Transgender Teen Jazz Jennings is Starring in Commercials, Getting a Reality Show, on Top of the World

At age 14, Jazz Jennings has already accomplished more than many people two or three times her age. She’s fought for the rights of trans youth like herself; she’s co-written a children’s book based on her life, I Am Jazz; she was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014; she’s been interviewed by Katie Couric and she’s just getting started. However, it seems she’s not content with all of that — she’s also getting ready to take of our televisions. Just within the last two days, two big new projects were announced for Jazz that will hopefully help other trans kids and teens feel like they’re not alone, that they can be themselves and live a life that’s long and happy.

Jazz (far left) and her family. Via People.com

Jazz (far left) and her family. Via People.com

The first big news for Jazz came when TLC announced that she’ll be starring in brand new reality show following her life and her family as her teen years start to really hit their stride. The show, called All That Jazz, will air this summer and will feature Jazz, along with her parents Greg and Jeanette, her sister Ari and her brothers Griffen and Sander. For the most part, Jazz and her family have previously been pretty good at managing her public appearances and done a good job at making sure she isn’t exploited or subjected to insulting or overly ignorant interviews and by now, she definitely seems like she’s comfortable in front of a camera. So hopefully all of that will continue with this series.

If everything goes according to plan, All That Jazz could be an extremely helpful resource for families with trans kids, and for those trans kids themselves. When a network like TLC is showing off a young transgender teen with a happy and healthy family who supports her, it can serve the double purpose of giving any trans youth who see it hope that they too can find acceptance and happiness and also educating their family and hopefully making them more receptive to the idea of having a trans kid and ultimately supportive of that child.

Jazz isn’t stopping there, though. She’s also becoming the newest face of Clean & Clear’s “See the Real Me” campaign. In doing so, she joins celebrities like Keke Palmer and Skylar Diggins in sharing their stories and helping sell skin products. At face value, this might seem like a shallow accomplishment. But when you take a deeper look, you see that it’s actually a profound step for trans girls like Jazz.

Commercials like this show where our cultural definitions of beauty lie. In showing that a fourteen-year-old trans girl fits into that definition of beauty, they’re challenging the normal transmisogynistic narratives that say that, just by virtue of being trans, a trans woman is not as beautiful or worthwhile as a cis woman. When we have trans kids killing themselves because they’re bullied and they feel like they don’t have a chance to “successfully” transition, we need examples of society saying that trans lives are valuable and that trans people are beautiful. That’s what this commercial can do.

Obviously, reality shows and skincare commercials alone aren’t going to make things better for trans kids. We need to make sure they’re safe in their schools and in public bathrooms, we need to make sure they can get the medical treatment they need, we need to make sure that when they do end up homeless, they’re welcome in shelters that match their gender and we need to make sure that when they’re bullied or abused, others step in and stop it. What these commercials and TV shows do, however, is help to change people’s minds, and honestly, if one parent sees Jazz’s new reality show and learns to accept her trans kid or if one trans kid sees Jazz’s commercial and finally feels beautiful, we owe her huge thanks.

Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 574 articles for us.

14 Comments

  1. I’m excited for Jazz and for what these things can mean for the trans community. I have some worries, though.

    Jazz, from what I know about her, is an extraordinary person living in an extraordinary constellation of circumstances. She has a fully supportive family, with resources and access to knowledgeable and supportive health care providers, and she’s had those things since well before puberty kicked in. I worry about the trans kid (late-bloomer adult) who will look at that and be discouraged because they (think they) have uneducable parents, can’t afford health care, live too far away from knowledgeable doctors and clinics, or have already gone through puberty. That conclusion – being discouraged rather than encouraged and empowered by Jazz’s experience – would be wrong (I think), but the possibility is there. And it’s those kids I worry about.

    • Yeah, I understand that. That’s why we need as much varied representation as we can get. This is a good start, but it should be just that. Hopefully this will help lead to a wide variety of trans representation on TV.

    • that’s a good point, and hopefully Jazz will address it in her show. It reminds me of this awesome project called
      We Happy Trans that increases visibility of trans people who have completed their transition (at any age) and are living fulfilling lives.

      It was founded by Jen, a woman who did not start her transition as a youth. She was featured in the True Trans series by Laura Jane Grace from Against Me! (all the seasons are up on youtube; I love that show).

  2. She was featured on 20/20 or something when she was about 5 or 6, right? It was on when I was in high school, and it was probably the first thing I ever saw on TV about trans kids. One thing that really stuck out was how obsessed she was with mermaids and her mother said that she’d read that a lot of young trans girls were really into mermaids because they don’t have any genitalia. That show really eye-opening for me. I’m glad she’s continuing to do so well and that we all have someone like her to look up to! 🙂

  3. I love Jazz and I’m so happy this is all happening for her. I wish there had been representation like this when I was a kid. I was so isolated I barely even knew trans women existed. It’s no wonder it took me until I was in my mid-20s to figure out that I’m trans. So it’s amazing that there’s young trans kids in small towns that would be in the same position as me if it weren’t for the exposure that people like Jazz, Laverne Cox, and Janet Mock are getting these days.

    And as an added bonus, I’m sure Phil Robertson is unhappy about this so that rules.

  4. I’m really excited, but also really nervous. I don’t watch a ton of reality TV (but I do watch enough, or some… Quite a bit) and I can’t think of any where the people are portrayed fairly… I’m hoping for the best, but also I’m just apprehensive. *biting teeth emoji*

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