InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each week ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This week we caught with Jae Harris, a 23-year-old Cali-bred Atlanta transplant and model.
ELIXHER: When did you begin modeling and what drew you to it?
JAE: I began modeling in 2008. After blowing my knee out in basketball, I decided to take a different route. I was always told that I should model, but I was more concerned with being an athlete at the time. So when I was injured I was like hmm, maybe I should try modeling after all.
ELIXHER: What kind of modeling do you do? And which do you enjoy the most?
JAE: I do fashion, print, and runway. I really enjoy taking photographs that capture my true essence. It all depends on the photographer.
ELIXHER: You have some really great pieces of artwork. Can you tell us about your tattoos and the inspiration behind them?
JAE: Thank you! I got my very first tattoo when I was 19 years old. It’s the symbol for “family” in Chinese. My younger brother and I decided to get it together. I also have two Adinkra symbols: a Sankofa bird on my left hip, which represents learning from my past, and a Gye Nyame on my left inner arm which represents that nothing in life happens without God. The words “I am a divine original fashioned by God to be radiantly beautiful” are written under the Gye Nyame.
My two most asked about pieces are that of an African acacia tree with roots and a sunset in the background and the word “REVOLUTION” on my forearm. The tree represents stability, resilience, and shelter. The roots represent my heritage, survival, the Motherland: Africa. The sunset represents transition.
I chose to get the word “REVOLUTION” on my forearm because I feel that change within the black community is imminent but it can not occur without love for each other.
ELIXHER: You also have a very distinct look. Does your look make getting work easier or more challenging?
JAE: I think it’s a little bit of both. Sometimes I have a pretty easy time booking work and other times I don’t. It’s really based on the wants of the clients. It’s more so challenging at times because most people aren’t sure in which category to place me.
ELIXHER: What has your experience as an out lesbian model been like? And how do your intersecting identities as a queer black woman play a role in your work?
JAE: My experience as an out lesbian model has not really been anything out of the ordinary. Generally I’m not asked about my orientation or about my personal life for that matter. Being a black woman in the industry has its challenges, but nothing coincidental with my lesbian identity.
ELIXHER: What do you when you’re not modeling?
JAE: I do a little bit of everything. I love going to concerts, a night of dancing, painting and even an occasional drink. There is something going on every night of the week in Atlanta. I love it!
ELIXHER: Tell us something that most people don’t know about you.
JAE: I am extremely awkward. My demeanor says otherwise.
ELIXHER: What makes you proud to be a part of the black queer community?
JAE: I’m seeing a lot more of socially aware queer black people and a lot more of community improvement movements. And for that I can say it makes me proud.
ELIXHER: What changes would you like to see in the community?
JAE: I would love to see more unity between both gay men and lesbian women. And these labels, there are so many now I can’t even begin to name them all! The LGBT community has fought long and hard for equality and acceptance, yet I feel these labels place limitations.
ELIXHER: What’s next for Jae?
JAE: I have a few things in the works. I’m currently collaborating with a DJ in Atlanta about a radio show. Be on the look out!
To learn more about Jae, “Like” her Facebook fan page.