Once a self-professed bandage-dress-wearing girl, Jess Connelly is now all music, confidence and keeping her peace
We all start out getting dressed by our parents. For a generation, this often meant matching sibling outfits and piles of denim jumpers in every cut and color imaginable. You’ll now see that same generation donning white sneakers in the rain and culottes in fabrics that match every occasion.
The point is that everyone goes through a Style Edit at least once in their lives. After all, style is often times an indication—if not the catalyst of—change. And it’s in this changing landscape that we’ve chosen to celebrate the month with Jess Connelly, herself an ever-evolving self-professed and publicly-respected artist.
If it wasn’t obvious enough with how she commands the stage, Jessica Alviola Connelly was always a performer. With the support of her parents, she participated in Filipino functions when she was still living in Australia—in custom sequined outfits, no less. It’s a past she looks at with both embarrassment and pride, an outfit of her life that she remembers loving but would never be caught dead in now.
But the Jess Connelly that we know first stepped into the public eye through the lens of a reality show, followed by other gigs in front of the camera. Lest we sugar coat the state of our entertainment industry, this was probably the smartest move to get to her end goal, which was and always will be music.
“Modeling, that whole artista thing—I thought [they] would give me exposure to do music exactly how I wanted to, but that didn’t [work],” she tells us upfront. “When you work in those industries, you’re told how to dress, how to look; you have to fit into a mold and I never [did].”
“I never fit into that mold.”
Now Jess, in her own right, is her own woman. Gone are the childhood days in sequin co-ords that her mother had made and young adult nights wrapped in bandage dresses that matched her friends.’ She’s bid farewell to the hours of wearing what she was asked to wear and reading words from a script that she didn’t pen herself.
“My whole basis is confidence,” she says when we sit down to talk about her current style. Sure, she works with talented stylists wherever she goes, but Jess is thankful that they allow her to still be herself. She reiterates: “Everything in life is just perspective and confidence…It’s okay to love yourself.”
It’s with that knowledge and understanding of who she is that Jess is able to shine, both on and off stage. She calls herself stubborn and while others might think this a negative, it put a unique spin on what would have otherwise been a usual September afternoon.
From that trip down memory lane, our conversation quickly steered to her current setup. To those who think they’re in the know, this means sharing a festival lineup with the likes of Troye Sivan and Daniel Caesar, but Jess is quick to correct any thinking that her career is a glamorous one. There’s no doubt that the glitz is littered in there somewhere, but it’s also a lot of hard work and sleepless nights, especially since Jess refuses to be anything but hands on with her work.
“A lot of things that are my reality now are really fucking cool; I love my life,” she admits with ease. “[But] I’m nowhere near where I want to be.”
Needless to say, there’s so much more to expect from JCon.
“I will never sell out; I take this shit seriously.”
As a country and society, we laud entertainers that make it big in the international scene—and why not? It’s a local talent making a name beyond our islands—and the case of Jess Connelly is no different. But when she admits that she’s more understood by audiences of different cultures, it stings. Suddenly, seeing one of our own make it big elsewhere came with a bitter taste.
You can chalk it up to her foreign upbringing, but the truth is far more eye-opening than we might care to admit at this point. “For me to be understood here—like by the masses—things have to change with media and society and that’s way beyond me,” she explains.
Jess is quick with the praise for the musicians that she’s had the privilege of working with. She’s grateful for the local ears that have appreciated (and continue to appreciate) her art. But what’s a few thousand in the millions that still cannot shake the ideal triple-threat product of intricately-made PR stunts and carefully curated money-making projects?
We see this everywhere and in practically everyone that makes it big here. They enter as actors and find themselves singing to sold-out arenas; they find fame on stage and are suddenly thrust into a love team for the big screen. We have an unhealthy obsession with seeing our favorite talents explore everything else—we eat that shit up, and the Big Brothers know this.
On the other hand, the creatives Jess works with in the studio are 100 percent musicians, she describes, who dedicate all their hours to perfecting their craft. These are the people who, like Jess, are completely devoted to making a track, an album, a music video as perfect as they can be. There are no multiple hats that distract from the end goal; there is only pure loyalty.
“I will never sellout,” she reassures us. “I take this shit seriously.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that Jess is willing to forget where things first kicked off for her. “I have my tribe here,” she tells us, before going on to confirm that she will always appreciate her fans and will continue to work with the talents that she’s shared the studio with for hours on end. There is, after all, a level of peace and contentment that Jess Connelly has achieved.
“It took me a while to say these things about myself,” she realizes. “[But] I love my life, I love myself, I love so many things about myself.” The trick, Jess says, is to give back to yourself in order to grow the next thing—and, if we may add, be a little piece of that edit you’re so desperate to see.
Photography Borgy Angeles
Art and Art Direction Alexandra Lara
Interview and Cover Story Adie Pieraz
Fashion Direction Nicole Blanco Ramos
Styling Karen Bolilia
Beauty Direction Cessi Treñas
Makeup Zidjian Floro using Stila
Hair Mycke Arcano
BTS Photography Elisa Aquino
Special thanks to W Talent Management