What does it mean to be an icon? A tastemaker transcending the cultural blood-brain barrier, riding the swell of a moment that glistens like a wave off of Point Dume? From the impressionists to the punks, we mythologize and historicize movements. But as we grow further from the crests of these movements, we lose sight of the humanity distilled in the people whose creative spark catalyzed the cultural change in question. We lose sight of their willpower, their grit, and their humble embrace of personal imperfections. In the end, to be that spark, to ride that wave, takes vulnerability and openness. This humility and self-powered prophecy could not be better observed than in multi-hyphenate creative forces, Jesse Jo Stark and Pamela Anderson.
Starting her first band at the tender age of 11, Jesse Jo’s rock noir psych stylings have continued to swell in recent years, eventually cresting into her first EP Driftwood in 2017. Numerous tours, cross-cultural collaborations, and smoky-eyed grit have propelled Jesse Jo to a unique space of her own expression and orchestration. Atop the music, there’s cultural breadth and depth that has helped shape not only her sonic output but her person. As the eldest child of jewelry and fashion designers, Richard and Laurie Lynn Stark of Chrome Hearts, Jesse Jo was shaped by a heavy saturation of rock and roll imaging and ethos. More importantly, though, she was exposed to the vulnerability, generosity, and sincerity of some of the people behind the scenes of it all.
Last Fall, Jesse Jo released her album, DOOMED, a pandemic-written, alluring mystique of self-mythologizing, a celebration of the essence of rock ‘n’ roll featuring important figures from her life.
On a marine fog-layered morning in April, Jesse Jo connects with cultural luminary, Pamela Anderson, who continues to forge a hard-fought path of her own every single day. In January, Anderson released her memoir, Love, Pamela, which fetched coverage and review in major outlets around the world. Love, Pamela was released into the cultural stream alongside a documentary produced by her son, Brandon Lee, entitled Pamela, A Love Story. The honesty of this unequivocal moving portrait reifies Anderson’s position as a trailblazer, all wrapped up in Hollywood mystique. So lay your towel down and get ready to soak up some juicy rays of sunshine, as they punch through the fog, to reveal a conversation between Jesse Jo Stark and Pamela Anderson.
Pamela: Are you home?
Jesse Jo: Yes, I am in LA.
Pamela: Oh, that’s right. See, this is so crazy. I still feel like you live with your parents, but of course.
Jesse Jo: I still feel like I live with them too, I’m a family girl.
Pamela: I remember when your mom took me to see you one time, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, she is so good. She’s got such a beautiful voice.’ I love your lyrics, of course, because I love poetry. You love all my favorite words. I’m thinking, ‘How is she in my head?’
Jesse Jo: I feel the same when I read your poetry. You are iconic. The way you’ve owned your intelligence and beauty. It made me realize I could be both.
Pamela: You don’t have to be one or the other.
Jesse Jo: No, you don’t. But I didn’t always recognize that superpower.
Pamela: I’m so proud of you. I was looking through some of your videos, and I was thinking, ‘How come there aren’t music videos anymore?’ You’re doin' these little films, and they are so cute. I love the styling and how you reference those 60s edgy Vargas-style cartoon posters.
Jesse Jo: It’s a well-thought-out process. My family and I are creatives. We love to make art. So my approach to my videos is to make my songs come to life. I love a badass spooky bitch.
Pamela: I mean, you get to express yourself with music and words. For me, I always felt like it’s harder to say something to somebody than it is for me to write it. And you probably feel the same way with your music.
Jesse Jo: I feel the same way. Being vulnerable isn’t always easy for me. Writing and performing allow me to transform and show a part of who I am.
Pamela: It looks like the real you, right? You are kind of unfiltered because you have to be brave to be yourself. In a world that’s telling us what to be all of the time. You need to have your thing. If it’s music, if it’s writing, if it’s videos, you just have much inside that you want to express that you need a medium to do it with.
Pamela: I think beauty is more interesting when it has some kind of depth and pain and ugliness. Why are we attracted to people normally? I think we can resonate with somebody, and what really touches people is that kind of...it stirs you, they push the envelope. I think so much blends together this day in age. Back in the 90s we didn’t want to be like anyone else. I’m sure that still exists, but I think now you have to be brave, and I think you are, which is so exciting. It’s a time where we are told we have to be careful, but you don’t have to be. You just have to be you.
Jesse Jo: I surround myself with genuine creatives. We all inspire each other. I’m drawn to the internet as well but try to deflect it. I take what I need but I don want to look like anyone else. We are all obsessed with looking the same. I reject it. The past seems cooler.
Pamela: Romanticize the past? But in the past, we also romanticized the past. It just kind of keeps on going, but this is your dilemma. You have to ride the wave and kind of accept how society is, and you have to be present.
Pamela: You’ve always had this depth and soulfulness and these big mysterious eyes. You’re like a little wild child that wandered around Malibu, which has this kind of Baywatch bubbly superficiality. But even though you are surrounded by beautiful things, you have this rootedness.
Jesse Jo: There’s so much judgment based around who you are and where you come from. [Malibu] wasn’t as glamorous as it is now, or as it was perceived by the world. I was just trying to figure out who I was because I was still a kid. I didn’t want it to be about who I came from. I was just a teenager, I was a tomboy. I didn’t even like my boobs. I always felt like I didn’t want to be who I was, and it took me a while to be comfortable in my body–
Pamela: I think it’s all relative, and it’s all hard. It’s all hard, and so it’s nice when we can make something beautiful out of it and live with joy. And I just love what you’re doing with your music, and I love to see how you’ve grown up. It’s funny for me to interview you, it’s just so full circle. What’s happening with you right now with your music?
Jesse Jo: I released my first album (DOOMED) this year. I’m going on tour. I had so much time during COVID to reflect and write and challenge my art, and then DOOMED was born. I’m excited to connect with people again onstage.
Pamela: I mean COVID was like dog years for kids, right? I still consider you a kid, but I mean, every year was like seven years. It must have just gone by so slowly. And it was kind of an interrupted moment, which is sad even though the world stopped for a reason. You got the opportunity to write an album, like you said, you were forced to kind of sit with yourself. It’s a blessing in disguise. Most things are blessings in disguise. You just have your thing which is this mystery and beauty, and it’s just so enticing, seductive, sensual, but edgy. I just can’t wait for people to kind of get out in the world again.
Pamela: We’ve all experienced breaking points throughout our lives. I’ve had some real major moments in my life where I look back and think that was a breakdown, and then you have them again and again. And it’s just how you get through them, how you stay present, and how you keep moving forward even through difficulties.
Jesse Jo: Every breakdown or breakthrough I’ve had is...I don’t know. I remember the pain, it sticks on you, right? But these moments make you. I have a strange relationship with breaking down, it feeds my art.
Pamela: In my view you don’t get over things, you take things in. You may have a little more tolerance, but that’s not always good either. I try to talk to my kids about this kind of stuff too. It’s just things that compound to make you who you are. But you still have to believe in love and believe in all those good things and create positivity. It’s a real skill though, it’s a practice.
Jesse Jo: I believe in love. I tolerate a lot, but I will not compromise myself...I think [laughs].
Pamela: You have to marinate in life and see what comes up. I think that people are so afraid to be alone. I always say boredom is good. It’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t feel comfortable.’ But it’s because something inside you is percolating, isn’t it? Maybe it’s music, maybe it’s a poem, but you just have to sit with those feelings. Like I always say a piano in a room that’s never played is such a weird energy. I just go over every once in a while and tap a few keys, because it just stirs up the energy. I don’t know how to play piano, and no one wants to hear me play piano. But I just feel the music and noise and just sit with what I’m feeling–that’s when all the good stuff comes up. It’s usually when you’re uncomfortable, and you feel like, ‘I am restless.’ But it can be a gift, just see what that feeling is. I’m happy that you’re doing so well, and that your music is shining.
Jesse Jo: Being comfortable being alone took me a minute. Now I cherish it. I have a piano at home too. Even though I’m not the best, I always try to play it. That’s success to me. If I keep my relationship with my art.
Pamela: You’re kind of pioneering for people in the industry right now–a lot of people don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to succeed. Before it was like touring and T-shirts, that’s how you made your money.
Jesse Jo: I’m still selling t-shirts haha.
Pamela: I have one of your t-shirts. I got a Deadly Doll t-shirt somewhere. I think your aesthetic is great, even right down to your hair and makeup and the billboards. You’re just having fun, and you’re just being you. You’ve always been such a great artist. And all your little drawings, it must be really fun for you to be able to share that, I’m sure.
Jesse Jo: So cool that you think that. I’m the worst doodler. Do you remember you taught me how to draw an elephant’s butt at Coogies? It’s still my party trick.
Pamela: So funny! I haven’t done that in so long. That’s crazy because I’m really bad at doodling. I used to draw like whoever our boyfriends were or husbands or whatever. Because these portraits are really bizarre.
Jesse Jo: [Laughs]
Pamela: Oh my god. You know, I can’t believe I taught you something. I just saw your mom and your sister in New York. And then your sister and brother again at the beach. It was just so fun to see time go by, and also just watch everybody grow up and do their thing. I’m just so proud of you. I can’t wait to come see you again. When are you playing LA?
Jesse Jo: Aren’t they the cutest, it’s crazy for me to watch them grow up now. I just played LA. Playing again in October. You have to come.
Pamela: I’ll just talk to your mom and make sure I know where you are. Because you could be anywhere, maybe in Europe or New York, but I’ll find you.
Photographed and Creative Directed by Alana O’Herlihy
Interviewed by Pamela Anderson
Styled by Marc Eram
Hair: Iggy Rosales
Makeup: Eden Lattanzio
Producer: Mara Weinstein
Manicurist: Coca Michelle
Set Designer: Pelé Kudren
Art Director: Gina Canavan
Lighting Tech: Kurt Mangum
Digital Tech: Brian Kendall
1st Assistant Director: Lea Garn
2nd Assistant Director: Breyer Floyd
Set Dresser: Kenny Ojeda
Retoucher: Anthony Goble
Location: Box 24 Studio