Jessie J Likes and Dates Girls and Doesn’t Care Who Knows It

It’s important for me to be open and honest about [my bisexuality],” Jessie J (née Jessica Cornish) told Glamour Magazine UK in the interview accompanying her August 2011 cover story. “My Mom and Dad have known for years and were super cool, my sisters made jokes about it because they were married with kids and I was the rebellious one. I had a girlfriend and tattoos… Because I haven’t tried to hide it, people have gone, ‘Oh, she’s so cool about it, so we’re cool about it.”

It’s a bit unclear, structurally, which “people” she’s referring to but it doesn’t really matter because I think more or less everyone is pretty “cool about it.”

Sure, girl-on-girl action makes for sensational headlines, like the bajillion permutations on this quote from her aforementioned Glamour interview:

“How old was she when she had her first girlfriend? A shrug. “Dunno. Seventeen? It wasn’t a girlfriend, more my first girl experience. And that’s an exclusive.”

But beyond those tawdry SEO-friendly declarations, Jessie J’s sexuality has been a relative non-issue — which is a super-special idea as far as female pop & hip-hop artists go. Perhaps Jessie J is part of a brilliantly spectacular future of gay pop stars where being gay from your very first day is okay!

Pop, hip-hop and country music tend to be one part person and one part PR, and so unlike other genres that practically invented lesbians (see: Lesbian Folk-Rock music, kd Lang, Melissa Etheridge, The Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, Tracy Champan, Joan Armatrading, etc.), those areas have become the last frontier. For Ricky Martin, Chely Wright and Lance Bass, image mattered just as much as the songs they sang, and because they were aiming for mainstream appeal, they needed a mainstream image.

Look anywhere outside of mainstream pop/hip-hop/country and you’ll see an expansive world of day-one homosexual acceptance — artists who broke out within the last ten years or so who never skirted sexuality questions include Brandi Carlile, Holly Miranda, Beth Ditto, Tegan & Sara, Sia and Kaki King.

 

vogue italia photoshoot

In her earliest interviews–most likely to protect her girlfriend’s privacy more than to fit some kind of man-ready blow-up doll image–Jessie J was more withholding. But now, with her first single “Do it Like a Dude” peaking at number 2 on UK charts, “Price Tag” going straight to number one in the UK and her album (released earlier than initially planned due to intense burning hot fan demand) charting at number two on the UK Albums Chart, she hasn’t chosen the path well-paved by initially closeted pop/hip-hop stars like Lady Sovereign (who eventually came out last year). Instead she’s just being candid. Also the fact that she doesn’t drink or do drugs helps.

February 2011, in a “Cup of Coffee” interview:

“I’m very open, and it’s funny because people say I’m very mysterious. They want me to be mysterious. I don’t think I am at all. I think they want me to be mysterious because that’s what they’re used to… but I’ve never denied it, even four or five years ago when people used to talk to me about it, I always said I’ve always liked girls and I’ve always liked boys. I’ve never put my sexuality in a box and I’ve never named it, and I’ve never labeled it.”

I wrote about Jessie J for the first time in January when I saw the music video for Do It Like a Dude. It was this super grungy and aggressively sexual spastic thing and it celebrated masculine women in a way nobody else in mainstream music has ever dared to (save a few minutes in Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”). To be blunt, I’d never seen so many studs on my teevee at the same time before on a channel other than Logo. It was hot and subversive and fun and catchy and everything you could ever want from a woman and her first single.

Most striking, however, was its authenticity. “Do It Like a Dude” was clearly created by someone who knew the culture, there was nothing tAtU-ish about it.

Rumor had it Jessie’s girlfriend was one of the background dancers, which was never confirmed or denied anywhere besides in our own heads. But it wasn’t just protecting a loved one that made Jessie nervous about blazing this trail. She told Glamour:

“I never wanted to be called a hypocrite, but I didn’t want my sexuality to become a gimmick. There are lots of people who go, ‘Oh, I’m bisexual.’ No. You’ve kissed your friend.”

Exactly — and before I go any further, let me address the topic of this topic. Obviously we don’t want to be like other media outlets and sensationalize her sexuality or make it more important than it is. But we ARE lesbian media. Sexuality and its representation in the media is, in fact, our primary point of conversation.

This is an Autostraddle/AfterEllen/SheWired story, and if she had given this quote to AskMen.com or Maxim instead of to a mainstream women’s magazine like Glamour UK, it might be perceived as a gimmick and that’s got nothing to do with Jessie and everything to do with the sordid history of bisexuality in pop music.

Where do we begin?

There have been bisexual/lesbian rumors/truths about RihannaPink (took it back), Britney SpearsChristina Aguilera (has gone back and forth on identifying as bi, which is largely perceived to be a gimmick by the media), Miley Cyrus, Janet JacksonLindsay Lohan (now openly identifies as bi), Kelly ClarksonQueen LatifahNicki Minaj (took it back), Missy ElliotMel B of the Spice Girls, Nelly Furtado (identifies as bisexual because she believes all humans are bisexual) and of course Madonna (who I believe had some kind of lesbian thing happening with Sandra Bernhard back in the day). Let’s not even talk about t.A.t.U.

Just this very week we have everybody questioning whether Lady Gaga is “using” the LGBT community by advocating for equal rights and whether or not she’s “truly” bisexual.

Ultimately though, it’s not surprising that pop music is such a ripe forum for this kind of speculation – so much of pop music is sex. I mean most of it’s about sex, like, explicitly. Everybody performs in their underpants and all the music videos are like three-minute ads for having sex with the musical artist. Sex is on the brain, so to speak. And love, too, I suppose — you want to know who the love songs are for.

I can’t really say that I care enough about most of these people to spend any time thinking about whether or not those who claim to be bisexual TRULY ARE, but where Jessie is concerned there can’t possibly be any doubt where her affection for girls is concerned.

April 2011 in a South Florida Gay News Interview:

My family and friends never made me feel like I had to put a label on it. The same goes for my music. I don’t feel like I have to say I’m pop or I’m rock or I’m hip-hop. I make music – and if people like it, they like it. And I think it gets people frustrated because they need to pigeonhole me, but I won’t allow them to, because I just think it’s about being who you are.”

Obviously the game is changing, and a lot of it has to do with society’s rapidly changing conception of homosexuality moreso than anyone’s personal integrity. From a May 2011 Telegraph interview:

She doesn’t go as far as discussing her sex life – ‘that wouldn’t be right on the other person’ – but she is open about her bisexuality.

‘I’ve been with guys and I’ve been with girls. And I kind of think it’s about the person not the genitals. A lot of people are like, “‘Oh, she doesn’t know what she is,'” she says, sighing with impatience. ‘But I definitely think my generation is more easygoing about it.’

Indeed.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2707 articles for us.

62 Comments

  1. I love Jessie J. Speaking of female musicians that have been rumored to be gay, DEV’s new video Dancing in the Dark seems really gay to me, and it’s not just because she looks almost exactly like Romi from TRLW.

    • i hope dev is gay/bi/something. but, she did that song w/ new boyz that was all ‘ur-a-famous-boy-imma-girl-lets-have-sex’ so i have my doubts. also: dancing in the dark is a really good song and the video is nice too.

  2. I was just thinking about this earlier. Gay guys in pop music aren’t rare (Adam Lambert, Patrick Wolf, Rufus Wainwright, Boy George, as well as David Bowie being bi) but there seem to be very few girls.

    I can’t say I’m really a fan of her, but she was interviewed on a programme and she revealed she was actually a songwriter who’d got bored of writing for other people, so I respect her more as an artist because of that. In all, woo for Jessie J!

  3. Great article Riese. I think Jessie J’s honesty about her sexuality is hugely important in terms of visibility in mainstream pop, I’m glad you give her the attention you do.

    I feel like another reason why there are fewer out female musicians in commercial pop, besides the PR / mainstream appeal factor, might be because female pop artists are typically thrust into the spotlight at a far younger age. Some of those on the rumored list probably got famous before they were old enough to have had time to explore their sexuality or to make their own decisions about if, or to what extent, they’ll allow their sexuality to become part of their public image.

    I’m stoked that industry seems to be churning out fewer cookie cutter teen stars and instead investing in artists like Jessie J. who bring something a little different to the table.

    • Oh yeah that’s a really good point. I was thinking about that w/r/t how people say Lady Gaga’s not truly bi ’cause she hasn’t had a girlfriend… when I was her age I hadn’t had a girlfriend yet either… like we forget that nobody’s giving their final answer at that age, especially if as you say you’ve been asked a lot of questions about your love life in public for so long

      • I’m a year *older* than Gaga and I haven’t had a girlfriend yet either! It’s frustrating how every side, when it comes to queer people, want a coupling as proof – like our stated desires didn’t matter or something. Maybe Gaga and I should get together for a while and fix each other’s image problems or something.

  4. Thanks Riese! It’s sad that people who identify as bi, especially girls, have to constantly deal with others denouncing their sexuality as a gimmick, and I’m sure there have been many who have tried to do the same to Jessie J.
    Her honesty is definitely helping bring these issues to light, especially in the LGBT etc community.

    Also, she’s super hot. So there’s that.

  5. I agree. I’m gay but I have a lot of friends who are bi and have to struggle with prejudices from both straights and gays. Both sides see bisexual as a means for sowing wild oats or they claim it’s just a phase. I think a lot of the problem is with the straight girls who DO claim to be bi for those exact reasons, therefore projecting that image on girls who are actually bisexual. Even straight girls who AREN’T claiming to be bisexual but imply they lean towards it *coughKatyPerrycough* for the benefit of guys damage the validity of being openly bisexual. I love that Jessie J can be open about her sexuality in a way where it is obvious that she’s NOT catering to male fantasies or gasping for attention from the media.

  6. This makes me happy 🙂 I like Jessie J and it’s really encouraging that an artist can be up front and non-gimmick-y about their sexuality and still build a successful career. It seems open queerness isn’t quite the kiss of death it once was. Yay, progress!

  7. “I never wanted to be called a hypocrite, but I didn’t want my sexuality to become a gimmick. There are lots of people who go, ‘Oh, I’m bisexual.’ No. You’ve kissed your friend.”

    THANK YOU, MISS J!

    Awesome article. I will have to start investing in her now.

  8. i think the whole disrespect for bisexuality thing is such a bummer. it seems to me like part of it comes from the way people legitimately unsure of their identity use it. i mean, straight or gay people who are trying to hash it out often use bi as a kind of bridge between the identity they thought they were and the identity they ultimately figure out so it makes sense that when they personally decide they’re gay/straight, they assume everyone else who says they’re bi is in the same place. maybe this could be solved if people didn’t feel so pressured to have a label that fit into a binary at all times? like, be queer or whatever for six months while you figure your shit out? i don’t know. i’m probably a kinsey 5 myself, lesbian-identified, but i went from straight to bi to gay to bi to gay in a 3 year period as far as self-identification goes.

    • I’m the same as you, up to when I was about 16 I identified as straight, then bi, then at 18ish I realised I’m actually a lesbian. Probably 99% lesbians with a 1% chance of falling for a guy.

  9. Pingback: Jessie J Likes and Dates Girls and Doesn’t Care Who Knows It – Autostraddle – SEO-Girl

  10. When I saw her at Glastonbury she flirted wonderfully with her hot female keyboardist, and after singing the lyric “I just wanna be your girl” shout-asked the crowd “who wants to be my girl?”
    <3

  11. It’s great that she’s so open about being non-monosexual, and her approach will help to counteract the whole ‘bi is just about faking it for the cameras’ myth. But it’s not bi people’s responsibility to undermine that myth: it’s the responsibility of straights, gays and lesbians to stop erasing our existence. So, so often are bi people called by monosexual labels (e.g. Ani DiFranco put in a list of lesbians above), or monosexual labels are used as umbrella terms for all non-straights (e.g. “being gay from your very first day is okay!” and “homosexual acceptance”) even in an article about a non-mono. How about ‘queer acceptance’ etc instead? Sorry for being pernickety, this article is relatively cool overall.

  12. As a “real” bisexual (tho I prefer queer cos bisexual kind of re-affirms a gender binary I don’t think is “real”), there is something disturbing about women who seem to be pretending to be sexually interested in girls for a fleeting minute for money/fame/male attention-hell, as a feminist I don’t like it when girls do things they don’t really enjoy for any reason. HOWEVER, I also don’t really like policing other people’s sexual behaviours or identifications. Girls who make out with their friends one time and like it but don’t go on to identify as bisexual are FINE WITH ME, and I think our disapproval of that kind of behaviour veers towards slut-shaming. Why would we hate on experimentation and meaningless fun?

  13. It’s strange to see Jessie J being praised for her “honesty” while she hides the fact that she’s had a girlfriend for a couple of years now.

  14. I agree with “b” in that I dislike the term “bisexual”. It predicates a binary that I too believe is socially constructed therefore theoretically nonexistent.

    I really don’t have a problem with “girls being with girls” even if fleetingly.

    I tend to believe that for the most part people don’t generally do things they don’t enjoy. That the only difference between a girl who makes out with her friend occasionally and thinks nothing of it and a lesbian or a queer or a bisexual is social conditioning. Lez be honest. You’re all the same. You all to some degree find women attractive sexually/intimately/mentally stimulating, etc… The “bisexual” or “lesbian” wants to declare a separate cultural identity for whatever reason or for peace of mind. and that’s a beautiful thing. The girl who kisses/does girls is either too dense to care about FWGSS; are afraid to live in a world where couples behavior isn’t based on socially comfortable gender norms (these chicks want to be trophy wives and have their bills paid by some man); or they’re surprisingly liberal concerning their sexuality.

    But yes. I don’t get the hate towards girls who date women but aren’t cultural lesbians? Do you think the validity of the queer struggle is invalidated? That progress can’t be made unless everyone fits into cookie-cutter sexual identities? Like I said. While some of them may be doing it to garner attention from guys… for the most part an overwhelming majority do it because… they effing like it. They enjoy it on a very basic, very human non-socially construed way. The straight world AND the gay world depend too heavily on the confines of labels. Let ppl be.

    Can we also add Jada Pinkett to that celebrity list? And Alicia Keys? Deep inside I just know the two of them are sexually fluid and even prefer women. haha i’m just saying.

    • “I agree with “b” in that I dislike the term “bisexual”. It predicates a binary that I too believe is socially constructed therefore theoretically nonexistent.”

      This myth is an old fallacy, and it’s a borderline biphobic one. Bisexuality no more reinforces a gender binary than homosexuality or heterosexuality does. Please read this to understand why this line of thinking is offensive to bisexual people (a group that includes genderqueer and trans* spectrum folks, as well as many others who identify outside of binary gender): http://www.thescavenger.net/glb/bisexuality-does-not-reinforce-the-gender-binary-39675.html

      • The article isn’t there anymore, but I did read it long ago, and while bisexuality is not inherently binarist, Julia Serano’s construction of it is.

        She says she gets to forcibly categorize me as “male” or “female” based on how I make her bits tingle, and she thinks that’s not binarist? Fuck that bullshit. I don’t take that from monosexual people either.

  15. I like men and women, so for lack of a better word I’m bi. Hardly biphobic.

    To be clear I dislike the terms homosexual, heterosexual, AND bisexual. For the same reason. I think they substantiate a status quo sexuality binary. Either this or that which then causes stress if you fall outside of that.

    I dislike the language, not the person because that would mean I dislike myself. Think you missed the point of my post.

  16. The majority of people who endlessly question if Lady Gaga is actually part of the LGBTQ Community (no to mention how could it be that a successful sexy, fashion-forward, outspoken person could be an *OMG* Woman – I mean she MUST be a Man right?) are the biphopic/transphobic “gay/lesbian purity” folks inside of our OWN Queer Community.

    The woman was out as bi before she was famous, the woman was introduced by the speaker from BiNet USA at the March On Washington, the woman continues to publicly identify with and work for her own LGBTQ Community just like everyone says they wish all famous LGBTQ people would do.

    And yet, what is the thanks she get for it? People pretend she’s straight and then rag on her for “using” the Queer Community to make money. Oh yeah, all of that will really convince other more timid lesbians and bisexual women about the benefits of coming out of the closet and publicly work for the community.

    *smh*

  17. I love Jessie J! Have done since I first heard/saw her video for ‘Do It Like A Dude’ I knew she had to be gay or bi to have the guts to put all those stud girls in her video.

    I saw a vid of one of her performances at a music festival recently and she shouted to the crowd ”Who wants to be my girl?” So I love that she’s so comfortable with her sexuality. And not just doing for attention – like many other women seem to do nowadays – is an added bonus 🙂

  18. Jessie J is a hottie. I like her music too! all good things. I super appreciate her openness and casualness in regards to her sexuality, its not like OMG GUYS GAYMO HERE. its a lot more gimmicky when its more dramatized in the media, but it so freakin hard to tell because everything’s so embellished.

  19. yay for a bisexual cool lady in the media! as a bi femme, it;s so hard to find anyone who doesn’t mock or question bisexuality. and the fact that Jessie J is so open an cool about her sexuality gives us bi people, and the Lgbt community, more support and acceptance by her calm assurance of who she is and what she stands for. Oh, and she’s so smoking hot, I can’t stand it. YUM! I need a panty change after watching her sing.. :p

  20. “I never wanted to be called a hypocrite, but I didn’t want my sexuality to become a gimmick. There are lots of people who go, ‘Oh, I’m bisexual.’ No. You’ve kissed your friend.”

    THANK YOU! That’s the thing with this whole Bisexual gimmick. You see an artist kiss someone of the same gender and suddenly they label themselves as Bi cause of ”that one time” that was just to hype up ones popularity. It’s nothing less than hypocritical of them. *Katy Perry for starters*

    And then you wonder why homophobes believe that homosexuality is a fad (as well as against the rules of nature >.>)

  21. I think there I nothing wrong with being bi or gay I think that everyone if u think about it is bi! Will be very surprised if someone said I hav never looked at a girl in lustful way before 🙂

  22. Pingback: Velociriot! | WTF Wednesday: Jessie J Comes Out as Straight

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.