My Name is Jaime King Part 2
Her story is a story worth listening to. If Jaime King’s life were a book, it would have quite the variety of chapters. In an interview with Michael Hainey Jaime talks about the hardships she faced in the past and how she ultimately conquered them.
Michael Hainey: Let’s talk about Nebraska, where you grew up. Omaha, to be exact.
Jaime King: I love Nebraska. I romanticize it often. Just wanting to be on the land… I love L.A., and I love it because this is where I get to be with the people that I get to create with. But because I have children, there’s a longing inside of me to go back home. Maybe because I started working when I was really young. And yet, weirdly, when I was young, all I wanted to do was leave.
MH: I think there are two kinds of people. You either are scared by voids and what seems like vast emptiness. Or, you see them as a space that fills you up and inspires you to contemplate.
JK: Maybe it’s just my idealized version of home, but it’s this insatiable need that people have to look outside of themselves for the answers that they seek. You know, and the uncomfortableness that they feel when they’re not doing anything. Nebraska hits this place inside of me that is a natural loner. And there’s a strange dichotomy inside of myself which I’m sure you can relate to, of being a loner and a lover at the same time.
MH: It seems to me that you’ve traveled many lifetimes in your life. Do you have titles for each chapter?
JK: It’s so interesting you say that! Because ever since I was a child, well, I don’t know if you remember when James is a girl came out [editor’s note: in 1996, a sixteen year-old King, who was then seen as perhaps the hottest new model, was on the cover of the New York Times Magazine in a story entitled, James is a girl. The piece was written by Jennifer Egan and the photographs were by Nan Goldin].
MH: Which I just reread this morning.
JK: Oh [laughs]. I discovered Nan’s work when I was nine. And in Nebraska, obviously this is like before the internet, so I had no way of getting her books, and I remember begging my mom to save money so that I could go to a big city and all I wanted was The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, this book. When I was asked by the Times to do that piece, I originally said no. And then they said Nan Goldin was shooting it and my mind was fucking blown at fifteen. I was like—this person is a master.
It was very interesting because my “love affair” was really with her. In terms of that she could see me, and I could see her. And there was something that I loved because in that industry, in the fashion industry, you’re consistently being shot by people that don’t see you or know you. You’re a child prostitute, in a lot of ways. They don’t want to say that but that’s the truth.
And the day that the story came out I walked out of my apartment, and everybody was stopping me on the streets. And remember at that time, in the nineties, it wasn’t like that. There wasn’t paparazzi and TMZ and all this shit. And people felt that they knew me, and especially in New York City, which is what I love about New York, it’s like they got your back, you know?
MH: No kidding.
JK: [laughing] When that article came out, I felt so exposed. I felt like there was a part of me that she felt violated without knowing that I felt violated, because I was too young to understand that, because a lot of it was so dramatized. Nan and I had stayed friends and she was still shooting me and we were working together very consistently, until I quit at the height of my career when I was eighteen to become a filmmaker, which they thought was fucking crazy, and people were not happy with on that side.
MH: What strikes me about the path you’ve traveled, is, as you said a minute ago, you walked away from one—it’s not even your first chapter, but it could be your second. You were incredibly young but incredibly old, in a way.
JK: I was always the youngest one of the group. And this was at a time in fashion where people weren’t as disposable. There was a lot of currency behind the power of being a supermodel. And so it was a very consistent group. But I was always the littlest, the youngest. And so I mean it was after [my boyfriend] Davide had passed away. And it was this thing that I knew before, he had thalassemia and he was terminally ill and had a mother that had done everything in her power to get him the best medical attention, everything that he needed. When he passed away, we were put up out there in the public as the poster children for a certain thing. And yet, I knew that that wasn’t the cause of his death.
MH: You mean heroin.
JK: Yeah, the heroin chic, and it was the first time I ever had that drug, I didn’t even know what it was. And it was given to me on a shoot when I was fourteen. I was on a shoot with one of the most famous photographers and they said, oh, do you do dope? And I thought dope was marijuana. I didn’t know the lingo. All I wanted was to not be sent home to Nebraska. I didn’t know what to do.
And also it’s at a period of time in your life… when you’re that young. And when the adults are the ones that are doing these things? It very much twists your perception. Because it’s so normalized by the adults in the room, that you guess that it’s OK. Which is insanity.
MH: And yet you have endured and triumphed. Is there a motto that you live by or some wisdom that you would tell your children to live by?
JK: The biggest thing in terms of a motto is, take care of yourself. Take care of yourself so you can take care of other people. Love yourself so you can love other people. And don’t hurt yourself and don’t hurt other people. I always go back to that. With my kids, I’ll do anything to make sure that they can be fully who they are and as creative as possible, because that’s what they were born with. Because I don’t feel like I had that.
MH: Look at how you’re inspiring people; and what you did and what you can do. That’s why the world is waiting for your story. You have a story to tell and you keep holding it in because you think nobody wants to hear it. And yet, your whole life is a story every day that you’ve been putting out there. And you’re holding yourself back on that. You just got to start getting it out there.
JK: First of all, that’s accurate—and I also think there’s a thing of, I don’t know if this happens to you, but if I feel like I can’t do something to the level of perfection, then I put it off. And then what happens? I feel like I’m failing. And it’s just a very fascinating thing, because I can be extremely confident at times, and then there are times when I feel very, very small. And then, the way that that works can be quite jarring in my consciousness. But I’m aware of that. You know, it’s like, and I don’t pity myself or feel bad for myself, I think it’s good to know those things about myself. And I see now the lesson of it all is to just fucking let go of the perfection.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Ina Niehoff
TALENT: Jaime King
STYLING: Markus Ebner
Photographed in Summer 2019 around Hollywood
This editorial appeared first in Mytheresa’s The Album Nr. 3 2019