Pop!: Meet Jamela

Pop! Street Fashion is an experimental collection of patron street fashion at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.  It is devoted to photographically documenting the sartorial narratives of patrons who visit the library. Please email My Nguyen for more information.

Meet Jamela.

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Gorgeous hair + a rad band t-shirt are an unbeatable equation in comfortable cool. Jamela, 26, does it with untouchable elegance. A D.C. native and aspiring TV producer, she has written for a Youtube comedy series called "The Lunch Break," and prefers Biggie over Tupac. Read more after the jump.

What brought you to the library?
I always come to the library because it’s a spot where I can do my work quietly and check out books I don’t really feel like buying, necessarily, or owning in my library but am still interested in reading.

What do you like about MLK?
I like MLK because it’s right in the heart of the city and it’s huge, and it’s a lot prettier than the other libraries. But my two favorite libraries are MLK and Dorothy Height.

What are you currently reading right now?
I am reading The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. So far I like it. It’s a big collection of stories of black Americans in the 1930s-1950s who are migrating from the South to other cities like Harlem, Chicago, Detroit. My mother’s family experienced the same thing: they moved from Arkansas before she was born. They were trying to start their own family, so they moved to Chicago.

Cool! Were you born and raised in D.C.?
Yes. I attended school here for a little while, but I graduated high school in Springfield, Va.

What are you currently doing?
I’m currently writing. I write for a show called "The Lunch Break" that shoots on Sundays and airs every Wednesday. It’s a Youtube channel. I write for that and produce for that. I’m in the midst of getting ready to move to San Francisco.

What kind of series is The Lunch Break?
It’s kind of like "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live. It’s comedy.

Would you say you’re funny?
Yes. I pride myself on my sense of humor. We try to make a show that’s funny that people on a basic level of knowing current events can understand. But at the same time we want to make sure that people are aware, so we kind of satirize politics and social causes.

What drew you to this project?
I was a broadcast journalism major at VCU. I’ve always been into television. My dad is a cameraman at CBS. I just was raised around media. It reaches all platforms, all people. And the Internet is cool. I've always wanted to have a show, but now with the Internet, you can just make it. You don’t have to ask for anyone’s permission.

Since the Internet and e-readers are so popular now, what do you foresee the future of libraries to be?
I find that more and more people are going to start using libraries as a resource. I see it especially in urban areas, when you have such a good library system, like the DC Public Library. You’re not just limited to being at home with your e-books or your laptops. There are just so many events and social things that are going on: meetings, meet-up groups outside of just Living Social. It’s a more communal thing.

Let’s talk about fashion for a little bit. Who are your fashion icons?
I like Bianca Jagger a lot. I don’t really dress like her; I feel like that’s probably going to be older me, because her tailoring is just insane. But I also like Erykah Badu and Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon.

When you get dressed in the morning, what dictates what you wear?
Really, I’m all about comfort. So, whatever is comfortable. And whatever is clean, I guess. [Laughs.]

Where do you shop?
I shop a lot of places. I guess mostly American Apparel. It used to be Annie Creamcheese, but it closed down. I pride myself on finding deals and bragging about them. I’m a huge Stella McCartney fan. Huge Marc Jacobs fan. I’ve found a Marc Jacobs sweater and a Stella McCartney shirt at thrift stores. I love bragging about a deal. I don’t understand people who say, “I’ve paid $1,000 for this!” I’m like, what? Why are you bragging about this?

Sum up your style in a few words.
My style is very comfortable. I like dark colors. I am not a neon or bright color kind of person. I have a bright personality but I gravitate towards dark colors. I love earth tones, I love red. My favorite color to wear is black.

What’s your favorite book?
I have so many. I’d see the most relatable book I’ve read is probably The Autobiography of Assata Shakur. And then my favorite book that just makes me happy is The Giving Tree.

Who inspires you?
This is going to sound really cheesy, but my boyfriend inspires me. He’s just such a cool person. He’s 32 so he’s a bit older than me. His moral compass, his strength, and his drive is just really inspiring.

What does love mean to you?
That’s an evolving thing. I think previously it was a very surface level affection.  Just feeling love. It’s a feeling. But I think that’s very surface level. As you grow older, I think it’s understanding empathy, loving without conditions or without feeling like you need a certain amount of reciprocation from another person.  I think that my definition of love is ever-evolving.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I don’t know. I’m about to move to San Francisco. So I don’t know how that’s going to go. I’ve never been outside of the D.C. metro area before. Well, I take that back. I did six years in Richmond, Va. But that’s two hours away. I’d like to be a producer in some capacity, whether it’s for a station or my own show. I’d just like to stay in the TV media industry.

What are your hobbies?
I write. I love going to shows. I’m a big music fan. Huge, huge music fan. And that’s the one cool thing about D.C.: it has a great music scene with a lot of history. I love everything. I love everything. And I know that’s a generic answer, but I really love everything. Even country, old country: Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Arlo Guthrie. Mostly I like hip hop, golden-era 90s hip hop. My favorite band is Radiohead. I’m obsessed with Radiohead.

Are you more of a Biggie Fan or a Tupac fan?
Biggie. Hands down. No question. I mean, Tupac kind of had a more dynamic career. And  he was smart about the way he made music that could be released six years after his death. He just made a huge catalog of music. Biggie made two albums. That’s it. Just two albums. But those two albums are flawless. Lyrically, I favor him as a rapper.  I’ve always been more drawn to New York rappers. I think there’s just a grime and a truthfulness that just comes out more authentically. Not to say that Tupac isn’t amazing, because he is.

You speak and carry yourself so confidently. How do you do it?
Thanks! I don’t know; I don’t feel like I do. I feel like I’ve got as much insecurities as the average person. But the older I get the more comfortable I become with myself. I’m way more comfortable now than when I was four years ago. I’m kind of excited to see myself when I’m 30. That’s just four years from now and I may be more confident than I am now.

What’s important to you?
Self-acceptance, pride in what I do, and ultimately I’d like to build a family that I’ve always wanted. I want to bring my extended family closer together. I want to build my own family. I also want to build a family of friends. I’d like to leave this earth with pride in my work, a great family, and self-acceptance.

Describe yourself in five words or less.
Funny, contradictory, sweet, open.

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Bad Brains T Shirt

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--Story and photography by My Nguyen

Check out more Pop! Street Fashion:
Meet Jennifer | Meet Steven | Meet Kiara | Meet Kial | Meet Beejay | Meet Leandria | Meet Wendell | Meet Allison | Meet Brea | Meet Laura