We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Julian and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
Ha! This is such a tricky question especially when it comes to working in a creative industry where so much of what we do is subjective and seemingly out of our control as creators. It’s a question I consistently grapple with, and I would say what helps me to really know whether to keep going or move on is assessing whether or not I’m happy in what I’m doing or miserable. It’s really that simple. There’s a big difference between inspired action where I’m doing something that lights me up (even if it’s challenging or I’m afraid of it), and torturing myself by doing something I don’t enjoy or working with toxic people out of obligation or self-imposed pressure to achieve. I think no matter what, it’s critical to have a support system in place to help get you through those rockier moments whether it’s a pet, a partner, friends, whoever lifts you up. I’m blessed to have an amazing husband who is a great support for me in so many ways. When the chips are down and I feel like giving up he always assures me he’ll love me no matter what and reminds me what Winston Churchill said to the British people in the face of war: “Never, never, never give up.” Somehow it makes me feel better putting that into perspective. This is not war! lol
I’m also not a big fan of the term ‘give up’ if I’m honest, because I think it implies failure. I really believe that if you’re learning then you’re growing and if you’re growing you are never failing. I like that saying: “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.” I think it’s a huge gift we give ourselves when we stay in the learning process and allow ourselves to be at the beginning. That’s a tough thing to do, especially in our society of scrutiny. Everyone’s seemingly an expert at something and we’re supposed to know everything to be an expert. I do think it’s way more fun and healthier to strive for excellence (not perfection) and take the pressure of ourselves to ‘be great’ or ‘I must finish this or else I suck’ or ‘I must be an expert at something to be valued.’ Ask yourself, what if I don’t finish? What then? Will I be happy and feel relieved and be able to shift my energy into something positive that feels good or will I be miserable and feel I’ve failed? If it’s the latter, then just finish and move on and stop torturing yourself! lol
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a creative catalyst. My personal mission in life and biggest superpower is igniting the creative fire that I believe is inherent within all of us. It’s in that creative process where I think we’re our most connected, most aligned and I love helping facilitate the transformation that happens in people as a result. My own creative journey has taken many forms throughout my life, including as a professional theatre artist performing on over 250 stages throughout the world (including Carnegie Hall and Broadway), as a successful commercial music producer, jingle singer and vo artist, and as a top-rated radio morning show personality. It’s also propelled me to be a fierce advocate for the arts in education, a nonprofit leader, A Fulbright scholar, a documentarian, and a published academic writer. Now, I feel most proud and excited to be on a completely new creative journey as a mother to my baby daughter, Lily and balancing that with an award-winning screenwriting and producing path with June Bug Pictures. June Bug develops and produces thought-provoking, inspired primarily female-driven content for film, television and digital and gives me an opportunity to work with wildly talented artists engaged in that creative process on a bigger scale. That’s thrilling for me.
It’s definitely taken me awhile to own myself as a creator and it hasn’t been easy. When I first moved to LA many years ago, I remember hearing someone at a party say “LA asks you to leave every day.” I think for a long time I believed that, and never really deep down felt worthy enough to be here pursuing a creative career. On top of that, there was also this nagging sense that “multi-hyphenate” was really code for “she can’t make up her mind” and that I was supposed to pick one thing and stick with it no matter what. Changing direction or exploring a different path meant I was doomed for a life of failure, poverty and unrealized potential. Ugh. That’s a lot of judgment and pressure to put on oneself and it totally betrayed who I was (and am) at my core. I am a creative, Renaissance woman. The hummingbird that rules the garden. It’s in my DNA, it’s how I’m wired. I have to honor that if I want to be happy. It’s certainly been a process learning how to own that ‘multi’ label, to overcome challenges and to find my authentic voice. Every challenge, though, is really a gift for learning and an opportunity to get better because of it, right?
I’ll never forget getting kicked out of this cheesy cover band when I was in college because the band leader said my voice wasn’t good enough and that we were losing gigs because I couldn’t sing like Whitney Houston. Ouch. That gutted my tender 20 year old heart, but it also pissed me off enough to want to do something about it. I set off on a course to learn everything I could about the way my voice worked as a muscle, how sound is created, etc. I sought out the best vocal coaches and trained my voice to be the most versatile and dynamic instrument it could be. It wasn’t ‘god-given’ by any stretch or this ‘natural ability’ that just came out. I had to work my ass off. But, ten years later, as I was on stage at Carnegie Hall in a viking helmet belting out “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life” with Eric Idle and Art Garfunkel, I looked out over a sea of people giving us a standing ovation, and thought to myself – “Hmm, I wonder what the guys in the cover band are doing now…” Lol. And, even though LA may still ask me to leave, now I have the confidence to say – ‘not only am I not leaving, we’re gonna do things on my terms this time around so you better get used to me.” That’s progress.
I think one of the things that sets me apart is my insatiable curiosity for people and an ability to relate to them even if I don’t like or agree with them. Whenever I pick up a book to read, it always seems to be a biography because I’m absolutely fascinated by the human mind and why we do what we do. I also have a voracious appetite for learning and a very inquisitive nature, much like my 2-year-old daughter.
What has gotten me to where I am today, I would have to say, is an ‘ain’t no mountain high enough’ philosophy peppered with a renegade mentality. I do subscribe to the belief that we can do, have or be anything we want to be if we work hard and smart enough and truly believe in ourselves. That last part is key. Also, why not take the road less traveled and go against the grain?
Ten lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. It’s only baggage if you carry it.
2. Seek out quality, not quantity in every aspect of life including thoughts and people. I don’t need a lot, but what I do need has to be good.
3. Not everyone is going to like me, and I don’t have to like everyone.
4. It’s good to have a plan, but even better to stay open to new possibilities.
5. Find the humor, it’s in there…somewhere.
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.
7. Never, never, never give up (thanks Winston Churchill)
8. Playing small does not serve you or anyone else for that matter. (thanks Martha Graham)
9. Learn, learn, learn and then learn some more.
10. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel..” (Thanks Maya Angelou)
Keep creating and feeling good!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
That’s funny, I just did this very thing for one of my best friends who was visiting LA from Montana with her 16 year old daughter!
I have such a love affair with Los Angeles and really dig its nostalgia and diversity. You can literally be in five different countries in one day if you want to. My itinerary would definitely include things like a morning walk around Lake Hollywood or to the Hollywood sign, breakfast at the Beachwood cafe, quick Hollywood Blvd tour (only if they’d never done this before so they can see how unglamorous it really is), soaking in the views at the many vistas along Mulholland Drive, In-n-Out, checking out the Farmer’s Market at The Grove, getting our jjimjilbang on at one of the many Korean bath houses (pre-Covid), lunch by Chef Roger at Avec Nous (L’Ermitage Bev Hills – ask for his secret chocolate chip cookies for dessert but pre-order them ahead as they take a while but oh so worth it!), a good Indian curry dinner at Lal Mirch in Studio City, authentic Thai food at Rustic Spoon NoHo, Poolside lunch and lounge in our own cabana at Beverly Hills Hotel, Fairmont Miramar or Roosevelt (via resortpass!), beach day at my secret spot in Malibu (shhhhh), lunch at Paradise Cove, any event by Feverup (we did the Stranger Things: Drive Into Experience and it was excellent), dim sum in Chinatown, Olvera Street and architectural tour of Union Station (and Central Library), yoga class in Topanga Canyon and lunch at Inn at the Seventh Ray (to clear our chakras lol), tavern burgers, microbrews and balsamic glazed brussel sprouts at Forman’s in Toluca Lake, picnic in Griffith Park and the Observatory and so many more things I have yet to do!!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many inspiring people who have supported me along the way! Special shoutouts go to Steven Bell and Mama J for their unwavering encouragement and support, my beautiful daughter Lily who reminds me everyday what true joy and the essence of play is and my incredible creative partners in crime, Holly Payberg and Gary Sherwood.