There’s not much you can’t discover about Jessica Wu. She’s an open book and a self-proclaimed child of the internet — oversharing is her thing. Being unafraid to address personal issues that other people shy away from, like the realities of menstruation, for example, is just a part of who she is. It’s her penchant for unabashedly spilling intimate details that’s built her an online community of over 30,000 followers. A community that helped her raise over $6,000 in mutual aid funds to issue microgrants to 24 Black, brown, and indigenous creatives and queer students during the height of the pandemic.
“When I started Instagram, like every other person I was like, ‘Let me take selfies.’ When I started pulling away from that and sharing more about what was really happening in my life, I realized people were engaging with me more, and it was super genuine,” she says. Of course, her feed is still a stylish continuous scroll of makeup, fashion, and lifestyle; as a stylist, model, and press director for a luxury fashion brand, there’s no way it wouldn’t be. During our interview, she spouted style tips, sharing ways to style sweats with blazers and why her SOREL Joan Next Lite Puffy Strap shoes are ideal for stomping around New York. Hint: it’s because they’re comfortable and waterproof — perfect for avoiding mystery subway puddles.
Wu manages to balance the fantasy of a creative social media presence with the incredibly relatable moments of life as a twenty-something in New York. So, in partnership with SOREL, we sat down with her to find out just how she does it. Ahead, she shares how this unpredictable year has made her reevaluate where she’s directing her energy, embrace a more experimental image, and, somehow, feel more hopeful.
Even in a tumultuous year, NYC’s creatives are rising to the challenge — re-envisioning their work, supporting their communities, and inspiring change. To celebrate the spirit of vibrance and renewal, The Cut has partnered with SOREL to bring you the stories of six unstoppable individuals from New York City’s creative communities. Take a walk with us as we explore their work, values, resilience, and all the ways their style propels them forward. Previously, The Pastry Chef Finding Creativity Amid Chaos, and The Fashion Writer Who Bet On Herself.
What are some things that you’ve been focusing your energy on lately?
I don’t even know where to start because I do so many things! One big thing is, because we were on lockdown, we weren’t able to access the office for our fashion brand. So in the last few months, I’ve been dedicating a lot of my energy to re-transitioning back into that office and focusing on building the brand — which is still quite young, we’re two-and-a-half years now — and how we can pull through and put out a really good collection.
Your platform started because of your work in fashion, but it’s seemed to evolve.
Another thing I’ve been putting my energy toward is my friends and I decided to put together a mutual aid fund. We were attending protests and wanted to see how we could help people on the front lines, and so, we posted our stories. We asked for donations from my followers because I have a little bit of a following on Instagram. The response was overwhelming. The donations were so much more than we expected, so we decided to convert away from just providing people in the protests to providing to people who needed something to get through the week or to get groceries or to find somewhere to stay. Honestly, it’s so rewarding. It makes my heart so warm.
Why did you decide to move your platform forward in this very open, giving way?
I’m a child of the Internet — I’ve been online since seventh grade. So being public and sharing personal things is something I’m very comfortable with. Social media has kept me more connected to people. You just have to make the effort. A lot of people think of social media as this channel for very frivolous things, but it has impacted my life positively.
Does it ever feel overwhelming to share that much?
It’s weird, because I respond to every DM I get. My friends are always like, “Why are you talking to random people?” There are some people in my DMs that I have no idea who they are, but I’ve been having deep conversations with strangers for years now. I think it’s reflective of the generation’s openness and willingness to connect. Because how else are we going to?
As a stylist, how did you find yourself prioritizing fashion in style within the past seven plus months?
It’s funny because I don’t own sweatpants, I don’t really wear leggings even when I’m home. But I’ve been so busy with freelance content creation that even during quarantine, I still did experimental makeup, got dressed up, and styled new things — I was getting all dressed up with nowhere to go! But I was able to delve into maximizing my creativity.
What advice would you give someone who needs some style inspiration for getting dressed during quarantine?
A lot of people think that fashionable or stylish clothing is by default uncomfortable, but that doesn’t have to be true. There are ways to start with something comfortable, and add your style to it. Even something that could be a little schleppy like sweatpants, paired with a blazer or a sweater you love, and it suddenly becomes something stylish.
Has living in NYC influenced your style?
Because of all the pent-up months of not having been able to go outside and see friends and go out to dinner and dress-up, in a way I’m compensating for it. So here I’m wearing this blouse from my fashion brand which has cut-outs, but is convertible from a long-sleeve blouse into a halter top. It encapsulates how I feel about New York, because it changes every second and moves so fast. And the shoes complement that — they’re a sneaker with a puffy tongue — almost like a moon boot, a little futuristic, but super insulating and comfortable. You can really wear them all around the city from day to night.
People always talk about that indefinable, “only in New York” energy. Has that changed for you?
A lot of people were like, “I left because it’s not the same anymore.” But I find that New York is about the people I’ve grown to love and be around — that’s what makes New York for me. And they’re all still here.
Has there been anything especially positive to come out of this time for you that you may want to continue when it’s over?
I had a gym membership before and it took a bit of convincing from my roommate to start going consistently, so I was in a kind of funk. I was kind of bothered when the gym shut down, but I started doing my own workouts and now I’m not spending $100 a month on a gym. I’m happy with my fitness progress and I feel stronger. And I definitely think that you can do a lot with a little. I have dumbbells and a yoga mat and a jump rope.
What are you most hopeful about for the rest of 2020 and 2021?
In a weird way, the pandemic has forced us all to think differently, act differently, and plan differently. And I think being challenged in that way is really good. I’m not going to say life was easy and that we were coasting through it, but I do think that a lot of people are stuck in the old ways of thinking. We were stuck in the establishments. When times are hard and it’s emotionally, mentally, and physically difficult, that’s what makes diamonds. That’s so cliche, but that’s how I feel.
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