Meet Jessica Lynn Johnson
Jessica’s powerful impact on me:
There is something I find so powerful about doing things solo and Jessica knows how to do just that. When I first met Jessica I was intrigued by her stories of traveling on her own – something I’ve always thought about doing. But then she went deeper and talked about her time in NYC – how she wrote her own one-person show, had it produced off Broadway, and then traveled internationally performing that show – I knew there was a boldness and drive within her that I wanted to be around. I admire her fierceness, her conviction, and dedication to helping people tell their stories on the stage. She is a fearless leader and has a strength about her that is palpable. I feel lucky to know her.
Describe a bit about your background: where you grew up, what motivated you as kid, did that influence where you are now? Any experiences (work or otherwise) that influenced where you are now?
I grew up in the Bible belt, born in Chicago, raised in St.Louis. Went to Christian schools and churches my whole life. I would say that I stood out like a sore thumb, always getting sent home for dressing too provocatively or asking my religion teachers challenging questions like “why is it a sin for two men or two women to love each other?”. I have always been a story teller and a performer. A pivotal turning point for me in my growing up was when my best female friend came out to me as Transgender. She spent the next several years transitioning from being a girl into a young man. Over the span of our 15 year friendship we fell in love with one another. As someone who identifies as straight you can imagine how confusing it was to be in love with a man who used to be a woman, especially having grown up in such a conservative traditional religious culture. This experience, paired with friendships with many gay and bisexual people in the arts and entertainment world that I come from, has shaped the work that I do now. I travel the world with my one woman show ZE which explores sexuality and spirituality. I also teach others how to tell their stories from stage through my company Soaring Solo. My mission is to provide positive social change through the sharing of our stories. Solo theatre is one of my favorite ways of doing that. Outside of my profession, I also work with organizations like Level Ground, the Metropolitan Community Church and the Gay Christian Network to continue bridge building between the LGBTQIA community and the traditional Christian community.
Who and what inspires you?
My students and clients inspire me. I am constantly learning from them about culture, sex, oppression, and so many other life experiences. They make me want to be the best ME I can be so that I am constantly growing in my abilities to guide them as they create their solo shows.
What do you do and why do you do it?
I perform, teach, and direct solo theatre (1 person plays) because it is a beautifully unique genre that offers personal transformation for both the performer AND the audience through creativity. When we stop focusing on our differences and fighting over issues and simply stop and share stories, that is where real lasting change happens. That is the space where we meet and realize we are not so different after all.
What does power mean to you? What makes you feel powerful?
It may sound counter-intuitive, but power to me comes from surrender. I start every morning with the ritual of sitting at my altar before God, recognizing that I am a powerful vessel for Divinity to shine through, and I surrender my day to the Creator. I ask Hir to guide my steps, my conversations, my whole day, that it be the best possible day on the highest possible path. (And no, that’s not a typo, Hir is a gender neutral, all-encompassing pronoun, as is Ze. These types of pronouns feel appropriately expansive for the Creator of the Universe.) I don’t come from the vantage point of “I’m a sinner who has no power”, rather I like to look at it like “I am a very powerful work of art made by the Creator and where my power ends, the Creator begins and achieves what I could not otherwise achieve of my own power.” It’s not shame based, it is surrender based. In contrast, I feel powerless when I try to control, manipulate, over-plan, or basically leave God out of my journey.
What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever got was from an acting teacher of mine who told me that to be a great actor, I cannot worry about being pretty. That is the opposite of what we, as performers in Hollywood, are trained to believe; however, I knew exactly what she meant. Again, it goes back to this whole “I am a vessel” mentality. If I am overly concerned with being “attractive”, I won’t tap into the TRUTH. The truth can be ugly sometimes, and as artists, when we have the courage to vulnerably reveal those unattractive parts of ourselves, our stories, our characters, somehow we become our most Beautiful. Truth is where our power and our beauty can be found.
Did you struggle in standing in your power? If so, how did you overcome it?
I have, by no means, mastered standing in my power. It is a daily practice. Every day I sit in meditation, in prayer, and I offer my day to God, and every day I have moments where I am in the perfect divine flow of surrender, and every day I have moments where I try to control what is happening. That’s what it means to be human, and that’s ok. It’s the desire toward growth that matters. It’s never about perfection. I think the other part of standing in our power, ie. standing in our truth, is recognizing that it may cost you something. It may cost you many things. Loss, shedding, sacrifice, leaps of faith into the unknown, redirection, transformation is all part of the process of stepping into our power. However, I am a believer that when you shed what no longer serves you or when something significant to you goes away, it’s like weights that were dragging you down are falling away and you are therefore freer to attract the people, places and things that will support your journey now. As they say, there is a season for everything.
Which line in the manifesto most rings true for you? Why?
I can’t really pick just one line that is my favorite. I really love the whole message, this truth that we are each beautifully and individually created with unique purpose. That’s why it is so crucial to me to find that still quiet time every day to listen to the Creator’s voice reverberating inside of me guiding my unique steps.
Any other thoughts/comments you want to say on the topic of personal power…
I just want to add the importance of intuition when trying to step into our power. As my friend Christina once described intuition, “it is usually inconvenient and doesn’t offer next steps.” So, basically, it’s that little voice that tells us to do something from a very deep truthful place and to obey it often requires a leap of faith into the unknown. I have always found my most powerful places on the other side of that leap of faith.
Learn more about Jessica here: www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com
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