Witty, charming, open and honest. She has written and shared her personal anecdotes about her own mental health with such openness and honesty you can’t help but feel like you’ve known her all your life! Although we attended high school together, I have low-key stalked and been a supporter of her writing and work for the past few years and have wanted to find a way to let her know, other than you know…just telling her🙄; so I decided to interview her and share my swooning🤗 with you all!
Q: What is the tone/sound of your alarm clock?
A: “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk blaring from my husband’s phone.
Q: Morning person or night owl?
A: I’m the definition of a morning person. I wake up before the sun is up and tuck myself in bed by 8pm. Sleep is a lovely thing!
Q: What’s your fave quote?
A: “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight”-Bruce Cockburn, Lovers in a Dangerous Time.
Q: Sandals or Sneakers?
A: Sandals each and every time. Sneakers require socks. How are you suppose to show off your pedicure? I’ll make an exception for sparkly Keds.
Q: Your word for the year?
A: Community. This year has been one to celebrate the various communities that come together to support each other. Community is everything.
Q: What’s the last picture you took?
A: My sweet grey cat, Tuesday, on a soft pink faux-fur throw that I gifted myself for the holidays. She’s drawn to it like a magnet!
Q: What book would you recommend?
A: The most recent one I’ve read, which is “Eleanor Olyphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman. It speaks to deep loneliness and how community can change that.
Q: Countryside or beach?
A: I’m terrified of the beach in certain ways, but also drawn to it. So despite the undertow and possible sharks, I’d have to go with a warm beach.
Q: One fun fact about you?
A: I have a horrible voice, but I love performing Karaoke in front of large crowds. I tend to twirl and kick a lot on stage.
Q: Electronic or paper calendar?
A: Both. I love the beauty of paper calendars (recycle them, obviously) but the convenience of electronic is too tempting to pass up.
Q: Fave flower?
A: Peonies! The pinker the better. Garden roses are a close second.
Q: Savoury or sweet?
A: Savoury. Fries over chocolate any day.
Q: Fave artists?
A: -Frida Kahlo will always be my favourite. She poured her soul onto the canva(s).
– A Canadian artist, Robert Le May, does huge canvases with flowers in various states of bloom. Imagine blank walls filled with larger-than-life flowers.
Q: Fave season?
A: Early summer. Everything is lush and flowers are rampant. More is always more for me, so I love overgrown fields.
Q: Describe your fashion style?
A: A picture of Audrey Hepburn hangs above my bed to give you a hint.
Old Hollywood. I love pearls, cardigans, tulle, and A-line dresses. Floral bags of all kinds. My favourite item in my closet is a quilted faux-leather skirt by Karl Lagerfeld. It’s the closest to Chanel my budget can afford.
Q: What do you do to relax?
A: A glass of wine, a comfy couch, and one of my favourite series with my husband. We are re-watching The West Wing currently. In truth, probably a beer. I said wine to sound elegant.
Q: Current role model?
A: Roxane Gay. Her essays hit very deep and important nerves. I love that she is active on social media. Writers are more accessible as human beings than ever before.
Q: What causes you anxiety?
A: More than anything, the idea that I’m not contributing anything to the world. I recognise it as a lie that depression tells over and over again. The question is how to move past the feeling of being an impostor?
Q: If I could grant you one wish, what would it be?
A: That everyone who needs mental health treatment and support gets the appropriate help.
Q: What 3 things bring you joy?
A:-Hearing my parents’ voices on the other end of the phone.
– Sunlight hitting my face on a cold winter day.
– Poutine with classic cheese curds from St-Albert.
Q: When was the last time you meditated?
A: I meditate best in groups. So at a support group with a friend who does guided meditations.
Q: What would you like your legacy to be?
A: Legacy is a heavy word. My favourite writers have given me hope in my darkest moments. If I have a legacy, I’d like to have made even one person in the world feel more hopeful.
Q: Describe yourself in one word.
Q: If you could meet anyone from the past, who would it be?
A: The late poet and Montreal icon Leonard Cohen. I always hoped that I’d bump into him, but it never happened. My husband did once, so I make him retell the story over and over again.
Q: What do you see when you look in the mirror?
A: Tattoos, dimples and perky boobs. Wait, am I dressed?
Q: On your blog, JSL, you share your personal struggle with mental health, what made you begin to write and share this about yourself?
A: When my mental health was at its worst, it poured out of me like sweat. It’s almost like the words couldn’t stay in. I also love sparking conversations. It’s the way I make sense of things.
Q: Do you ever worry about being so open/honest on social media?
A: Less on social media and more in person. I can be quite crass if you get to know me well. I try to keep it under wraps.
Q: If there was one thing you could tell high school, Jenn, what would it be?
A: Don’t worry so much about being attractive to the opposite sex. I’d probably also tell that to 34-year-old Jenn.
Q: What is something you accomplished this year that you are most proud of?
A: I wrote an article about Kate Spade after her passing for FASHION magazine.
Q: What was something that was difficult for you at the beginning of the year, but is no longer difficult?
A: Setting resolutions, because I’ve accomplished so few of them this year hehe.
Q: What was the most challenging thing for you this year? Or the last few years?
A: Trying to cut myself slack for not being on the same track as many of my peers. We haven’t had kids yet or bought a house. My mom calls our life delightfully boho, and I’m becoming more and more okay with that.
Q: What event in your life most shaped the way you are now?
A: My husband being diagnosed with cancer over ten years ago, and also when I was diagnosed with OCD at 27. Things you find unbearable become part of your story. Because both of our lives unravelled in our twenties almost simultaneously, we try to take less for granted.
Q: What are the 3 most important things you’ve learned this year?
A:-Love is everything.
– Love is everything.
– Love is everything.
Q: What’s your most important goal for next year?
A: I want to write a book about mental health.
Q: How do you plan on achieving it?
A: By chipping away at it slowly. It might take twenty years.
Q: Of the books you read this year, which was your favourite and why?
A: I read very slowly so I only get a couple under my belt by the end of each year. Hunger by Roxane Gay, because it addressed food and emotion in a way that made me rethink everything.
Q: What do you love about yourself?
A: I care a lot about people. Now only if I could stop worrying about every other pesky little detail in life…A movie character with OCD (none other than Jack Nicholson) once famously says to a waiting room full of people,
“What if this is as good as it gets?” I think he was referring to life’s ups and downs. If people are all we have on this earth, let’s treat each other with compassion.
Be sure to head over and check out her work on Jenn Shenouda-Levine, you won’t regret it.