As for many areas where brainpower is required, having a vagina still makes you persona non grata in the very restricted genre that is “comedy”. Consequently, stumbling upon women pushing through the mind-blowing idea that they too can be funny is always met with an immense joy. When some restrict their scope of jokes to harmless or insignificant narratives, others choose to caustically highlight some of the most problematic societal issues –or anything that have caught their mordant sense of humor.
Sailor J is part of this type of gladiators. The kind that will use a fake make-up tutorial to crack some incisive comments about Brock Turner or Harvey Weinstein and be hilarious about it. Among many other things, she is a wrestler, a nerd (we secretly hope to have another interview where we will talk only about animes, comics and the FCW Divas Championship), a writer, an Instagram sensation and the maker of some amazing videos that you should know about if you are one of our faithful readers -if not, there is still time to learn French and redeem yourself. Pushed by love and curiosity, we had the honor to recently ask her some questions about her work. Intersectional feminism, the military, Naomi Knight, queen-of-everything-also-known-as-Rihanna, representation, Sailor Venus… Here is the interview of a young woman whose carreer you should most definitely follow.
Hello Sailor J! Could you present yourself a bit?
My name is JJ Smith and I’m 21. I made a few videos that went viral and deceived a hundred thousand people into thinking that I’m funny (:
How did you end up making videos?
I just grabbed my camera one day. I was sick home from work and felt like playing in my makeup, but I’d seen a couple tweets on my TL that day (just the usual misogynistic bullshit) where these men and women were arguing back and forth about how a woman should present herself and why we do what we do… It was annoying, and I was annoyed with being annoyed, so I decided to have a laugh about it and post it.
How do you choose your subjects, what are you sources of inspiration?
My subjects usually come from topics that get me pissed. I’m a bit of a hot-head, and I’m really trying to work on that so I’ve found laughing at things is a good way for me to process how I’m feeling and still come out on top of it. Even dealing with depression and things when I was younger -sometimes I just had to laugh at myself so I wouldn’t cry.
If I’m correct you went to the military, which is known to be a male dominated area. Did it impact the way you understand social matters such as feminism?
I am in the military! It absolutely helped me understand more about feminism. I worked with all men at my last shop, there were two women when I first arrived and they were rude as fuck. No help at all, no kindness. I was mad disappointed, I’d been looking forward to being around older women I could learn from and bond with and it didn’t turn out that way. I just always ended up thinking like: « Why can’t we get along? Don’t we deal with enough shit? ». I really love women. I love my little sister, and my best friend, and older women. I love bonding and talking and sharing advice. So I’m really passionate about defending our community and our right to dictate our own bodies and lives.
Amongst the “triggered” comments reacting to your video about native makeup, the ones that stroke me the most were people angrily asking: “why do you care about it, you’re not native”. What would you respond to this?
When people ask me why I care about certain ethnicities despite not being the same, I just laugh. It makes no sense to me. You don’t have to be the same as someone else to defend them and use your voice to try and help them. I’ll continue lending a helping hand in the best way I know how until my feelings change about it -which I doubt they will- because women have to understand that some of us get listened to more thoroughly than others do to our colors. White women get listened to before brown women. Brown women get listened to before black women. We have to be aware of this and use it to get all our voices heard.
You have a very understandable way of talking about intersectional feminism. How did you educate yourself on this matter?
Twitter. Twitter. Twitter. People talk a lot of shit about social media, but I’ve found Twitter is one of the greatest places for me to learn -Black Twitter in particular-. It’s a beautiful, hilarious place, unless you’re a racist asshole. I saw a lot of black women speak about intersectional feminism, voicing their opinions about why they felt certain white female celebrities weren’t exactly breaching true feminism, etc. I asked questions, I read threads, I joined the discussion. And learning from them helped me to understand my own feelings and form my own thoughts about it.
According to you, why does representation matter? Do you think that you have a role to play in this regard?
I think representation matters because it shapes our self-confidence and worth. As a little girl, I never saw any brown girls in the leads of my favorite movies. Harry Potter, Star Wars, LOTR, Marvel movies -they all had white girls as the leads or important female characters. And it would sadden me, because I didn’t feel pretty enough to be on screen or important enough to be the hero. My youngest brother Jason was scared to be Spider-Man one year for Halloween. He was only six at the time and he wanted to be Spider-Man so bad, but was literally like: « I can’t because I’m brown » and it broke my heart.
Everyone should be represented. It brings a fresh breath, a new hope. I hope I have a role to play on it. I have books I’m writing that I pray will get turned into movies so I can demand they don’t whitewash my cast. I’d want to get into acting just to have another brown girl on screen. Even on YouTube, Lily Singh and Liza Koshy are probably the only two huge brown girl youtubers, and the second a new one shows up everyone’s like: “YOU’RE TRYING TO BE LIKE THEM”; which is crazy. There’s like 50 white guys on SNL and entirely black-casts of Tyler Perry movies, and each one of those people on those casts are talented. Diversity and inclusion needs to be normalized. We need to see broad spectrums of DIFFERENT talent within the SAME ethnicities and colors.
You channel has gained a lot of attention, gathering people from very different cultural backgrounds. What do you hope will come out of it?
I hope that all these people watching my channel will really come together and talk to and bon with each other. I know it’s sort of far-fetched but I’m hoping it just becomes a place people can come to so they can laugh and learn. I like it when people are kind to each other, and I like it when people can learn from each other while being free of the fear that they’ll be judged or ostracized for asking questions and wanting to know things about different cultures.
Your videos are challenging the idea that “humor” is a masculine characteristic. Do you know about other “funny” women that you can recommend?
I don’t know about a lot of funny women on YouTube. I’ve looked-believe me, but the funniest women I’ve seen have made it already, which is cool because it means they’re rising and carving paths for the rest of us. Iliza Shlesinger is one of the funniest women I’ve ever seen -and Kristen Wiig is fucking hilarious. As for YouTube though, I haven’t found a lot of women doing my type of humor, I think mainly because Youtube’s been branded as this place where women can only go to do makeup videos and those « relatable » humor vids that are… subjectively funny. But I’m always looking, and when my subscribers send me videos I always try to watch them!
Do you have any role models?
I really, really, really look up Naomi Knight from WWE. I cried when I saw her live. I know that’s weird-that’s so off topic and out of the blue, lol. She’s the first black woman to hold a WWE Diva’s Champion title, which is huge. She’s one of the most talented athletes on the roster but they kept putting her on the backburner; it was infuriating. She eventually just started taking matters and her ideas into her own hands. It was risky -but it made her one of the best champions to date. It’s important to show little black girls they can do whatever they want in a company that typically hires blonde white women (even though they’re all stunning)!
Also, Rihanna** -because it’s fucking Rihanna -and she does whatever she wants with her body and remains so cool about it-. I want that kind of confidence one day. I’m getting to the point where I feel much braver than I did when I was younger, but even when I’m hard-headed about a decision there’s still always a small voice in the back of my mind whispering that I’ve gone too far. I want that voice to evaporate. Hopefully someday, it will.
**The realest might have recognized « Trophy Wife » in some of JJ’s videos
And our last absolutely-out-of-the-blue question (Girlshood is a bunch of huge mangas fans): which “Sailor” is your favorite?
THIS IS SUCH A HARD QUESTION. I love Sailor Pluto because she’s the queen of chaos and destruction; since I’m slightly mentally unstable, I’m into that shit. But I also really love Sailor Venus -every quiz I take I get her. She’s goofy, and a pretty big slacker, and she breaks a lot of things but she has good intentions. She’s not afraid of being a leader and she’s almost fearless. So I think she’s my favorite, because there’s this dope balance between her being a train wreck and the hero everyone wants on their team. Also, Sailor Jupiter, because I had a crush on her when I was like six and she can beat anybody’s ass.
A huge thank you to Sailor J for having taken the time to answer us. If you want to exercise your French skills, you can have a look at our previous article about her here. You can also find Sailor J on Instagram, Twitter and of course her Youtube channel <3