I first learned about Sailor J from a friend of mine who showed me the excellent “Contouring 101” video and then my personal favorite “TALES OF THE ALTAR” (Dead as fuck). Sailor J has taken over the internet, using her voice and public image to highlight issues of cultural appropriation, Harry Potter fuckery, and women’s issues. To dismiss her as just someone who just makes “funny makeup videos” is a disservice to both her as a creative and as someone has been committed to social justice issues from the beginning.
Part of why I wanted to speak to Sailor J is because it is incredibly hard and difficult being such a public person in an online space. You open yourself up to praise and scorn equally, because the three of the worst things you can be online are: a woman, brown, and loud. Yet Sailor J is all those things and has managed to do more at 21-years-old that a lot of other people. While she is on her Alexander the Great game, she managed to talk with us about her new life of fame and her goals as an influencer.
TMS: At 21-years-old, your face has become one of the most iconic ones online. From the contouring video to “Tales from the Alter” (my personal favorite). Do you find yourself still being able to enjoy yourself? Enjoy being a woman in the early part of your career? Do you feel like there is a space for you to really learn and grow, without feeling like every single decision has to be perfect?
J: I think I can still enjoy myself. I’m still happy, though, I’m definitely learning that people will try to use your face for clicks. People make reaction videos to mine hoping they’ll get more views or twist my words in articles with my face up there and it’s just annoying. Make your own clout and your own content and your own material. I wouldn’t want to build my career on someone else’s face. It makes you look like you have nothing else to offer. Other than that, I still make a point to be myself and not worry too much about what’s said/what people think of me in a certain sense. I still whine about my period on twitter and talk about sex. I still very much do what I want. As far as being perfect, I think I’ve tried to usher that out of the way as soon as possible. People have seen me fuck up and learn or have to be corrected about something, and I think that’s important to remind them you’re human. I do feel like I have to jump on every opportunity NOW, though. For whatever reason, I feel like I’m running out of time, or people will forget about me, and I won’t have the same opportunities again. That kind of stuff.
TMS: One of the things about being a WOC in a public space is trying to navigate the hype around you to ensure that people are really enjoying you because of who you are and not just because of the “novelty” of seeing a brown body in that nerdy/ makeup space, while still being authentically them. How do you self-care not just as a woman, but as a brown woman in a hyper-public space?
J: As far as self-care goes I definitely don’t force myself to make content. If I’m burnt out, I’m burnt out, and people miss me online but luckily they’re all really supportive and ready to jump back in when I am. It’s weird because I’ve never thought of being looked at as a novelty, so now I’m really thinking about that. I am super aware of like, colorism and racial ambiguity though. There’s always a shit ton of discussion about my ethnicity, which is annoying because I always wonder why it has to matter. I get that people are curious. But I feel like they ask because they’re looking for another way to categorize me as if it’ll help them understand me better. It won’t. And they only really ask light-skinned people with certain types of hair, so that annoys me too because I guess I feel a lot of guilt about how I’m able to pass for this and that when darker skinned people aren’t able to.
TMS: Buzzfeed took your tweets and turned them into a post, with no creative change in it from your original material. You talk a lot about these publications taking work from poor, funny people on Twitter and turning it into a profit. Someone on Twitter also posted how screenwriters are using Twitter as a resource as well.
What responsibility do these publications, online and print, have in trying to make sure that they are offering opportunities to a diverse pool of creatives? Especially when the requirements for some entry-level writing jobs are things that poorer kids, or kids with limited internships accessibility aren’t able to gain?
J: The buzzthieves are a fucking hack, and so are the screenwriters leeching off twitter. It’s so shitty. You never know what these kids are going through and they have this creative outlet they use to cope and instead of offering them work and money and resources, all you’re concerned about is yourself and how good you look and your own paycheck. It really get’s me mad hot. (I’m already mad typing this, lmao.) People have a fucking obligation to uplift others, ESPECIALLY when they want to use their ideas. I think of Franchesca Ramsey a lot because she reached out to me and she’s been a really good, solid mentor not just to me but on Twitter in general. She’s always giving advice and making threads on turning your creativity into real work before someone can get to it. We need more people like her. The whole idea of degrees to work is a fucking wash. I’m on four different payrolls right now. I don’t even have an associates degree because I’ve been working full time. At this point, people would hire me with or without it. So I feel like once I get to a place of certain power it’s my job to pull up other people who don’t have time or money for that shit but can still do work. We always complain about lack of diversity but I see so few people doing anything to change it. It’s annoying.
TMS: In addition to being a YouTube influencer, you are also a writer! What are you as an author and a creator looking to fill up the gaps in representation that exist in literature, especially young adult? Also, how do you find the time to write when you have both your day job, school, and having to put our creative YouTube content?
J: Everything in YA is about white girls on a mission, or finding themselves, or falling in love. Children of Blood and Bone blew the fuck up-not just because it’s a good story, but because people have been dying to get their hands on a dark-skinned heroine. We need these stories. They build confidence and character and pride in who we are. I’m writing brown girls and Asian girls and black girls into Greek myth. I don’t fucking care if it doesn’t look like the paintings, I’m doing it. You mean to tell me half these stories took place in Ethiopia and we can’t get one fucking brown girl in a rendition? Nah. I’m not buying it. So I’m writing that. I’m writing a lot, and my characters will always be diverse on a multitude of levels because that’s what makes people real. No one’s just white or just brown or just gay. That’s another thing. I’m tired of stories centering around the coming out story. Some of my characters are gay. That’s it. There’s no plot twist or huge reveal-they’re just gay. And they get to live that truth without it being the center of their being because it’s unfair to them.
As for time, I’m always working haha. Sometimes I go on like these weird hiatus weeks (now) where I’m either on my period and too tired to do anything or my depression kicks in or something. Next week, or this weekend, I’ll be drinking Monsters and writing a ridiculous amount of words. It just works best for me, lol. As for filming, I’ll film for like hours and then just save the footage and edit/release as I see fit. I think, while I’m really afraid of being forgotten, I don’t put too much stress on views or a schedule. My views have gone down, especially after I told white people to stop appropriating native culture lmfao, but I can’t do much about that. I don’t want to lure people in with clickbait and stupid fucking thumbnails because I hate that shit. You’re either excited to watch and you want to subscribe or you just want to watch and don’t feel like subscribing or you just don’t care. All of those options are perfectly okay. I’m not gonna guilt trip anybody into spending time on me.
TMS; As you move forward and continue to be a boss, what are the things you are looking forward to learning not just about yourself as a creative, but what you can potentially accomplish in this space you occupy?
J: I’m looking forward to really learning and navigating the landscape that is the world. When no one knows you it’s a real luxury. I made a point not to reveal my name or my man or any of that and then the New York Times did their thing and I was like …..okay. Even though things were explicitly discussed. So whatever. I’m learning how to take that for what it is and let go of the warpath mode I get into when I feel like people jiff me. At some point, you know, people don’t even ask questions cause you’re unavailable. They just start making their own shit up. So it’s something I have to get used to. I’m looking forward to making my presence known wherever I go. Whatever project I’m doing, wherever I’m writing, I want to learn how to protect my voice while learning to work with others-but making it seriously clear there will be no trampling over or talking down to me. It seems that’s a huge issue. So I’m not here for that, at all. My hope is to fill every space I’m in so obnoxiously that when I’m gone, if I’m gone, people miss me and ask me to work again, lol. Books and YouTube, that’s just the beginning for me. I have so many other things going on. I want screenplays. TV Shows. Movies one day, maybe. I have a lot I want to do and there’s no reason I can’t do it. So I’m ready to see what’s possible when I DO have money and nice things to do it all with, lol.