You may stumble upon Jazzmyne Jay on your Youtube homepage, in viral videos testing the waters of body positivity and racial inclusivity for Buzzfeed. Or perhaps on your Instagram feed, dancing in her underwear. Even on a billboard in Hollywood for Netflix’s Pride Month campaign. Either way, one thing is clear: Jay is taking the media industry by storm.
Jay moved to Los Angeles in 2014 (after a lifetime in small-town Illinois) and soon after began working at Buzzfeed as a video producer. She quickly became one of the driving forces behind Buzzfeed’s diverse, inclusive, and game-changing environment that attracts millions to their videos every day. Now 28 years old, Jay is transitioning into a role at the company that will put her in front of the camera more often (and truly give the people what they want and need!)
In her spare time, Jay can be found posting pictures in her ASOS Curve gear, acting (and partying) with fellow Salty cover-star Ari Fitz, or helping to host Buzzfeed’s Queer Prom, a joyous dance that gives LGBTQ teens the opportunity to feel welcomed and included in an event that has historically overlooked members of the queer community.
Jay is a total babe. But it’s undeniable that her beauty does not fit in within the eurocentric, fatphobic societal norms. Nevertheless, that has never hindered Jay from being a self-described “flirtatious ass person” and owning any room she walks into — and why should it?!
Salty sat down with Jay to talk about how her identity as a plus-size, black, queer woman manifests in her day to day life, the challenges and joys of living in LA, and the importance of dancing it out.
Salty: Happy Pride Month!
I’m so excited. It’s the busiest month ever.
Salty: Best month of the year! What does the word “pride” and this month, as a whole, mean to you?
No matter where you are, because I’ve been to four different cities’ prides, it is the same feeling every time, which is just straight up love and acceptance. When I go to pride, I rarely feel judged. It’s just such a loving and open and accepting environment … Our community is hated on, a lot, and I feel like we do a really good job of picking each other and making each other feel good. It’s just that vibe all the time… It’s just an experience and you have to be there to understand it.
Salty: Who do you normally go to Pride with?
I usually bring my best friend with me because some of my friends are allies and some are in the community. But this year, I’m bringing my parents. Which this is the first time that they are going to pride, so I’m excited.
Salty: Why did you decide to bring them this year?
They live in Chicago so they are flying out here next Saturday. I’ve done the Pride thing. I’ve had my thotty years. I feel like I want to have my parents come and experience this and see this love. It’s been on my mind for a few years. When I was in Chicago I was just going to Pride myself. I was just figuring out who I was. By the time I came to LA, I was just understanding this crowd and navigating myself. I was in a seven year long relationship. Now I feel so strong and so confident about where I am in my life and this would be a great year for my parents to come out and enjoy this time with me. I’m really fucking excited for them.
Salty: What motivates you to be this really strong force online?
I definitely do it for myself. Everything that I do and I speak of, I am trying to just being me, because I feel like for such a long time, when I was younger, I tried to fit in and I tried to be other things that weren’t me for so long. And now, whenever I attempt to do something that’s not me, I really can’t deal with it.
Other than that, for the public, in order to normalize shit. I am trying to be a fashionable, plus-size, black woman in an area of LA that doesn’t 100 percent represent me. I just want to show as much of myself, both physically and mentally, that the internet will let me to show people that you can look like me and do whatever you want and feel however you want and just show diversity.
Salty: How do you cope with these social norms that run rampant in a city like Los Angeles?
Sometimes it’s rough. With my job at Buzzfeed, and now with the social media, I’m invited to a lot of parties and screenings and really, really dope stuff. But very often, and especially at beauty parties, if I’m not one of the only people of color, I’m definitely one of maybe two plus size people there. But I try not to think about it too much. My process is: you’re not going to be looking at me because I’m plus size; you’re going to notice me because I’m going to be the best dressed person in there and I’m going to be the best looking person in there; you’re going to look at me because you see my confidence… because it’s 10 PM and I’m wearing tiny sunglasses. You’re not going to point me out and be like that ‘oh that fat chick there’ — or that, plus the fact that ‘oh my god, she looks good too?’
Salty: Yes! Like when people say ‘where do you get your confidence, you’re so brave.’
I know, just walk. Just fucking leave your house. You kind of have to set yourself up with thinking or believing that you’re on a certain level when you go to these events. If these little thin people can walk around and act like they’re the shit, then I sure as hell can do the same. I’m gonna do me.
Salty: How do you feel like fashion has evolved over time to be more inclusive of plus size bodies?
Right now, we’re still kind of on the tipping point of plus bodies being considered. I do definitely know there’s so much more in today’s society and time than there was before, when plus women only had long, no-shaped dresses to wear. And weird suits. Now, I’m glad we have places like ASOS and Pretty Little Thing — places that have plus size clothing. We’re just on the brink of plus size now being in mainstream and commercial shit. Luckily, we have a lot of people like Gabi Fresh and Nicolette Mason starting Premme. People having plus-size only clothing lines because those were the people that were trying to be cute and fashionable ten to twenty years ago and couldn’t do that, so they’ve decided to make their own shit. We’re very lucky that we have some self starters. But I feel like we haven’t even seen yet what can come out of things.
Salty: Do you feel reflected in the fashion industry, both in terms of what you can wear and what you see in magazines? Do you think there has been any evolution over the years?
If it wasn’t for social media, I think we would all be screwed, to be honest. We see so much with social media. Those people aren’t the people that are in magazines. With most magazines right now, there’s not a lot of positive things to say. With the magazines that are still being very traditional, it’s quite noticeable. I feel like things probably aren’t working out for them very well. Even with these fashion designers, the big designers that are fucking up in doing racial things. We have teams at businesses called diversity and inclusion teams. Y’all know what this is. You’re just ignorant and you’re ignoring it. I have no time for that… literally no time. I would love to look at Chanel or Gucci representing me. Even if it wasn’t my body type, to have them represent my culture in a positive way.
Salty: Do you feel like Buzzfeed has fostered a different kind of environment than that? From the outside looking in, it does seem like a very inclusive space.
I know that I probably wouldn’t want to work anywhere else in Hollywood just because Buzzfeed is so different and so good. What makes Buzzfeed, Buzzfeed, regardless of what you see on YouTube or the articles, is the people inside. We are so close and things are so diverse and people are really allowed to be themselves. Not depending on your rank wherever you are. From an intern to the CEO, you can pretty much look however you want as long as it’s not offensive. You can express yourself, your gender, your sexuality. It is a very, very open place. You can speak up — at least, I do. I don’t know if other people feel the same. I don’t have a problem speaking up in this workplace. I feel that like any company, Buzzfeed has it’s shit, but I feel like if I went to any other Hollywood establishment, I don’t know if it would be the same experience.
Salty: You’ve done some pretty intense challenges for your job. The one where you went to the beach in a string bikini for the first time was really resonating. How has being so vulnerable online changed your outlook on life?
The swimsuit one specifically, I truly did not even think about that video. I was just really excited to do something for myself and do something, I didn’t think about views, I didn’t think about comments, I didn’t think about putting my instagram in it. I just thought I’m going to do this and I’m going to feel proud about this. And so much came out of it. I’ve talked about my eating disorder that I had when I was younger, I’ve done workout videos, I’ve done diet videos — diet as a different term for me, not what I guess people call diet culture stuff, more mental changes. I’ve been in so many videos that have challenged me and I do it, one, really for myself, and two, just again, to be that representation and to show that representation. I don’t care who you are, either you or someone you know has felt this way. Someone. I tried to speak to at, least, that person.
Salty: You have these three intersecting identities as a plus size woman, a black woman and a queer woman. How does that manifest in your day to day life and how does that play out in the media industry, being in social media, and being in LA, in general?
I feel like being in LA, it’s very diverse and very much a bubble here. A good bubble but a bubble. As in, I could drive two hours away and be the only person of color. Or be the only queer person around. But being in LA, I feel like I’m so spoiled because there’s so much diversity here. But my identities are very obvious to me, being a plus size person, being a black woman, and I know I’m in the queer community, but I don’t know if other people right off the bat do. But it’s something that I’m constantly thinking about. I’m constantly thinking about diversity and inclusion in literally everything. I just went and saw a movie, Booksmart. I wish I had more positive things to say. My inherent looking for diversity and looking for strong story lines for people of color ruins me. My partner and I went and saw Ralph Breaks the Internet, which is a fucking cartoon and we walked out of there pissed because of how they portrayed the women. I just feel like my life is very diverse and inclusive and I surround myself with people that also think that way. It’s a little jarring when I’m in places that don’t think like that or aren’t used to having to deal with shit outside of their societal norms.
Salty: You talk about traveling two hours out and that seems quite akin to you growing up two hours out of Chicago in Peru, Illinois. Was that a difficult thing?
So difficult. It was one of those things that I didn’t realize was difficult until after I left. And then I was like “oh!” Just trying to straighten my hair all the time to look like the people around me or trying to wear the same clothes as my friends around me that I wasn’t ever going to fit in… trying to be this other person. And then finally moving an hour closer to Chicago and being around diversity and people of color, I was so surprised. I was still the only black girl on my volleyball team. But around me, on the basketball team and on the football team at my college [University of St. Francis], we had a shitload of people of color. And then I came out and visited LA and was here for a week and literally fell in love with the fact that I could walk around and see people who looked like me walking around and people who looked better than me and people who looked worse than me and I wouldn’t hear about it at the end of the day because I didn’t know them and because it’s irrelevant. It was amazing. I feel like growing up in my super small town definitely made me the person that I am today but also really did affect me.
Salty: How did having this intersectional identity previously affect your dating life, since you’re booed up now?
To be honest, I don’t know, because I am just like a flirtatious ass person. In LA, dating, I would say is hard for probably anybody. I don’t care if you are the hottest straightest cis woman or the hottest straightest cis man. I honestly think dating in LA just fucking sucks. Now, specifically in my pool of being a lesbian and being a black woman, I want to be in queer people of color spaces, queer woman of color spaces, but those are few and far between. We don’t even have places out here for lesbians to go to on the reg. So regularly, I don’t know how anybody would date around here. I feel like when I was dating in LA, I definitely didn’t think it was hard because of me being a plus sized, black woman. I was like, ‘first of all, my single straight friends aren’t even getting dates!’ But then on top of it, me being in the spaces that I wanted to be in, that was a ‘no.’
Salty: What are some things you do to feel sexy?
For me, dressing however I want to dress makes me the most happiest ever. For me, it’s like taking out clothes makes me so happy. But I honestly feel really fucking good the majority of the time. I never really question my sexiness. I try to make things realistic, which my therapist and I talk about often, so it’s kind of a crutch. But if I was sexy two nights ago when I took that picture, then I still have to be sexy right now. This is just math to me. It’s just sensible. Little things of how I show that, when I take certain pictures or mostly pictures when I get ready. Also dancing!
Salty: What inspired all of the dancing videos on your instagram?
I love dancing. Honestly, I’ve always been a fool and just dancing around, and then I think I posted one on my story and people are like, ‘oh my gosh this is so great, blah blah blah.’ I’m just dancing. So I just started posting them and people loved them, which is great. I definitely post dancing videos for myself to look back on and be like ‘oh ok, you got it you got it!’ It’s just really nice that people feel a vibe and, I mean, of course, first and foremost, see a fat person look good and dance at the same time. In the dance community, you don’t see that often at all. There are obviously plus-size dancers, which is great, but it’s definitely not the norm. So if I can, on a very low level, dance a little bit and show myself looking good and having a good time and being myself, then, yeah… might as well.
Salty: Can you talk about some people that currently inspire you?
I’ve been really obsessed with lately Yara Shahidi, Zendaya, always, and Marsai Martin. I’m obsessed with this wave of young black women that are just doing fucking amazing things. I think those are my celebs.
I also do a lot of things for my younger self. It’s what I think about often and what I want to keep in mind — what I needed when I was a kid. I’m in therapy now and I’m thinking a lot. Sometimes I take a step back and I’m like, would my younger self even believe ‘this is what you’re going to be,’ if I sat down with 16 year old Jazzmyne? It’s crazy to think about.