It has been said that when you do what you love you never work a day in your life. The human embodiment of that quote is JJ Barrows, a comedian, and artist, who fell head first into her passions. Originally from the south and by way of Portland, JJ now lives in Ocean Beach, where she creates and induces laughter. We sat with JJ at The Art Box to talk about life as a female comedian, painting, and self-love. See why JJ Barrows is our #RealInfluencer of the week.
Where did you think you’d be at this age when you were a child?
I was definitely the type of kid who always changed what they wanted to be. I wanted to be a ballerina, a dinosaur, a fireman, a missionary...etc. I think every time I interacted with someone who did what they loved I'd be like "I want to be that." Growing up in the south as a woman I definitely thought I would be married with kids by now. I didn't think it was a possibility to not be or to pursue a career on my own. I never in a million years would have thought I would be doing art and comedy, which is funny because those are the two things that I would've wanted to do.
What has been the biggest obstacle as a woman in your industry?
Being taken seriously. You hear it in a lot of professions, "You're good at so and so, for a girl" and I'm like "what the heck does that mean?" I think it's more acceptable or common for women to be artists, but in comedy, it's very different, and what I've noticed is that it's a lot of dudes and a lot of dudes who think women aren't funny. Or that for women to be funny they have to be sexual or degrading to themselves, and then that's funny. I feel like a lot of female comics can easily feed into that for the laughs, but in my, opinion, It's not uplifting or supportive of women.
What trait do women in your industry have that you admire?
The women artists I admire are selfless and they're learners. Even though they're super talented, and teachers, they're always open to learning more. I think anytime you're in a place of "I have nothing more to learn" you're not in a good spot. In comedy, I admire women who aren't afraid to speak their truth and don't just default to the easy joke.
How do you keep pushing yourself after a failure?
Well sometime's I lay in bed and I'm like "Ah, I suck." I let myself feel the reality. I don't act like it didn't happen, but I don't let myself stay there. At a certain point, I make myself get up, get dressed, go for a walk and then try again. Because it matters, and I matter. My failure doesn't define me.
Do you ever fear the future? And if so, what do you fear?
Yes and no. Sometimes there is a voice in my head that says "You're good at this now, but how long is this going to last?" Those fears do creep in, but if I lived in those fears I'd probably be working some job I hate just to pay the bills.