Jesse James Johnson
I knew that Jesse was witty and talented and all, but until he answered my questions, I didn’t realize who I was dealing with - a full fledged self deprecating comedic nut ball!
Where does the name Jesse James Johnson come from and where do you live?
Jesse and James are just a couple of hunting trophies. I decided to game some old men and suck up their assets like a double ply Charmin. I was named after two dead men. A good portion of family had passed by the time of my birth and I inherited their frugality because I know they chose death over baby gifts. I like to believe I finish the trifecta of soul singer Jesse James and Prince protege Jesse Johnson. I currently reside in the "heartland" of North America, Columbus Ohio, and it's truly a heartland because everyday you realize you're living in a clogged artery.
Who is Tesla Volta? What kind of perfume does she wear? What color lipstick?
This is a loaded question depending on who you ask. Most of America will say they prefer a Ford, and they're only carrying plastic. Tesla is a magnifying glass to characteristics of myself for example: no eye lashes; eyebrows out of the human spectrum of perception; virgin GMO certified red hair. I'm probably the most rancid drag queen you'll meet because I don't wear deodorant. I own every Issey Miyake "de toilet" produced but Tesla, after a performance, smells similar to an opossum that fell into a family's garbage bin after they gave their infant Taco Bell. I love opossums! I believe in colon health awareness as prostate cancer is our silent killer. Sometimes a nice Easter morning egg hunt pink or a dark orchid 9932CC treatment if I've got hemorrhoids before a show. Really bringing my advocacy to full lip service.
You do drag, illustrations, photography and you have a day job right? What is something you avidly don't do?
I have a 40 hour plus overtime retouch and photo manipulation hobby during the day. I also write and before photography entered my life, I acted as a "bedroom producer” (before social media took off) and then returned to music for my college thesis. My screenplay and poetry awarded me the opportunity to brunch with Sharon Olds the year she won her Pulitzer. I convinced her I was attending a clown undergrad. I rarely shop for pants, it's something within myself I'm addressing but I'm not perfect.
From where did you acquire your creative genes? What is the first creative thing you did in your life?
My father's tears taste so sweet I imagine he's got a little Tennessee Williams in him somewhere. My first creative decision was cutting off my rat tail.
What songs do you perform as Tesla? Do you ever go by simply, "Tess"? Is that your line of perfume? "Tess"? What would you name your perfume or cologne?
My debut was accompanied by Róisín Murphy's "Mastermind" which fit the narrative of a drag queen perfectly. An intro of drone and soft arpeggio to some Jupiter type synth work into a climax of jungle techno. Tesla cars are so ingrained in the public zeitgeist that I'm too much of an auto-mo-broad now in the public's eye to have a shortened name. My perfume would be named Thunder Hymen. Aromatic scent of chimichurri verde farts with undertones of cinnabar for a real burning sulfur sensation. You'll be moved to assisted living.
Who do you work with the most as a photographer? Who are some of the stylists, fashion designers, magazines and drag friends or weird uncles in your circle?
I’ve been working with stylist and editor Mitch McGuire for refigural.com, and multimedia artist Da'Niro Elle for the past five years. Both have relocated to New York. They're both family to me more-so than collaborators at this point. Many doors have opened but once they see my face, they close without hesitation. I like to keep up with the lives of people invested into their and our projects. What we do comes from the heart.
Is there a person or a celeb that people say you look like?
Adele, Elvis Presley, Ed Sheeran, Don Vito, a stack of pillows disguised as Lucille Bluth, Jon Snow, and Jon Walmsley. WHEEZE. Oh and old Leonardo DiCaprio, emphasis on old.
Images courtesy of JESSE JAMES JOHNSON
interview ASHLEY MUNNS
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