The New Faces of Pride: Jazz Jennings on the First Film Character She Connected With and Her Queer Hero

TV star and activist Jazz Jennings became an inspiration for countless kids who had never seen anyone like them onscreen before. Now she tells E! News who has inspired her along the way.

By Natalie Finn, Billy Nilles Jun 21, 2021 7:00 PMTags
Watch: Jazz Jennings Opens Up About Eating Disorder & Weight Gain

With the world slowly beginning to come out on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, this Pride season is one of tremendous celebration. And yet, the spirit of a movement itself born out of a protest lives on. As the month of June comes to a close and International Pride Day nears, E! News has asked some of Hollywood's newest generation of LGBTQ+ stars to share what Pride means to them in 2021.

Welcome to The New Faces of Pride.

Jazz Jennings realized at an early age that she was embarking on a journey worth sharing.

Now 20, the author, model and activist—whose transition was chronicled in an unprecedented way on the hit TLC series I Am Jazz—has inspired countless young people, many of whom had either never seen someone they could really identify with on TV before or who just couldn't get enough of watching a strong kid fully embrace her true self.

The show was often the very picture of pride, if you will, mixed in with issues any teen could relate to, such as body insecurity and family members who may be supportive but can't actually know how you feel.

Stars Celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month 2021

Jazz has maintained that open and honest relationship with her 1.2 million followers on Instagram, sharing her highs and lows, her celebratory moments and struggles, as she's become a beacon in her own right, gracing the cover of Variety's "Power in Pride" issue and using her platform to spread the message that trans rights are human rights. 

But while she's seen progress, onscreen and off, she knows there's a long way to go—and the fight to be seen continues.

For our New Faces of Pride series, Jazz answered E! News' questions about who has inspired her, the road ahead and how Hollywood might run a bit differently if she were behind the wheel.

John Lamparski/Getty Images / E! Illustration

How has your personal definition of Pride changed or shifted after all we've been through these last few months?

Now more than ever, it is so vital that we speak out and stay strong as a community. Pride isn't just a monthly event of celebration anymore; it is a battle or march of equality for all people. We must push past the hatred and fight back with love. 

What queer media, be it books, music or film/TV, is a mainstay in your life? Why?

RuPaul's Drag Race is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, and I'm so glad they are expanding their horizons by including transgender drag artists on the show. I think Drag Race is a beautiful representation of queer artistry, and the show tackles topics and issues facing the LGBTQ+ [that are] prevalent today.

Remember These LGBTQ Firsts on TV?

What was the first time you saw yourself reflected in entertainment in a way that filled you with pride? And if you're still waiting, what is it that you're hoping to see?

The first time I saw a character I connected with was the young child in Ma Vie en Rose. It featured a young boy who dreamed of being a girl. I remember it had interesting visuals and captivated my attention. It was the first time I looked at someone and said, "That person is just like me."

You finally get to meet your queer hero. Who are they? And after "Thank you" and "I love you," what's the next thing you tell them?

Laverne Cox is my queer hero, and I've had the privilege of meeting her a couple of times. She is a pillar of strength for the transgender community, and besides TY and ILY, I would tell her to take a break if she needs one since she's done so much already. She's stood on those heels for so long, and I want her to know she's allowed to take them off whenever her feet are burning. She's not alone.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for GLAAD

You are given the keys to your industry. What's the first thing you do to make it a more inclusive environment for everyone?

I would want to create even more characters in movies and television that speak to the LGBTQ+ community. A queer character should be played by a queer person, but that's not all: It would be amazing to see more transgender characters playing cis roles. That would be cool.

What is your message to future generations of queer people, coming of age right now? How do you want to instill hope in them?

I want them to know that we are on the right side of history. Our mission is one of love, authenticity, and equality for all people regardless of our differences. It may be challenging. You may experience hatred, cruelty, and discrimination, but stay strong, keep moving forward, and surround yourself with the people who love you. And never stop loving yourself no matter what. United, we will combat fear with love and spread a message of compassion across the world. 

For more from The New Faces of Pride, be sure to return every day through the end of June!