (in my opinion) and it’s relatively subtle, but I like to express my personal style when I go out, to make the 80s/90s and fantasy/nerdy elements a part of my regular days, to dance in public, to dabble in new religions, to share my art, to orate an array of anecdotes as they come up in conversion, to spout random facts, to speak my mind. These days, though, I find myself feeling most comfortable-perhaps only comfortable-when my time in the spotlight is specifically sanctioned…playing a princess or mermaid at events or embodying something otherworldly in a film, or simply being ALLOWED to feel sexy and Beaufiful during a modeling shoot.
Over the years, the insults and negative connotations began building up in a once expressive heart: Show off. “She’s full of herself (one my own family members say for the fact that I blog)”. They either love you or hate you. They can’t handle your personality. You’re not allowed to look pretty and be funny at the same time. You’re especially not allowed to know you are either of those things. If you’re smart, you’re no longer sexy, or if you’re sexy, you’re no longer smart. You definitely can’t be funnier or smarter than HIM. If you are, you should feel badly about it. Know your place. If you’re really much of anything, you’re always too something.
Eventually, I felt myself actively playing smaller. If “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent”, I must have signed the contract somewhere-turned away with my eyes closed and crying. Being ill made it hard to muster up the energy just to be myself-yet I try to hold onto her as fiercely as possible….but having the energy to both continue to be me AND incessantly defend it-or feel the anxiety of potentially being too much-far surpasses my energy stores. The need to assert an identity despite being sick, yet feeling even more self-conscious and on guard because of it, is an endless tug of war I secretly fight whenever I am out in the world-from set to chatting at bar tops. It was getting harder to glow with both the inner ember flickering out with sickness and the winds howling outside while people blew their whistles.
The thing about living authentically and beautifully is no matter how kind, humble, or delicate you try to be when you do it, the backlash will come. There are too many people living in shadows and hissing for you not to hear it. You can be sweet, supportive, and pleasant, but people will feel and fear the fire you have anyway.
The only way to defeat it is to release yourself from caring.
And that’s how I ended up in a giant tulle skirt for small awards show that called for cocktail dresses.
Me waltzing (or falling) out of the house with too much to fit in my clutch.
I literally twirled my way out of a fog that I felt start to envelop me again when I returned home from traveling for a month. I “Fall Princess”ed through the dead things. When stylist and photographer Kelle asked me to join her at the first annual Photographers of Portland awards to celebrate female artists and philanthropies, I immediately imagined myself arriving in one of her giant tulle skirts-most often requested for photo shoots, proms, Sweet 16s, etc. In true artist fashion, once something pops into my head, it’s hard to go anywhere else besides paper, stage, screen, or red carpet. Most of my outfits are mentally chosen on intuition and imagination-sometimes weeks before an occasion. So the POP awards called for something as feminine and in the “pink” family as the event itself was. Besides, the submitted photos of me featured giant parachute skirts-and this was a close as I could get for people to put two and two together while I networked with attendees.
That’s what happens when you don’t get out much. You have to make it count…so I figured it was time to go big or go home-literally. Or go home because you decided to go big, and you literally couldn’t fit between people and chairs inside the venue.
But between other people’s heels getting entwined in the tulle, catching fallen leaves and twigs between its layers on the way in, the lipstick that took on a life of its own and made me look like I killed someone on the way there, and the not being able to eat the appetizers for fear of getting in the way, former almost-prom-queen and future red-carpet Jacquelynne converged on an urban street in the middle of Portland, where I decided to brave the cold and the looks in something that was just a bit out of current me’s comfort zone. And I loved it.
I could figuratively “go home”. After all, I am physically there quite a lot these days.
But I would so much rather live big. And if that means doing it as I see fit (and this skirt is one size fits all, y’all), then that’s what it means.
For custom tulle skirts, photo shoots, and more, check out Kelle and her seamstress Kelly (yup, isn’t that cute) on Instagram.
And don’t forget to follow the POP awards and enter with me next year. Because for me, living big means being behind the lens AND in front of it.