Karissa: We have joining us, Miss JessLee, a contestant from season 14, The Voice. Miss Lee, how are you doing?
JessLee: Hi, I'm doing well. Actually, JessLee is one word though. [laughter] So, yeah, my name it's very, very common, it's actually kind of a good thing that it happened this way, because it is something I do like to bring up anyway. So, yeah, like JessLee is like Leslie, it's actually one word. And, if you actually separate it into two words, you get this really amazing Asian singer, you're probably not going to understand anything she says, but her music's really cool, check her out.
Karissa: Wait, you're not her?
JessLee: No, I'm not her.
Karissa: [laughter] I'm just kidding.
JessLee: If you're looking for the country singer it's one word. [laughter] It's kind of like RaeLynn will spell her R and her L capital, but it's one word, that's how my name is spelled.
Karissa: Well, wonderful. Thank you for clearing that up because I've been saying it wrong all week.
JessLee: Yeah, yeah, yeah, just the way I tell people just say it just like Leslie, same exact pronunciation except with a J..
Karissa: Right, absolutely. Alright, what was it like going on this contest for you?
JessLee: It was really fun, I had been a performer for a very long time, so when it came down to the actual performance part of it I really wasn't phased. But, then again, it's different in the way that you're going to be performing in front of celebrities, and to be quite honest with you, it's really not even close to the biggest crowd that I've ever performed in front of before.
So, I just went into it believing that it was a normal show, I truthfully just tried to come as not trying to think about the fact that there were chairs in front of me and I was being judged in any sort of way, I just wanted to put on a really great performance like I normally would. And, soak in the moment because it is a very unique moment that very, very, very few people in our entire world get to experience. So, it was a cool experience, I loved it, and I think everything comes into your life for a reason, and I was really glad that I can say that I'm one of the people that got to experience it and make the team., so.
Karissa: Now, was it a little bit harder for you being in front of Kelly Clarkson when she too had went to a competition for vocals?
JessLee: Surprisingly enough, the good thing is, is that I've been doing this for a while, I'm very seasoned, this isn't my first time being around celebrities, and I've opened for some really, really cool people. So, it was one of those things that it was just another stepping stone in my life and in my career. I've never really been a person that gets super starstruck or like fanned out, I'm not a fangirl. I've only had one person that I've ever done that to and it was Celine Dion. [laughter] But, I just really believe that I have respect for the people who have made the accomplishments that they've made, but in reality, we're all just people and we all start from the same point. And, at one time she was right there and I think it was more humbling than frightening than anything, you know?
Karissa: Right, absolutely. Now, you were on American Idol as well, how was that different from The Voice for you this time?
JessLee: American Idol was a different experience mostly because of just the way that it's run compared to The Voice, I just felt like The Voice seemed a little more organized. And, it's also like a different level of how hands-on they are with you and authenticity about everything, it was a little bit more of a smoother process, definitely.
Karissa: Great. Now, you have your own style of music I read, it's called punkountry, is that right?
JessLee: Absolutely, yeah, thank you so much for looking into it. Yes, it's punkountry and it's very innovative. It's actually not technically a genre yet, but I'm definitely expecting it to become one. It's almost as if Avril Lavigne and Carrie Underwood kind of morphed. I thought it has that rocky edge vibe to it with almost like a '90s punk feel which is kind of the Avril Lavigne's, and Michelle Branch's. Those were all such huge artists and influences in my life and growth and female artists that were rocking girls at the time. And they were the ones who kind of gave that, I guess, for me that mental permission to be like, "Girls can rock, and be cool, and strong, and have this cool little power thing in music going on." And I just loved it.
I always have my country roots as well, so I wanted to create a sound that was really signature but also influenced by multiple different things that I listened to. I'm no music god. I love all genres although I love writing country music and/or punktry in my case [laughter]. Although I love writing, country-influenced music, I listen to everything, and I take influences from everything.
I think it's a really good time for that because punktry music is definitely kind of the more morphable sound right now. It's something that it's been growing, and it's changing. And it's a little bit more poppy than anything now. But it's starting to get a little bit more of a rock edge, but no one's really pampered around as the punk sound. So I think it's going to be really something that people really love and can appreciate the innovative side of it, and I think it's going to catch on really quick.
Karissa: Well, your voice and your sound are definitely amazing. No, I know you have a very diverse fanbase including the LGBTI community. Why is it so important to you to have such a broad range of fans?
JessLee: To be honest with you, I'm just a huge believer that we're all people, and human as human when it comes down to the core. And for me, it doesn't matter who is my fan. I'm just thankful that they are my fans. I just love on everybody. I just appreciate love back from anybody. And that really comes down to it if it's good people around me.
I'm such a big supporter of people's uniqueness and embracing difference. I really believe that everybody on this planet is perfectly created, and they're a masterpiece for the journey that they have to live and the race that they have to run in life. And I'm just a big supporter of everybody in their hustle and when anybody can do the same for me, I don't care who they are. I just appreciate that they love on me, so.
Karissa: That's wonderful. Now, you're an up-and-coming star, a wonderful voice. What would you say to that young star who's listening to you for the first time wishing they were in your shoes?
JessLee: That's a great question. Thank you for asking. I would say that everybody starts from a point that we're all--we all start from-- everybody starts at the baseline and I, too, was a girl who held a hairbrush in my hand, and singing with my music box, and looking in front of my mirror, and dreams, and believes that one day I would stand in arena. And one day, I did.
You have to remember that no matter where you come from, anything is possible and it's just the most important thing that you could ever, ever, ever provide for yourself is belief in yourself. And that being said, like I said, no matter where you come from-- I did not have the hardest childhood, and I think that's one of the biggest reasons why I minister in my S.T.R.O.N.G. Program to students, and I make a point to reach out to students and young ears, more than anything.
Because to be quite truthful, I would have started a long time ago if I would have had someone doing what I'm doing, going and talking to students, someone that is allowing the people to see, not just the successes, but the vulnerability and the struggles that you have to do to get through success. Some people don't know that the day after I had lost my battle round, I went into the school and I continued doing what I was doing and I couldn't have agreed more with my team and I that it was not-- there couldn't have been a more perfect time for me to stop into the schools.
It's so important with social media and everything today, everybody just always sees the highlight reel, they always see and come in-- the majority of people always come in on someone who's already successful, and who's already made it. And, it's so important for people to realize that they cannot get their hopes down in any situation because we've all had to go through it, every single person that's ever been successful always have to go through the struggles and just take different pathways to get there. And, I just tell people, in life if you can realize that perception is number one and anything that happens to you that may not appear in your favor isn't necessarily a struggle or a problem, it's just a different direction. And, you realize that there's no one path to success, you realize that there's no time sensitivity and you are confident in where you're going to go, and you can just enjoy the journey up.
Karissa: I just love your energy, you literally just answered my next two questions, it was going to be about S.T.R.O.N.G., and it was also going to be about how you would use your voice to help people during these troubling times right now in our community. And you literally just answered both of those.
JessLee: Oh, gosh, thank you, well I'm glad I could, I'm so glad I could.
Karissa: So, that was wonderful. Now, we'll go to question
JessLee: Its very important thing for me and my platform has just become something that-- it really has become so much more than music, and I really do have a passion to allow people to see vulnerability in me and also see that everybody goes through this. And, I'm willing to show the process up to it and let people know, I mean, you can't go run and hide in your losses, and so many people only want to show their highlight reel. And, I just don't think that, that's authentic, so I just want to be the hope for the little girl that was me, that did have her phase where I got lost and I wanted nothing to do with music because of the abuse I went through with my father and the things that I was told, and the lack of love that I had. And, it really does, it always comes down to love and no person's success is going to hinder another person's success, we all have our own unique mission on this plant. And one of the biggest ones is to enjoy your life, we don't just come here to pay bills and die, we come here to live. So, I don't fear that anybody's going to hinder that and I just want to help people be able to...
Karissa: And your story can definitely help heal people with all the abuse and all the sad things that's going on right now in the community.
JessLee: Absolutely, that's what I hope for.
Karissa: Now, what's next with you, what's going on next for your career, what are you looking to do?
JessLee: Thank you. Right now it's all about the music and S.T.R.O.N.G. Fitness is something that I promote, I'm very body positivity. So I do post things about fitness and taking care of yourself. But it's more so less aesthetics and more so for just a celebration on loving yourself and taking care of yourself now. And just that's really 100 percent just positive life. And just help.
But the main focus is, right now, always music. I have new songs that are coming. I had a music video that actually had just been done filming as soon as The Voice had reached out to me to come out to California. And that's going to be released along with a five-song EP. So really cool music. Country themed. The big release is on its way, which I'm so, so excited about because this next release is going to be the most me that I think I've ever been able to be. In my first couple of releases was me kind of just dipping my toes into releasing music and into the country music industry. And now that I've really just fallen in love and realized that ultimately everything that we do should be for us, I really purposely went into this next release just wanting to just do what I wanted to do with it and feeling like I had no restrictions or rules. And really, it's just going to be me. And you know what? Sometimes you just got to-- they say that the best people often and the best things in life are the ones that kind of bend the rules. And they were them. So I'm really hoping that people are going to love what I put out. So far, I've always had really good responses from my music.
And I truly believe just with the way that there's been so much growth, and as you do something, you keep doing it more and more and keep getting better and better at it. I truly believe, with as positive of a response as I got on my first releases, that people are really, really, really going to take on to what I'm about to put out. So I'm really excited about that.
And then, of course, the S.T.R.O.N.G. program is becoming a copyrighted program. And it's for students. And eventually, it's going to actually grow into something more. And I don't want to talk too deeply into that because it's such a unique program. And it's something that I don't want to give out all my secrets just yet until we actually have them locked in. The point of the program is to go and talk to people and students and to just let them realize that they're so perfectly created. And it's about being able to be in any situation and know who you are and to be able to remain strong physically, mentally and spiritually. And just realizing that if you're able to look at it from a viewpoint and always see the positive perception, you'd realize that there's really nothing that's ever out of your favor. Actually, it's the exact opposite. Everything is in your favor if you can find that perception about it. So it's just kind of like a life coaching/using my talents and my purpose, which is music, in one. So it's more like a motivational performance. It's very unique.
Karissa: Well, I'll tell you what. Once it gets up and running, and it's copyrighted, we'll re-interview you for that, as well.
JessLee: I would love that so much. Thank you.
Karissa: Absolutely. Now, last question for you, dear. Where can we find these videos and your music? Where can we find you now?
JessLee: Oh, I love that question because this is where I get to, obviously, make new fans and connect with more people. So thank you for asking. The best way that you can possibly connect with me on everything-- and I suggest doing it just because each of my platforms are a little bit different. I don't necessarily always post the same thing on every platform every day. So you'll find different content on each thing. So you could literally connect with me on all of my social media platforms straight from my website.
But if you go to my website and you're interested in finding me that way, it's really, truthfully the easiest. You just go there and then there's a social media link. And then there's also different thoughts on my site where it kind of pops up just to entice people to connect with me. But I do have a social media spot, as well. And you'll find it. You literally just click on the icon to whichever platform you want to connect with me on. And it just brings you right to it. It's really super easy.
One of the other things that you can do that's very specific to me is joining the JessLeegion, which is my fan club. And that kind of gives you some extra little perks and things that other fans that aren't part of the JessLeegion and part of my Angel List, wouldn't necessarily get to know because they don't get those fan emails.
Karissa: That's JessLee. One word. Just one word?
JessLee: Yes. Yes [laughter]. Yes. Yes. Just JessLee. One word like Leslie. That's the best way that I can-- that's the closest thing that I can possibly find when people ask me. They always want to put a space in between it. But yeah. No. It is just one word. Just like
Karissa: Absolutely. Thank you so much for the interview. We appreciate you joining us here at Celebrity Café. Have an amazing rest of the day and we will talk to you soon.
JessLee: Thank you so much. Thank you so much for asking me. Take care.
Karissa: Absolutely. Bye-bye.
About Karrissa Wade
Karrissa T. Wade is a wickedly funny, highly involved community activist for LGBTQI issues. She has been a regular contributor for print and digital media nationwide, and we are proud to have her here at the Celebrity Cafe.
A title holding pageant figure, she is known for her witty, over the top comedic performances and extensive charity work across the US. A consumate performer, she is an active television figure, (appearing as guest, anchor and lead roles) Karrissa has also been involved in the Cabaret community for the past 25 years, touring the country.
As a charity fundraiser, she has helped raised hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, and has been involved in HIV awareness and outreach since the early 90s.
"We have two hands: One for helping ourselves, and the other for helping others. Do your part."