Jaki Nelson has two top ten dance hits with “What We Wanna Do” and “Uh Oh.” Her latest song “Dancing with Strangers” celebrates her bi-sexuality, produced by Grammy Winner Dave Aude who has created dance remixes for Rhianna, Lady Gaga and Madonna.
What was it like growing up in LA?
Growing up in Los Angeles is different than other places. You can tell how famous a person’s parents are by how strange their first name is. 7th graders talk about their low-carb diets and follow specific exercise plans outside of a sports-based lifestyle. At the same time, though, growing up here is just like anywhere else. There’s the cool kids and the not-so-cool kids. We’re all worried about the future and getting into college, and maybe falling in love somewhere along the way.
Please share the story of what happened that fateful day you went horseback riding?
I grew up with horses. By the time we got to that fateful day, I was riding up to four hours a day. On that afternoon, I had already trained my two horses, and was asked to train one of my friend’s horses that had been acting up. Well, he continued to act up! After running and bucking as far as he possibly could get from the barn, he managed to throw me off. I just remember waking up on the ground unable to breathe and the world spinning. I don’t get dizzy ever, so it was a strange sensation. I ended up in the hospital. I don’t have a lot of memories from the hospital. My spleen had burst and was bleeding toxic blood back into my body. They had to remove it. Good times!
What inspires your creativity?
My life inspires everything I make. A regular theme in my visuals are the bisexual flag colors: blue, pink and purple. My hair is purple and blue. My love life, or lack thereof, inspires my music. I try to make sure that everything I put out represents me, who I am and who I would like to be.
I am drooling over that black lacy thing you are wearing during a Fashion Week performance. Do you have stylist or costume designer?
I didn’t have any kind of infrastructure like that at the time. I found that piece at Nasty Gal three years ago. Still love that thing. Nowadays, I work with one of my best friends, Leo Madrid, on everything from my costumes, hair, and even down to my day-to-day makeup choices.
How hard is it to dance and sing at the same time?
It’s not as hard as it seems. But I have to work hard to keep my cardio up. The hardest part is getting through a whole dance break, then going right back into an intense vocal moment and not letting the audience hear the heavy breathing.
To an extent, yes. But I definitely have had to deal with some mansplaining moments. There was a producer I worked with a while back, I won’t name any names, but I sent him a topline (for non-musicians, a top-line is the acapella used to build a song), and he sent me back a track that was in a different key than the acapella. He thought it “sounded cool”, so I go in there and try to explain why exactly E major and C major aren’t going to work on the same track, and he would not listen to me. Meanwhile, I’ve got about 10 years of experience in classical piano and music theory. Finally, I got the other (male) writer to contact him to tell him basically the exact same thing, and we got the song back in the right key within 24 hours.
Monumental eye roll.
Your videos are very sexy. Are they fun to film?
They’re so fun to film. A little awkward at some times, but everyone on set is always super professional, so it’s always a great time. I am super proud of “Dancing With Strangers”, and the great team behind it including Grammy-winner Dave Aude (Lady Gaga, Rihanna), because of how explicit it is. A lot of female artists nowadays come out as bisexual, but don’t follow it up by showing that part of themselves. They’ll have a video come out a few months later where they’re kissing a man, but never a woman. I think there’s morality and visibility issues there.
How did your parents react when you came out as being bi?
At first, I think they didn’t really believe me. They didn’t ask a lot of questions, which is unusual for them. Finally, one night, my dad’s best friend straight up asked if I’m doing this for attention. I just looked at him and said “I’ve been dating girls since I was 14.” I think he relayed the message.
Shortly after that, I had a bit of a sit down with my mom, and she’s awkwardly like “So… you’re…gay?” Nope. “So, you’re bi?” Yes. “Oh! You’re just like your mommy!” My mom is bi. One thing I think we need to talk more about in the community is the overwhelming amount of disbelief that comes from saying that you’re bisexual. It’s so weird. They’re super supportive now, though.
Do you think that coming out has helped your career, hindered your career, or made no difference at all?
Coming out has introduced me to this community that I was afraid to tap into. It’s been so supportive and loving and has given me a platform to spread the message of love and acceptance. I’m so grateful for it.