“I don’t want to look like anybody else. I’m inspired by a lot of people, but you’ve got to make it your own, do your own thing.” -Jessie Jo Stark
As if Jesse Jo Stark, the twenty-three-year-old music and fashion maven, would ever have to worry about a lack of originality having been raised in the world of luxury apparel and rock ‘n’ roll. Jesse Jo’s parents founded clothing label Chrome Hearts in her native Los Angeles, and her household growing up teemed with musicians and artists, among them her godmother, Cher.
At the age of eighteen, Jesse Jo was approached by Vans to collaborate on a capsule collection for the infamous skater brand. These days she continues to design collections for Chrome Hearts, and has been nurturing her rock ‘n’ roll roots with a recent EP release of original songs, Down Your Drain. Jesse Jo references her sartorial upbringing in her personal style and designs, and even draws inspiration from the music her parents listened to when she writes. “My dad loves old country music so he always played that for me. I think that’s where I got a lot of my style from. I got to watch Cher on tour and dance on stage, so I was always involved in a way.”
Down Your Drain boasts some impressive credits. The EP is produced by former Sex Pistol Steve Jones and includes collaborations with Duff McKagen of Guns N’ Roses. Steve and Duff are old family friends, and Jesse Jo found herself always encouraged and influenced by them. “They’ve been in my life for a while…as I grew up, I started to realize how important they were. One time Steve came to one of my shows and he was like ‘This song doesn’t work.’ And I said ‘Come into the studio and tell me why.’ He came in and he was like ‘Let’s write a couple songs together and I’ll produce it.’ It just naturally happened.”
Jesse Jo is remarkably self-assured and unfazed for her age, though when she works on music she’s often the lone female voice in her band, which can pose challenges. “It’s hard to be heard in the studio when you’re with six dudes. I’m all about girl power. I’m very vocal and I make sure that I’m treated as an equal. As girls we dumb ourselves down sometimes. You speak your voice, and then you take it back. But then I end up being mad at myself. Why didn’t I just defend what I said? Just fuckin’ say it and go with it and go with your intuition.”
A total badass herself, Jesse Jo is inspired by similarly ballsy women. “I LOVE Poison Ivy from The Cramps. She’s great, I’m obsessed with her…and Cher, obviously.” She also cites Lana del Rey as her favorite contemporary artist, defending her against her many critics. “People give her shit because she’s great. You can’t butcher a performer. She’s pouring out her guts on stage, and for someone to butcher that? There’s not a lot of people I connect with that have come out recently. So I’m into her.”
She has likewise experienced misrepresentation in the press, the common consensus being that she’s a wild child. “I’m not a party girl! I moved to Hollywood when I was eighteen, of course I went out and raged. It was fun. But now I’m glad people think that, because I’m such a grandma. I don’t care. Those fans that have been with me since day one, I appreciate you. I’m not going to dwell on the haters…Just know that you live your life as you, and there’s only one you, and other people are just negative. You just gotta stand strong and be yourself and say screw it.”
Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine #GirlPower Issue
Photography by Dani Brubaker
Stylist: Henna Koskinen
Hair by Enzo Angileri
Make-up by Shane Paish
Photographed at Smoky Hollow Studios
This article originally appeared in The #GirlPower Issue of The Untitled Magazine (2015), pick up a print edition of the issue today!