Creative Interviewing Creatives: Jackie Lipson, a Los Angeles based pop singer-songwriter interviews queer creatives making waves in their field of artistry.
Jackie: Is “Asymmetrical Artist” a term you coined yourself and can you tell us about that? What has it been like to present yourself to the media as an Asymmetrical Artist?
Victoria: I heard first the word “asymmetrical” in regards to disability at a Girls Inc. conference, I believe. One of the young women (she must have been no older than 13 years old) was speaking on body image and media representation and I loved her choice of words. I took that saying with me because it felt less stigmatizing than the term “disabled”, and applies not only to disabled bodies but really, all human bodies.
Tell us about your advocacy work as an “Asymmetrical” artist.
I am most passionate about media and entertainment representation, particularly disability representation. I witness so many advocates already doing work on the legislative side that I feel is so key. I am involved in a different type of advocacy.I have always been and always will be a mainstream media consumer, harshly impacted by everything I consume as I think most of us are. My priority is incentivizing a breadth of stories to be told in media, so as to open the minds of people who may have implicit bias about people who “don’t look like them.” It’s critical to continue revealing the complexity, humanity, and worthiness of each individual represented on-screen so that we in turn treat each other with greater empathy on a day-to-day basis.
Who were some of your role models growing up? Did you see the media depict artists like yourself?
I looked up to a lot of artists and actors in pop culture that weren’t necessarily the healthiest for me to look up to. My priorities have shifted a lot since then, but I wasted a lot of time wishing I were as “pretty” as Jennifer Lopez in whatever rom-com, or as “sexy” and “effortless” as Selena Gomez on stage. What it took me years to realize was that there was nothing “effortless” at all about these performances – there are dozens and dozens of professionals involved to make this talent seem flawless, easy, perfect. I am still taking time to unlearn these standards that made me feel continually quite worthless, if I am being totally honest. I never saw anyone like me depicted on the “silver screen”, and I always thought that was super telling of my own “worth”. So as a coping mechanism I ended up choosing a lot of men as my role models – John Mayer, Stevie Wonder, Chris Martin… really interesting now, looking back at it. More recently, since I’ve somewhat found my footing in life, I find my heroes in leaders like the Obamas, my father, the Dalai Lama, and inspiring creatives like Elizabeth Gilbert, Van Gogh, Tatyana McFadden.
Where do you see unity or intersectionality between the various communities you are a part of: the Queer community, the Disabled community, the Latinx community? Can this improve in any way?
There is absolutely intersectionality between these communities. Being a passing-white 14-year-old girl with a missing limb in private school brings an entirely different set of issues than a queer Black person in a wheelchair in an underfunded public school. The thing about disability is that it’s an absolute blanket statement to cover so, so many different conditions. It’s impossible to group all disability into a “community”, just like it’s impossible to group all Black folks into a “community”, or LGBT folks into a “community”. It starts when we understand that it’s not an umbrella’d “community” but rather local “communities” that need attention. We need to listen.The only way anything can improve is to stop using our privilege as protection from dealing with the truth.Until we consider our neighbor’s problem our own, truly, and have the character to work towards making their life a dignified one, we won’t be done.
What are some challenges you’ve overcome?
My main plight has been body image issues, absolutely. I feel like I’ve only come to understand the worth of my body and feel grateful for all it does within the past short while, and even then, old voices come back to tell me I’m no good if I’m not Barbie-level flawless. In terms of actual physical limitations, they’ve been slim to none – I’m quite lucky in that respect because I don’t require physical aid. But hanging out with people who do need that aid has opened my eyes to the lessons that do need to be incorporated into society – like, for example, accessibility being a priority, so that disabled people can participate as functioning, valuable, and dignified members of society.
How has your global upbringing influenced your music?
My global upbringing has not so much influenced my music as it has influenced my perspective on life. You learn early on how to make friends with a stranger; how to find the human in everyone; how to enjoy the unfamiliar; how to appreciate people’s stories; how vast the world is, and how we are students for as long as we’re alive. That’s why I make music. It’s one of many gratifying ways to pick apart and ponder the human experience.
Do you have upcoming release plans or collaborations? If so, tell us about them!
So glad you asked!! I just released my EP called Victoria. It’s music I am so proud of and have been thawing out over the last year. 5 songs with bedroom pop, indie tinge, with a lyrical through line of self-worth and self-analysis.
What was it like singing on the Academy Awards backing Chrissy Metz?
Singing at the Academy Awards was just about the coolest thing I have ever done. I have almost never performed as a backing vocalist. It was such a liberating experience to play a supporting role in making the Oscar vision come to life. I felt so grateful to be recording alongside some of the best vocalists I’ve ever heard in my life, and I felt so included. Being backstage was absolutely nuts! I met Brad Pitt side stage! High-fived Idina Menzel! Said what’s up to Questlove! Got stuck in the middle of a red carpet rendezvous including Penelope Cruz, Charlize Theron and Josh Gad. I’ve never been around so many celebrities in my life. It was funny and bizarre. At one point, there were just so many of them that I felt like I was in a Disney-crossover episode, like the Zack and Cody-meets-Hannah Montana-meets-Wizards of Waverly Place thing I used to live for. It was like a simulation.
You created a shoe with Nike to create a more accessible Air Jordan. Do you feel like mainstream corporations are adapting to be more inclusive?
I think it’s always in mainstream corporations’ interest to respond to demand. In a capitalist system, that’s how businesses succeed. Right now, the people are demanding inclusivity across the board. That’s why we’re seeing billboards with Black trans women on them; that’s why I’ve got a Jordan shoe. They’re listening to the people. The people are speaking up.
If you had one wish for the world right now, what would that be?
My one wish would be for each individual human to really find stillness in themselves, despite the chaos in the world around them. I would love to know that every single person has found their way to meditation, or art, or prayer. The most peaceful, brilliant people I know are those who found a way to curate a part of themselves that’s just for them; accepting, kind, quiet, ego-less, patient… an ever-existing essence in them that exists no matter what happens in the world, something they can always come back to and rely on.
<3 I especially love the last lines about finding stillness within ourselves.