An Interview with Gothess Jasmine
Gothess Jasmine is a makeup artist, body artist, drag performer, and the founder of Oyacon. In her interview she touches on the alchemy of transforming your body, the life long quest for authenticity, and the power of being goth.
Interview and photography by Jeremy von Stilb for ASHwell
ASHwell: I just became aware of you but was instantly gagged as soon as I saw your Instagram; how would you describe your creative practice to someone who's just been introduced to you?
Jasmine: Well, it's usually a long-winded sentence that includes being a body artist of multiple facets. I am a makeup artist, body painter, temporary tattoo artist and I do special FX makeup. I pretty much dabble in the alchemy of magic of body transformations.
AW: What power is held in transforming your own body?
J: This is my ultimate goal that I talk about all the time: creativity; scientifically speaking, ideas are electromagnetic like they are neurons; they are energies that are floating from your brain to tell your body what to do. So when you have an idea or compulsive thought its electricity, it's literally energy inside you and when you act on that and then you manifest something. Especially if it's art, it starts off as an abstract piece of electricity and when you harness that and make something so beautiful and awesome you are literally committing magic in my opinion. That's alchemy, changing one thing to another something of course there is an equal exchange you have to do work, there is dedication and practice but ultimately it's alchemy, its magic.
With the gifts that are given to they can help you feel like you live in a world that's better created and suited for you and it helps your subconscious better understand that. I truly believe that it helps people heal traumatic pasts and toxic cycles. When you take that little bit of energy and do something with it you are inherently doing something good in helping yourself heal.
AW: It seems like you’ve helped other people discover this ability in themselves. What is the process for someone who is doubting themselves or someone who hasn't experimented with makeup or that has only seen themself in one way, what is the process of teaching them?
J: Well my number one thing I get a lot in my community especially virtually now are when people want to start out they are like “I really like makeup or to paint but I don’t know how to start.” The fact that you like it is already a sign that you might be the person for it. And that’s what I’m going to look at: what were the positive things that I was already interested in so I didn’t have to change who I was I was just stepping more into it and that’s the best way to grow in any aspect.
AW: So kind of zooming out but on the same subject our country right now is within a moment where we need to reinvent ourselves on an individual level but then collectively. What are your thoughts right now on how we need to reexamine or pivot?
J: I actually completely agree with you. I was watching some things today and I wrote down this passage of Amanda Gorman’s speech at (Joe Biden’s) inauguration that I really feels like sums up my feelings:
“Being American is more than a pride we inherent, it’s the past we step into and how we’ll repair it”
We are finally taking steps to repair the past instead of putting band aids on it. It really starts that process with looking further and actually doing that repairing and I truly think that America in our disagreements and in our division we have lost sight of why people believed for a moment that we were the greatest country. We have failed to realize that our hugest export is our cultural expression. We are an amalgamation of many people of many experiences and since we lost sight of that we have also kind of shaken the core of what American culture is. Especially Black American artists, I think that it is very important to acknowledge that lots of great art has stemmed from pain and people’s desire and passion to repair that. I think once we start looking into what our shared American cultural arts are, we can use that as a means to communicate better.
AW: So something I want to touch on- a lot of inspiration comes from pain and I can relate to that. When I'm angry my response is, I want to make something that’s really beautiful, or you know, I want to be funny. I want to tell a joke because I’m mad. So the readers they can’t see right now but you’re in a very casual daytime look (she is completely done up and looks incredible).
J: (laugher) Yeah, I’m for real.
AW: You’re all decked out and this is not even the hardcore stuff you do, because I’ve seen what you do online. What are some of the feelings that you interpret into the work that you either perform in or put online?
J: Well with my expression I’m always trying to convey the fact that I inherently was just desperate to hold on to that bit of spirit that tells me who I really am. Oh no! I just put on these lashes I don't want to cry (laughter). Since I was young I was always so vocal how an adult couldn't tell me how I really felt and it was wrong for them to dismiss me and my feelings. And so stepping into that I'm trying to show all the times I was tormented and tortured through life experiences I was desperate to hold onto who I really was and I’m just desperate to show that and it's not necessary to love and understand it, but it's more that I want to inspire the people that don’t understand to do the same thing. So ultimately all that trauma and torrential times literally couldn’t strip it from me, they literally tried so hard but they couldn’t strip it. Everybody believes different things but everyone dies what is there to fear about that? Oh my gosh I was raised in a Christian family too, so they literally thought I was worshiping demons because I asked those questions, no matter the bullying and all of that I just never let go of it and I make spooky shit on the regular and that’s always what I’m trying to convey. Don’t let anyone take your core from you it’s vital.
AW: So the last five years I feel like there’s been these different tipping points, it’s with consent and the Me Too movement, or with Trans visibility and in this past year in particular the Black Lives Matter movement, which has already been there for years and years but it really took hold and it was really breathtaking to see just these different marginalized groups finding a new voice and reaching a wider audience than ever before. My question is- why now? Part of me thinks its social media and people can network better. Why do you think this last year really changed things?
J: Well, I actually think about this and talk about this a lot. I was born in 1991 in Hollywood and lived in Long Beach, California. The next year were the Rodney King riots, so from as early as I remember many people in my community were like ‘fuck the police’, so how could you think otherwise? We have lived through so many historical events so we are inherently trying to change the outcome of the future by being more conscious on how these historical events have played out on us. Social media has helped us be connected and communicate but I wouldn’t say social media is that catalyst per se, because if we weren’t cognizant and prepared to be more conscious, social media would’ve exacerbated something else. It would have exploited something else. We were just consistently ready for war. Which I think that's the issue here is that we are numb to war. So the more trauma we see on tv or social media, the more we’re like ‘we’re tired of this, so can we chill, can we rest?’
I have a 10-year-old child, but my kid is dealing with the aftermath of this generation living through all these historical events and also the connectivity of us sharing actual history, knowing and realizing we’re being indoctrinated. That’s why its called teenage angst. That’s why when you leave your parent’s house most people are like I’m gonna go mess around and do what I want because you’re realizing you didn’t really have a choice in your programming. And I think America is reaching that adolescent age, 19 -25, where people question “who was I really? What was the good part of me and how can I undo the things that my parents did?” And now I feel like us as a country and a culture are adamant about that evolutionary thought process. We’re adamant that we’re going to do what it takes to make it stop. We don’t want to repeat the common cycle. We want justice we don’t want propaganda. Stop it with the excessive advertising. There is just too much and we’ve reached that point now where it need to end.
AW: I like that idea.You're kind of presenting that’s it’s an evolution of thought. Scientifically it’s just going to happen or cosmically it’s bound to happen, there have been so many things that this is just a moment where we have no other choice.
J: No, absolutely! Just the way you put it as a question in the last 5 years or so a lot of things have changed. No you’re right. That is documented evidence there that there has been beginning or at least a climactic point in evolutionary thought and change. If we weren’t ready then that wouldn’t have happened. It would have been something that was brought up for a moment then let go. And that’s why this is going to sound funny but the aliens thing. We know there’s other life somewhere but every time we bring it up it’s laughed off or we make more movies or conspiracy theories about it. That means we’re not ready for the real conversations. Otherwise we’d all be talking about science and gravity and continuous travel. I just think you’re on the money about how things have changed so much. And it was at some point it was either make it or break it and it was about time.
AW: Within Austin's creative culture what do you want to see happen in the next year?
J: I would love to see creative culture that isn't exploited by capitalism. And I think that I, like many people, we’re kind of blinded by the temporary offerings of Austin as an artist right, I only ever came to Austin for events so I thought there were several layers of culture here. But when I moved to Austin I felt like there was definitely a void of cultural events that weren’t exploiting people for money or they were I’m like virtue signaling- I said what I said
AW: I feel the same.
J: And I’m not gonna take it back because it’s a lot of these businesses that happen to be blessed with the fortitude of business loans and money. And the gentrification thing, they say it’s a necessity and an evolutionary change. Just say what it is. Which obviously I don’t agree with that, because we could be opening up our own businesses in our own areas, But because of certain laws aren’t changing we aren’t able to. So it’s only the people with money who are able to. Anyways, say it is the next evolutionary step... how are you paying back the community that allowed you to be there? Like you can’t have events and charge them $10 each to get in and think that you’re helping the community. You can’t sit here and exploit peoples culture and .. oooh shade Jasmine shush. You can’t buy things that these people have had for a long time and charge three times the price in their community and think that you’re doing something good. And you want to have Black Lives Matters events but you want to charge people x amount of money to get in and how many Black artists did you care about before this... Imma be quiet before I start naming business because I’m an event coordinator out here. But it seems like everyone here is looking for money not communal connection.