In honor of National Women’s History Month, we’ve teamed with Chrissy Powers to showcase seven female creative entrepreneurs who are inspiring us with their incredible work, but also in the way they support other women! Each of these ladies were photographed wearing pieces by Dôen—another strong, female-led brand. Stay tuned as we highlight these women all week.
We’re so excited to introduce you to singer/songwriter, Jasmine Commerce, today! She’s a musical force to be reckoned with and the perfect person to round out our six-part ‘Women Supporting Women’ series this week. If you’re just tuning in to Jasmine’s music, prepare to be immediately hooked. Her voice features a beautiful vulnerability that’s truly unique. Songs like “Cheshire Moon” and “Those Letters” are raw testaments to Jasmine’s passion for the creative industry she’s part of.
When Jasmine and Rheanna Downey (yesterday’s spotlight in this women-focused series) sing together, it’s quite a treat, and it turns out that putting them together in front of the camera is just as magical an occasion. Read on for Jasmine’s insight into the topic of women-centered community support, and be sure to round out your experience by giving her smooth-like-honey sound a listen here.
What were some key moments in your career that you felt vulnerable or doubted yourself? How did you grow from it?
When we use money as an indicator of our worth, it is very easy to become discouraged and to doubt our abilities. As a full-time musician, sometimes I get paid a month’s salary in a night, and sometimes I am struggling to pay the bills because no work is coming in. The reality is, of course, that my value as both a performer and a human being remains the same whether I’ve got steady jobs coming in or not, but the world doesn’t always see it that way.
It’s vital that humans—not just those of us in “creative” fields—understand that genuine worth is not measured in dollars and cents. It’s important to work hard and remain humble, and remember that many of the greatest artists in history died penniless and without worldly recognition. The risks I’ve taken in order to make a career out of music in the end have always been worth it to me—though I wouldn’t mind a hit single at some point in my life, not gonna lie!
Why are you a supporter of women in the business, and why is that so important?
Well, I’m a supporter of anyone who pursues a passion and tries to make a career out of it! Life isn’t easy for anyone, and particularly when you try to make art pay, it can feel like an uphill battle. But we need artists! Art helps us make sense of our often seemingly senseless existence. Art can lift us up, join us together and help us through difficult times. A true artist does a great service to humanity, and I support and encourage anyone who endeavors to be one!
What are some things we can do to help support other women in the creative industry more?
I think, oftentimes, women feel the need to fit some mold, or live up to some arbitrary societal standard of “beauty” in order to feel valued. If I’m honest, I still struggle with this all the time, and it’s truly annoying. I grew up the only girl in a house with three brothers, and from a young age I was aware of the different expectations between boys and girls. I’m a feminist, but to me that simply means I value and will strive toward equality for women. I don’t think either sex has it harder, but I do think that some of the things that women traditionally have been valued for have little to do with their ability or intellect.
I love what Alicia Keys is doing right now by not wearing makeup. Maybe a lot of men would think it’s ridiculous that the media is making such a big deal about it, and in some ways I would agree with them, because if all women just stopped wearing makeup, maybe we would realize men really don’t care nearly as much as we think they might. But Alicia is inspiring because she is going against a societal expectation for women, which is to cover up “flaws” and only expose to the world a face that is painted and powdered.
It’s stuff like that—choosing not to use sexuality to further art, choosing to limit the masks we hide behind, etc.—that I think can really help other women feel proud of who they truly are. This is especially challenging for me the older I get because I feel the pressure to look young, but I try to gracefully accept the aging process, and think of myself as a lovely vintage pair of Levi’s or a well-loved leather jacket. There is beauty in age!
How do you overcome the sense of competition within your field, especially on a local level?
You know, very rarely have I felt a sense of competition with other female musicians. There have been a handful of times when I wished I was achieving the same things that other local female artists were achieving, but I always think that each of us has a unique gift and talent, with which no one else can actually compete. I’ve learned a lot from watching other female artists, and I’m so grateful for that! There is not only room enough for all of our talent, but there is also a great need for each of us to share our gifts with the world. I genuinely believe that and I think that has helped me avoid an unhealthy sense of competition.
When you feel like someone may be threatened by your success, how do you think it can be best handled?
This has also rarely been an issue for me, but the few times it has, it’s been best dealt with by having a heart-to-heart with my fellow sister (which hasn’t always been a pleasant experience at first). When you find out through the grapevine that someone has said something negative about you, the first instinct is always to be defensive and feel hurt. But we’ve all been on both sides of the fence, and I think remembering where jealousy comes from is important in addressing it moving away from it.
We all need to feel validated from time to time, and if we are not getting enough of that validation, it’s natural to start to feel envious of others who seem to be. Sometimes, even a few genuine compliments and words of praise are all that’s needed. I’ve had the joy of meeting a few famous artists who have a wonderful ability to make those they meet feel important. I’m not famous, but I strive to be the kind of person that makes others feel good about themselves. I’m sure I fail all the time, but I keep trying!
How do you stay positive when you might not get the gig, job or opportunity you were hoping for?
By remembering that you win some and you lose some! I’ve had enough positive feedback and experiences to know that pursuing my art has not been in vain! It’s always harder to remember that when you seem to be on a losing streak, but I’ve found that’s a good time to write a song! I have many on this very subject.
Jasmine’s thoughts on female support:
Taking risks builds confidence. You never really know what you’re capable of it until you try something that is a little uncomfortable. As we age and experience pain associated with failure, we often become more fearful of the unknown, and less willing to take risks.
I decided to start my own business when I was in my early 20s, when my daughter was just three years old. I got pregnant in college and was a single mother from conception. My plan up until my pregnancy had always been to finish my theater/music degree and move to New York City upon graduation to pursue a career on stage, but all that changed when Ella came into existence.
I moved back home after graduation, and became an executive recruiter for about four months. This seemed like the “responsible” thing to do at the time, but my heart was never in it. The hours were long and I rarely had quality time with my infant daughter. Fortunately, I realized that I would never get back her childhood years, so I took a risk, quit the recruiting job and became a nanny. Talk about a 180! From tailored suits and cold calls all day to sweatpants and cold cuts! I’ve never regretted it. It allowed me to bring my daughter to work with me and not miss out on her formative years.
During this time, I found I picked up my guitar and played music for the kids for whom I was nannying a lot. It was something we all enjoyed so much, and by virtue of having the guitar in my hands on a regular basis, I started getting better and better. I would practice that night, write my own songs and make little recordings. This was me nurturing my creative spirit, and my way of holding onto my dream.
Then, I got a phone call from a friend who was a social worker with senior citizens. She needed someone to come in and play music for Valentine’s Day. She offered to pay me what I would make for an entire day of nannying for two hours of playing and singing. The Valentine’s Day serenade went well despite my nerves, and it was at that point that I took another big risk and decided to try to start my own business.
I opened the phone book (sounds so funny to say that now!), and I must’ve called every single rehab center, hospital and senior citizen home within a 30-mile radius of my house. The cold-calling skills I had acquired during the four months as an executive recruiter came in very handy when generating new business. I asked if they would be interested in a 30-minute free demo. Within two months, I was making $2,000 a month.
I believe my inner confidence came from believing that I genuinely had something to offer, and trusting that, with hard work and practice, I would continue to grow as an artist. My daughter is now applying to colleges and is about to graduate high school, and I am still a single mother. I have struggled financially, and I have regularly had to face and overcome self-doubt. I’ve learned from many mistakes, and I am still learning! But as I sit here in my apartment on a Wednesday afternoon, after having spent the morning recording songs for the full-length record I am making, and my daughter is in the next room doing homework, I am reminded that the risks and choices I’ve made throughout my life have led me exactly to this place. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’m proud that I have honored my creative self, and held onto my dreams by the skin of my teeth, and I would always encourage a woman, particularly my daughter, to work hard and passionately pursue whatever it is that calls to her. What is life, if not a wild ride?