Jenna Rose Simon
Emily Koopman: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions, Jenna! I guess the first thing I’d like to ask is how did it feel when your art started going viral last April? Was it something you had hoped for or expected?
Jenna Rose Simon: It was not something I anticipated or hoped for. At that time, I didn’t even have public social media accounts for my art. I had posted that drawing on my private Facebook page, and one of my FB friends saved it and shared it on their page as a public post. It then got over 400k shares and I only knew it happened because many of my actual friends recognized the piece when their friends were sharing it.
Emily: How does your creative process work? Is it something where you can just tell yourself that you have to sit down and draw, or do you need a wave of inspiration?
Jenna: Since my art has become a business as well, there are definitely times I have to tell myself to sit down and draw! Haha. But more of the concept art pieces come at times where I need an outlet. I either feel I have something that needs to be expressed and art is the healthiest way of doing it, or I get some idea that is sparked by either a story a follower messages me, or even comments people leave on other art. Usually once I get the idea, I go on a man hunt for multiple reference photos, which usually involves taking photos of myself. After I’ve put them all together to create a concept, I can begin to work.
Emily: Out of all the art that you’ve done, do you have a piece that means the most to you? What’s the story behind it?
Jenna: I do. I drew a piece with two versions of myself once. On one side I am screaming out for help and on the other side, I am consoling myself with a stuffed bunny. Someone very special to me gave me that bunny toward the beginning of recovery so that I would always feel a connection to her and have hope. When I showed her the piece, she was really moved, partially because it was the first time I ever drew the bunny and partially because she said it was the first time she’s ever seen me draw something where I was seeking comfort, not just the pain. That seemed to be a pivotal moment in my therapy… the ability to draw the realization that I could seek help and comfort, not just express pain. That piece holds a very special place in both our hearts, and I included it in my book for that reason!
Emily: As someone who has also suffered from an eating disorder for quite a while, I just wanted to thank you for speaking out about them when it’s still considered somewhat of a ‘taboo’ subject. What originally inspired you to sit down and do something to help create awareness?
Jenna: Honestly, I didn’t ever have an intention of creating awareness. I didn’t think my art could even do that. It was when that one post went viral that I thought it was possible that my art could help others. I looked at that and thought if a drawing about verbal abuse can go viral and create talk, why can’t a drawing about eating disorders do the same? Or mental health in general?
Emily: Do you have any advice to those also struggling to overcome an eating disorder? Perhaps something you learned from yourself, something you learned from therapy, or something you learned from the world?
Jenna: My best advice is that no matter how hard it gets… just keep going. When you feel like giving up, keep going. When you’re therapist or treatment team tells you something you think is ridiculous, listen. If they make you do something you don’t agree with, do it anyway (they can see further down the road than you can). When you feel like you’ll never be well and it’s too much work… keep going. When everything and everything… just keep going. Every millimeter of progress adds up.
Emily: If you could give a complete makeover to how the media portrays beauty, what would it consist of?
Jenna: How to not write an essay in response to this question!!! I do think the media has started to do this a bit given how many celebrities have stood up to being photoshopped or made to look different than they really are, but there is still a long way to go. I wish the media would portray people in a more candid fashion… the way they are… and not only when they’re trying to provide click bait for some ridiculous story that is negative and harmful. Most magazine covers still have an over photoshopped version of a person with a straight, seductive face. I’d love to see smiling, happy people that are enjoying life and are whatever size they naturally are.
Emily: You recently released a book, “Unbroken: An Art Book: My Journey So Far, Plus 20 Feel-Good Drawing Activities”, what would your pitch be to encourage people to check it out?
Jenna: This book really chronicles my therapeutic journey so far to a healthier me. It really delves in and explains 20 of my concept art pieces in a much deeper manner then any caption I could have posted with the drawings on social media. Understanding on a larger scale why I created these drawings and how they relate to me could help others feel less alone. There are also 20 feel-good drawing activities that each pertain to the chapter beforehand. I did this because I feel like so many people need a healthy outlet, and drawing is therapeutic even if you aren’t the most skilled artist. There is also a great deal of journaling space for the non-art inclined to write their thoughts about the chapter beforehand. I feel like this book will help people who are in recovery from any mental health issue because I geared it towards the therapeutic lessons I learned about overcoming a variety of struggles I’ve had, not only trauma and eating disordered behaviors.
Emily: You primarily use graphite pencil, do you dabble in other mediums — or do you plan to?
Jenna: I have started dabbling a little bit in colored pencils. I did a whole piece for my therapist in colored pencil actually because I was drawing crayons. I’m far less good at color mediums, so I’m usually using them in experimental phases. My newest concept art has a little bit of colored pencil.
Emily: Since you’re also familiar with dancing and acting, have you ever considered becoming a motivational speaker? I volunteer with an organization called “WE” and they put on “We Day” events (it’s something you can’t buy a ticket to, you must earn a ticket through global and community actions and is for kids of school age) all over North America and the UK — I think you would be a perfect guest for them to feature. Do things like this appeal to you at all?
Jenna: These WE day events sound spectacular! At some point in the future I feel this would be something I’d like to do, but I am not sure I am ready just yet. Until I am able to speak openly and honestly about my experiences verbally, a speech would be difficult, but definitely something to work towards!
Emily: Last but not least, do you have any projects you’d like to plug? Thank you again so much for letting us get to know you better, and for all the work you’ve done to raise awareness.
Jenna: My book is my big project right now! But anyone interested in the acting side of my life can find my newest audio play album “Favorite Laugh, and Other Fun Stuff” on iTunes. It’s all comedy and family friendly voice over plays.
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