2. Tell our readers a little about you. Where are from? Is Jennifer Starr your real name?
I am from LA born and raised. My parents were artists and musicians. Due to my fast tracked and supercharged personality, I left home early on to pursue my dreams of dancing and singing. I worked as a dancer in several gay nightclubs and did hair out of my apartment in the Hollywood hills to make a living. It was a fun and free time, but it was the 80s..lol and I was a "disco dolly" so it was a rocky road for several years but I kept pushing and got a break with "Pure Sugar". My real name is Jennifer Storr, but my teachers growing up always read roll call wrong. They thought my last name was Starr....and I liked it, so it stuck. I am photographer now, I shoot fashion, music, and beauty.
Jenstarr in action behind the lens. (Photo by Erika Petty)
3. Correct me if I'm wrong but back in 1995 you appeared on the compilation 'Luminescence' with the track 'Hurting' Inside'. Was this your first recording?
This was my first released recording/remix of a track I wrote with a producer named John Wilmer. We wrote and recorded several song throughout the late 80's but that one he remixed and released on that compilation. Wow! You are good! :) (Found out this tidit thanks to discogs.com)
4. Let's take a trip back in time. I was working at a clothing store in college and I saw a tall woman wearing very little shoot lasers from her hands on the video screen backed by a sick dance beat and a booming voice. The song was called "Delicious" and a love affair w/ my ears began. How did you end up becoming the voice for Pure Sugar?
I was in a band called "The Zen Cowboys" in 1994, they had released an album called "Electric Mistress" (AMAZING ALBUM!!) and I was on stage singing at the Viper room one night freestyle and they were there gearing up for their US tour. They asked, actually demanded (LOL) me to join them on tour. So I did. It was the BEST experience ever! I sang with a girl then named Therase Willis, one of the best singers I have ever heard. She changed me on that tour. Really helped me find my live voice. So as I was touring with Zen Cowboys one night a band friend Pete Lorimer came to a show. I think it was House of Blues. Anyhow, he asked me to join Pure Sugar soon after that. So as the Cowboys tour was winding down, I went into the studio with Pete and Richard Vision and started working on "Pure Sugar".
5. "Very Cherry" would make a great drag queen name wouldn't you say? I honestly believe the Pure Sugar album is one of THE best dance albums ever recorded. In fact I still listen to it on a regular basis all these years later. I think it was mainly due to its exploration of different dance sounds. Looking back on that album what are your thoughts about it now?
I think it's a GREAT drag name! LOL. One of my best friends in the whole wide world wrote that track, Jim Harry. He has 2 Grammy nominations this year for P!nk's album. Well, to go into all of my thoughts on this album would be long. I have not listened to the album completely through in over a decade. In all of the good that I experienced in the process of that project, there was a lot which was extremely painful having to due with creative differences, industry politics, and the way I was handled as an artist by certain people around me. I mean the "Delicious" video budget was around two dollars. LOL. I LOVE the song "Delicious" and several of the tracks on the record. You are right. It was very diverse, and that was a realy strong point to the album I believe. A year ago, A close friend of mine, Tryan, was driving home from dinner and played a song I wrote "Broken" and it was surreal because I wrote that song out of so much pain that I was going through...and hearing that song was bitter/sweet. But mostly happy to hear it and felt like "wow, I should listen to my album sometime". LOL.
6. Was there ever a follow up planned to Pure Sugar's debut? Have you recorded anything since Pure Sugar?
There would have been...we had a #1 in Japan and we did scale the charts with 3 songs off the album as well. We also won "Best Dance Group in the World" at the Winter Music Dance Conference and back in 1998, that was the equivilent to a "Grammy's Dance Catagory" as they did not have one up until 1999. And there was a strong fan base that I felt "got it and loved it" and understood what I was trying to do. Because of the struggle I was going through as a "recording artist" having a vision and not being able to fully see it through, I had fallen sick in the midst of making the album and touring which created a huge issue with needing to get well. YES I play around with music and sing all the time for fun. I love looking at who is out there now, and what makes them special. But now, I see these musicians and I want to photography them in a way they will never be shot again. I understand a part of them and what they are doing and going through.
7. How does music play into your life these days? Please tell me you are still singing. That voice NEEDS to be heard again!
You are very sweet. I love shooting and I shoot to all kinds of great music. My house is filled with music at all times, and for me, it will always be my first and greatest love. I can't say I would ever do it as a profession again. The politics of the industry are bizarre. It's no wonder artists like Britney Spears have those "shave your head" moments. The rules make no sense, and it's hard to be ones self in trying to please the business side of things. So you end up taking various paths you did not ever imagine yourself taking just to stay in the game and in that process you can crash hard internally. It would have killed me eventually even if I am speaking metaphorically. LOL, no lie. My art is something I must feel I am in control and sync with. Every time I shoot, I am free of all boundaries and limits and all that matters is the art and the relationship I am having with it from beginning to end.
8. Everyone wants to know how that big black woman's voice got inside your tiny body. Who did Jennifer Starr listen to growing up?
Well that's a compliment. Thank you. I listened to a lot of jazz and classical growing up. My father was into this "beat nick" style of listening to music and it influenced me. I am grateful he played those artists in our home. It was a great education. But as a kid, I loved Donna Summer and Debbie Harry, Dale Bozio from Missing Persons, and Martha Wash, Chaka Kahn, Mary J Blige, Prince..so many!
9. Going back to your current profession. How does music play a part in your photography? Have you ever sung to your subjects?
LOL. Well, I listen to a lot while shooting and I love french 60's Jazz, classical, old school house (Black box), 80's new wave, Runaways, Prince, Funkadelic, Michael Jackson, 60's Joplin, Hendrix, Beatles, Beyoncé, early Madonna. The list goes on and on. No I don't sing to my subjects. But a few of them sing for me. I like to get my subjects so comfortable they feel they can do anything. :)
Current photo of Jennstar. (Photo by Sean Bolger)
10. Thanks again for taking time out to do this interview. Is there anything you'd like to tell your fans and our readers?
Thank you. Yes, I would like to thank "Pure sugar" fans for enjoying my work in Pure Sugar. It has always been my mission to inspire in any and all ways that I can. Life is a gift, treat yourselves good and enjoy the fruits of your work and endeavors and don't ever stop believing in yourself! I love you so very much....I really do.
I'd like to thank the lovely JenStarr for taking the time to answer my questions. She was a delight! Please make sure you check out her amazing work at her official website @ www.jenstarrphoto.com.