MI Hey Jordan, first of all, thank you for your time. It’s great to connect on the occasion of MUSE IT’S YOU Issue! How are you? And what have you been up to?
JKS Hi. I’m doing really well. As of late, I have been finalizing the release of my (making of) Identity Crisis album documentary, which is coming out on February 14th on my YouTube channel. I have also been working on some new music and music collaborations. And, I’ve recently written a new tv project with a group of amazing friends that we will be talking about soon and of course I’m working on a few new acting projects that are in the works, that I can’t discuss just yet.
MI Tell me about the making of Identity Crisis.
JKS Whenever an interview was being conducted, regardless of whether the questions were about my film or about my music career, interviewers have always asked “what’s my process”. And since I am more of a visual learner, I felt that it made more sense for me to show everyone my process rather than to continue to try and explain it. In my documentary, I show the highs and lows of what it’s like for me to write my own music and the making of my first album. I don’t shy away from the lows or the vulnerable parts because I felt like it gives a sneak peek into the difficulty and hard work that it takes to make an album. And just like there are lows, this documentary also shows the awesome satisfaction of completing a goal and I thought this process could be beneficial in showing other aspiring artists like myself, how they can begin to develop and see themselves within their own process.
MI Listening to the tracks, I felt particularly struck by the intro lyrics:
Time to let it out
On this album
This hurt, this pain
So listen, watch and enjoy
Watch me as I go insane
What’s the pain you are referring to and what are the reasons behind the record’s name?
JKS I wrote the songs on this album over a span of a year and a half, and during that time I did a lot of growing up and maturing, both emotionally and mentally. I felt like I changed so much as a person… but as healthy as change can be, sometimes it can be a very scary and painful thing. I wanted to really capture every aspect of all of the events and the feelings that I was experiencing during those times in the best way that I knew possible, through these songs on my album. In terms of the record title Identity Crisis, I was learning about myself and developing my own identity. I wasn’t really sure who I was going to be at the end of this “metamorphosis”. It was as if I was experiencing an identity crisis of sorts, not being totally aware of who I was or who would ultimately end up on the other side.
MI You have always wanted to be an entertainer since an early age… are there any artists that have particularly inspired you creatively and musically speaking?
JKS During my younger years, I didn’t really look up to any major artists in particular. I always tell people that I realize that I was mostly inspired by the amazing actors on the television shows that I would watch, or just by the encounters that I had with people as a child. I think the occurrence that really made me believe that I could potentially have a future in the entertainment industry was when I was about 6 years old, I was singing in the car with my mom and my “Nana”, Christine Lewis-Dukes, (my mom’s mother) the amazing singer of the family. My Nana expressed to me that I had a great singing voice. Coming from her meant the world to me, and I knew that she meant it. I think that was the most influential experience that made me believe that music was something that I could really do successfully.
I wrote the songs on this album over a span of a year and a half, and during that time I did a lot of growing up and maturing, both emotionally and mentally. I felt like I changed so much as a person… but as healthy as change can be, sometimes it can be a very scary and painful thing. I wanted to really capture every aspect of all of the events and the feelings that I was experiencing during those times in the best way that I knew possible, through these songs on my album.
MI Your big acting debut has seen you playing Caitlin in Luca Guadagnino’s series We are Who We are. The character, who navigates a process of gender exploration, also considers transitioning at one point. In order to embody that type of feeling, how much have you dig into your own experience and how crucial has it been delving into others one?
JKS When it came to embodying everything that Caitlin was experiencing during the series, I initially conducted some research on her character, her inspirations, and even her environment, in order to portray Caitlin in the best way possible. I spoke to some friends who shared some of Caitlin’s experiences and even did some reading about military kids and living abroad… but nothing felt truly authentic when it came to attempting to understand Caitlin. In the end, my portrayal of everything that Caitlin was going through came about almost naturally, because I was experiencing some of the same thoughts and feelings at the time. So, I didn’t really dig into my own experience in an attempt to portray her, because I was essentially living my own experience with Caitlin.
MI How was being directed by Guadagnino and what’s the most important lesson you learned on set?
JKS Having Luca as a Director was an amazing learning experience. Because it was my first big break-out role, having Luca as my very first Film Director really taught me a great deal about what it’s like to be someone new in the film industry and the huge expectations that are placed on you. I admire Luca so much for his vision. He truly was able to capture so much from all of us and pull so much out of us, and in so much detail. The most important lesson that I learned on set would definitely be to be open to trying new ways of expressing yourself and to challenge yourself by trying new things. I really had to step outside of my comfort zone sometimes, but I learned very quickly that you have to at least attempt to try new things or you have the potential of being stuck in the fear of doing something different… and this could be true in your character role or in your life.
MI In your Instagram bio you wrote the pronouns She/They. Such choice echoes a very personal and intimate process but to be publicly written also stands out as sort of a statement. Why have you decided to share this choice on social media?
JKS I feel that it’s important to address people as they wish to be addressed. In our ever-changing society, we now have so much access to information to learn so much more about each other and ourselves than we’ve ever had before. For many of us, this is very empowering and liberating. Since I now have been afforded the opportunity to be in the public’s eye, and have some small position of influence, I will always take the stand of ensuring that all people are treated equally, feel comfortable with themselves, and know that they are not alone in whatever it is that they are discovering about themselves. I put my pronouns, (She/They) in my bio because this is how I prefer to be addressed. I encourage others to put their pronouns in their bio if they choose, so no person is uncomfortable about using pronouns that may be different from what they were originally assigned at birth or that you have evolved into yourself.
MI This past year has seen the world-changing and saw us all coping with essential social, political, and climatic issues. Are there any themes that particularly resonate with you? Also, do you think your generation is involved enough to make a change?
JKS I think there are so many world-changing themes that resonate with me. I believe there are far too many for me to list all of them but some of the most important ones to me include social justice, racial equity, the Black Lives Matter Movement, climate issues, and affording every person the equal human rights that every person deserves. I believe that my generation is very involved, and working together with all generations. I believe that we are at a new beginning of making lasting changes. I believe it’s going to continue to be difficult times ahead that we will have to endure, but I believe that we will have the courage to transform our world into one that has a brighter future for our planet and for all people.
Having Luca as my very first Film Director really taught me a great deal about what it’s like to be someone new in the film industry and the huge expectations that are placed on you.
MI Where should the change start from?
JKS I think that particular question is not one that I can easily answer. Clearly, I don’t know how to change the world, but I do know that we each may have to make some changes from within ourselves. I believe that exposure, education, and an open mind are the first steps to positive change, along with the conscious, intentional willingness to decide to do so. None else can make that decision for you. I believe that if each of us takes a good hard look at ourselves and can agree that every person deserves a level playing field to at least begin from, that we can create an amazing world that can sustain and be a model for other nations for a long time.
MI The aim of this issue is to recalibrate our focus. To leave the unnecessarily behind and concentrate on ourselves. Our body and our mind are temples we should never forget to take care of. So, what you’d love to cultivate more of yourself?
JKS I think I am learning to love myself a little more every day and it’s something that I have to remind myself of often. I know that sometimes I forget to give myself the same amount of encouragement, love, respect, and attention that I give to others, sometimes giving it to some who don’t necessarily deserve it.
It’s something that I am working on and it’s something that’s definitely going to take some time. I’ve begun boxing again, I have chosen to eat vegan since the pandemic and I am just trying to do my part to make the world a better place. I’m patiently growing day-by-day.
MI And what’s the YOU plan for the future?
JKS To be honest, I’m really not sure. I’m taking my time and making decisions that point me in the direction of creating more music, advancing my acting career, moving into writing and directing, supporting aspiring artists by sharing what we have learned throughout this journey and I hope that my plan continues to remain flexible, positive and reflects a kind of amazing love and light to as many people as I can affect before I leave this Earth.