CELEBRATE HER | JEN FERNANDEZ
Tell us about some things that you’re deeply passionate about. What is it that stirs you up and activates you to create change?
I’m passionate about women, youth, and seeing wrongs being made right. Basically, any kind of injustice but specifically against women because I feel like we’ve been silenced for a very, very long time. Personally, I’ve felt silenced growing up even in classroom settings. I was afraid to raise my hand and be wrong because I was always seen as the pretty girl so therefore, I couldn’t be the pretty and smart girl. I look back and I realize that that happened for a reason. I need to use that past experience and tell girls now that they are seen! YOU are seen. Use your voice. Don’t be afraid to speak even if you’re the only one in the room. There’s that quote that says, “Speak even if your voice shakes.” Because there’s one other person that needs to hear your voice!
I am passionate about seeing women rise up! I want to see women continue to speak their truth. It’s not going to look like what the church says or what Hollywood says. For me, when I speak up - it’s whatever God puts on my heart to speak and that’s what pushes me forward.
Would you say there was a turning point or a moment where your realized that this was what you are called to do - this is what you want to dedicate your life to?
I don’t know if I can pinpoint a moment but obviously coming to know the Lord definitely helped in the process. I thought I was coming to LA for one thing and then God showed me what I was truly here for. But also coming to LA and seeing how Hollywood defined beauty opened my eyes. “Oh wow, its so superficial. Wait. What? Is this really what we are putting out there?” Beyond it being superficial - it was also things like “Are you in the industry? Well what can you do for me? Can you refer me to your manager?” before even having any kind of real conversations. So as I got the wind of that, it started turning me off from the industry that I thought I was called to - or I know I am still called to it but now in a different way.
So, after 4 years of being in LA, I realized that there was a deeper underlying issue and deeper root of what I was seeing. As I prayed about it, God began to show me my purpose to speak to women. I thought ‘well ok, I can empower and encourage them but “what is my actual message to women?” I found that it had to do with transparency and authenticity because that’s something that I’ve carried all of my life. Even in my friendships growing up, I was always the vocal one. I was always calling people out. People would always be like, “Oh here goes Jen again speaking up again” Well, YEAH because no one else is doing and it’s not okay. Like “Oh no one is going to say anything? Well I am!”
It’s not ok to sit in silence while seeing something being done wrong. So all these moments have led me to know about my heart for women and the message I have for women.
Was there ever a time where you felt silenced and/or had to hold back from being your authentic self? How did your season of pursuing acting in Hollywood affect your voice and identity - specifically as a woman pursuing a career in the industry?
When you’re in the industry pursuing acting and the roles you’re getting are “sexy Latina girl” and in these cases, you’d hope that maybe when you get in the audition room and they see you, maybe they’ll address you differently but you still end up with “Could you be a little more sexy?” I’ve also faced discrimination with my looks such as being told that I don’t look Latina enough. Going through this entire process of casting, auditioning, meeting directors and being told that I am not skinny enough because the camera adds a few pounds and all the pressures of superficiality
I felt silenced in terms of not being able to say, “I am more than the sexy latina girl that you’re trying to cast me as. I have talent. Do you see that?” NO. Then there’s that aspect of knowing that this is Hollywood and it’s what you signed up for. In that way, you’re silenced because you know what you signed up for and you’re just going to have to roll with it. During all of those years, I was silenced and didn’t even know it because I was just going with the Hollywood flow.
Let’s talk more about that! How Hollywood and the media dictates this unattainable standard of beauty and how it impacts not only aspiring actors but most definitely the younger generation in their upbringing?
They set the standard on what being "beautiful" looks like. So it’s blue eyes. 100 pounds. Fair skin. Got it. But I am 130 pounds with curly hair. I don’t have blue eyes so therefore I am not beautiful??? Representation in Hollywood is what’s lacking. If we see ourselves represented in Hollywood and see diverse group of women - then we can appreciate the beauty in that like “wow look at the shape of her eyes/nose and her curves.” We know what beauty is but somehow we have allowed it to be dictated by the media. When we’re older, we are able to get some sense but there are young girls out there with their impressionable minds striving for that kind of beauty which is what’s stirring up bullying, eating disorder, body shaming, depression, etc.
How would you define beauty? When do you feel the most beautiful?
There are beautiful women out there. I can appreciate outward beauty but someone’s compassion and selflessness always draws me. When women do that with a pure, sincere, giving heart - I think that’s the most beautiful thing. I want to say confidence but that gets tricky because it can get out of hand. A compassionate, giving heart is beautiful.
I think I feel most beautiful when I am alongside other women and never just me alone. I know that’s so cheesy but it’s true. I’ve seen so many cattiness growing up. Girls used to want to beat me up because I was pretty and for no other reason and that has stayed with me in a negative way. I love coming alongside women.
This is one of the main reasons we do Celebrate Her. Crowns of Beauty wants to promote unity among women. Comparison and competition has become such a norm in our culture today and we want to break that. We want to uphold an empowerment and celebration for women by women! What do you have to say about comparison?
I think comparison can’t be glossed over because it’s a deeper issue. We have to look internally and find out what we think we are lacking. “I’m too skinny. I’m too fat...” What if you were to reach your goal weight and get to the point or standard that your friends may have, you may still find yourself unhappy. There may still be something else that we want to attain because of the deeper issue that’s at hand. So, the validation that we are seeking needs to come from a solid place inside! Where is that void that I’m trying to fill? Where is the validation I’m trying to seek? Does it come from my mom’s words? Did she tell me I’m not pretty and therefore, I believed it? Who told me I wasn’t pretty? Her pretty is not my pretty. Her words are not my words. Her voice is not my voice. We have all this authenticity with the way God created us. We can appreciate the way animals are made and their uniqueness but why can’t we look at ourselves in that way?
It’s really about finding that place where you can stand confidently in yourself and say “This is who I am…” For me, it’s curly hair, big booty, big forehead - whatever it may be, own it. Take the time to find that and maybe it takes being around a group of women who will encourage you and empower you and let you know that you’re beautiful and your lipstick is poppin!
It sounds like your faith has played an important role in your life? Could you tell us more about how God has impacted your life, career, relationships, etc?
I came to LA in 2008 not knowing who I was and not knowing God with a mission to to go into film and television because that’s what I wanted to do. There was no Plan B. So I was going to the clubs at night to be seen and go to my auditions in the day. So during all of that, I lost my sense of self. I was attending a church but not growing or anything.
So when I finally got wind of what salvation from Jesus actually looked like, I found a sense of identity in God and it changed my life! It was also through a community of believers who called me higher and spoke truth about my identity. So now, God dictates it all for me! He’s not only God but he’s Lord so he rules. He tells me to go, I go. And that’s what led me to Thailand with you, Leah, my first missions trip!
Yes! Let’s talk about that! Your heart for Justice and Thailand!!!
There was a prayer gathering in our community specifically for women who are being sex trafficked and because there was a group that was going to Thailand that summer. So I decided to pray with THEM and for THEM like the good Christian girl that I am. This trip was not for me, I am an actor… Well, what I didn’t know was I was going to get wrecked. They showed a video and my stomach was in a knot. I remember even releasing a cry for these women. It was the pain that I felt FOR the girls, what I felt they were going through and how lonely it must have felt, etc.
It drove me to want to be on the ground and be there in Thailand speaking life over these women and helping in any way that I can. So when I felt that cry, I sensed that God wanted me to do!
So, next thing you know I am in Bangkok, Thailand in the middle of the red light district doing a spoken word piece that I wrote on FREEDOM. I felt so powerful because of what God was doing. I felt the power of my words being released in the atmosphere. It was an open area and my words were traveling where it needed to go. That’s when I felt like my words really do have power!
I remember it being so powerful and that moment is what led to you to your current project: recording and releasing your first Spoken Word EP! Tell us ALL about it!
The spoken word EP is called, “Step and Repeat” I wrote the pieces two years ago not knowing that it would be a Spoken Word EP. I just felt like God tell me to write my story. I thought maybe it would be a book? But then I felt him say no, and that I needed to write it in spoken word form. I remember writing and the words coming so effortlessly. I recognized it was God blessing it. I wrote it and left it aside not knowing what would come out of it. All the while, I am growing with God and going to seminary and realized some things. Like Jen, you DO have a story to tell. God transformed your life!
God brought the people and the resources in spite of me making excuses because I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I met my music engineer through the Bible App. Another friend came and kept me accountable on setting my deadlines. When I saw that God was in on it, I became more passionate about it. He put this fire under me. Shortly after, I recorded my pieces. I even brought a friend to my recording sessions because it was all so new. But I knew I had to do it because of the message I needed to tell. I did it afraid!
Then, I have this release party and everyone is moved and people came out to support even ones I haven’t seen in years! Not only did people believe in me but believed in what I have to say! They believed in my voice!
The message of the EP is for women! I share my story of being lost, being promiscuous, wanting to find love in men, being hurt, bumping into the walls, etc. And ultimately sharing my story of discovering God which led me to finding my purpose and identity! There’s a message there for SOMEBODY!
So, what is your hope as women listen to this EP and hear your story? Even for the men as they listen to it, what is your hope and prayer as they take in what you have to say?
First and foremost, I want women to just BE. Be in their truth. My EP is very raw. I talk about things that people don’t talk about. I’ve always been a blunt person. In sharing my story in such a raw way, I want others to be empowered to do so! Yes, my story is not pretty but here it is. I don’t have to wrap it up in a bow to tell you my story. This is it in its raw form and we’re going to sit in this uncomfortable silence and uncomfortable space because this is what happened and it’s the truth. It wasn’t pretty then and it’s not pretty now. But the BEAUTY comes from the freedom you find in sharing it. That you’re no longer in that space, you’ve acknowledged it and you’re moving forward!
I want them to sit in their truth, find healing through my words, and be empowered to tell their own story.
For the men… I was so happy to see the men in the room at my release party because I didn’t want it to be a men-bashing session because often times, we are separated! Even in the church, it’s like here is a women’s conference and then here’s a men’s gathering. So I would love it if we came together more.
I would love for men to share the EP with a woman they know but I would love for them to also realize the role they play in relationships with women. For men to call other men to a higher standard because they have a voice in the women’s empowerment movement, too!
Any last words, JFer from the block?
Yes, don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got! ;)
My sincere desire is for women and girls to know that they are SEEN. Because my faith in God is so important to me, I want them to know that there is a heavenly Father who sees them in every state that they are in. My hope is that they would have the drive to explore what that means to be seen by God!
Meet Jennifer Fernandez
Jennifer is a woman who is thriving with her words that are infused with creativity, encouragement, hope, love and authenticity. She is a writer, speaker and spoken word artist who has a heart to see women set free from the bondage of their past and writes pieces that are straight from her heart. The conviction of her art stirs the emotions of your soul. She recently obtained her Master's in Practical Theology from The King's University and will combine theology with experiential knowledge to teach, build up, and equip the next generation of leaders.