"Unfortunately Jaws is not my real name. But it’s a nickname that’s stuck with me all my life. I was pretty obsessed with sharks when I was younger, I used to watch all the movies about them and it was fixated in me. But the real reason it matters was because when I was younger I was not very clear on gender. Like I didn’t think I was a boy or a girl…true story. So because of that when I was really little I called myself Jaws or Zack. This went on for a really long time. It was at the point where I would write that as my name on all my homework and school papers. It was my identity. My mom was really cool about it. She was a schoolteacher and worked with a lot of different type of children so she understood how to nurture me the right way. Since she was cool with it, so were my counselors and everyone else for that matter. It was something I eventually grew out of – I started calling myself Julie again when I realized I was a girl. But I was still always a tomboy. I grew up hanging around my dad and my brother a lot and I was happy with who I was. The name Julie stuck around until I got into show business. I told one of my theater partners about this story and from that point forward no one would ever call me Julie – so Jaws stuck as my nickname/stage name and now essentially my business name.
My confusion with gender was never really a big issue for me when I was in school. I went to a pretty open elementary school - it was an arts school. Honestly whenever it came up no one really ever thought anything of it. They would always say “ She’s just being silly”. They were never afraid of it; I think the generation after me was afraid of it. My case is different than most though because I didn’t grow up and still think I was a boy. I grew up and started visually seeing differences in me…like features you know… I was like oh I look different now. When I was younger I didn’t understand it and that’s how simple things are when you are a child. People sometimes forget that about kids – they’re impressionable. When you’re younger you look at everyone around you and you look at yourself and you compare. So yeah it wasn’t as difficult for me as it might be for some people who may be having confusion in today’s society but I had a good support system. Everyone was super accepting of me; my mom never told me I was doing anything wrong. When I said, “well why can’t I be a boy?” – she let me be and said you’ll find out one day! She was patient – I think a lot of people today aren’t.
For anyone who does have confusion, I would just say the number one thing is to ask yourself what makes you happy. We forget that there are so many people who are just going to accept you for you. Times are changing and its something I think that’s getting to be more acceptable – though it should have always been that way. Just be you and whatever makes you happy, go with it in full force.
What do I do now? It’s interesting because I was just having this conversation with some people about this topic. This is the new age of person, of people. Before, when you asked someone what they do, it was a simple question. Nowadays its really not because when you think about the things people are doing today, its not just their job. There are people out there really following their passions in addition to their day job. So for me, it’s not one set answer, it’s a couple of things. If I were to give the typical title for myself, I would say I’m an Instructor/ Creative Director at Shadow Box. But I also model with Wilhelmina Models and occasionally I perform for different performing arts shows. But the fact that I’m good at a lot of different things shouldn’t mean I’m “unfocused”. I hate when people say that. I think this is an interesting conversation because people used to always say to me “You need to focus, you need to focus on one thing Jaws” and I would be like “No! You’re just not good at multitasking”. I can do all these different things because to me they call connect to one another…each thing I do, I wouldn’t do unless I thought it would be making me better as a person. I would never do anything that I view as a waste of time. We get too caught up trying to narrow down what we’re good at when we can do it all. So that’s been my new approach to what I do or what job I do. I’m an artist, I’m a creator, and I’m a creative thinker. So yeah I couldn’t give you just one answer. I’d say I’m adaptable.
There are a couple of things I love about being an instructor. Two parts actually. One, I just love boxing. It’s such a brilliant craft…mind, body, and soul. It takes so much to be a good boxer and it’s about continual growth. The second thing is, I love teaching – (and I get to teach boxing which is something I love). I love teaching because…it’s this weird thing where they’re looking to me for inspiration when in fact I’m the one finding inspiration in the clients. It’s this circular thing where you keep trying to evolve yourself and inspire but you end up being inspired by things you don’t expect. Seeing other people fight for something every day is pretty cool. Everyone is in that room for a reason. I don’t care what their motivation is…It could be positive, it could be negative. If your motivation is something deep and dark – I love it. Because motivation is motivation to me. Whatever is that place you need to go to get over that hump, find it, embrace it.
Growing up, I honestly believed I was born to be a performer. From day one I’ve believed that. I was going to art schools as a child…when I was in elementary school I was a gifted dancer, I could draw and sculpt. I would explore anything that was creative. When it comes to performance, I was always addicted to any sort of adrenaline rush and that would be live theater or just being behind the camera…live in the moment. I feel like performing arts allowed me to release myself in a way that can’t otherwise be done. It’s funny because I feel I’m a great communicator in those creative settings, explaining my message through dance or performance but in real life I feel like I’m a poor communicator. I used to jokingly call non-artists “muggles” because it was so difficult explaining myself to them. I was like “ugh I have to talk to muggles today, they just don’t understand me, and they don’t understand artists”. I don’t call them that anymore….as much. But anyway, art was the one thing for me that connected the dots to normal people. They saw what I did and they appreciated it, they respected it, they wanted to do it.
There were so many memorable moments for me that I look back on but a couple in particular that really stood out. There was this one time I got to perform during Thanksgiving at Jets Stadium for their halftime show with Rock of Ages. We were on stage in the middle of this huge stadium…looking at all these people…it was surreal. This moment that I would probably never get to experience again that made me love everything about what I do. It wasn’t even about any particular thing that happened during the performance but rather just the feeling of being there. Living in that moment, it’s a feeling I can’t really describe. Another time I got this feeling was when I danced for a Victoria Secret Fashion show with the Black Eyed Peas. The production value was the craziest thing ever, the energy, the passion, everyone’s vibes were bouncing off of each other. The audience, the models…everybody was dialed in. I’ve done the show a couple of times but nothing compared to this particular performance, it was just different. I will never forget that night and how good it made me feel.
There have been some tough times before getting to do some of these things though. I’ve been fired a lot. Not just once. Not just twice. Many times. I’ve even been fired twice in one summer. One of the problems when you like doing a lot of things is you have a lot more chances to get fired. But I think getting let go…being fired so many times really put things into perspective for me. I sat back and examined the process of it. At first, you’re always kind of in a shock. Especially if you still liked what you were doing. Some people get fired and they don’t really care because they hated it. You feel confused, annoyed, your routine is going to be out of sorts and we’re so comfortable with routine so that’s then a problem. But I really learned a lot from these experiences. The number one thing I learned was I deserved each and everyone one of them. There should never be regrets. Absolutely that statement is very true and honest; but accountability is also important. There are two things, one is reviewing the reasons you got fired and what you may have done wrong and taking those learnings with you on your next route. But the other half of it is learning to be true to yourself. Most of the times I got fired was because I stood up for myself and that’s something I feel we’ve been taught to not do. When you start feeling like you’re being locked in or owned by someone is where I draw the line and I know that it’s not right when a company or corporation believe that’s their right. My abilities are my abilities, what I’ve created with my body is mine. You can’t teach talent and my talents are my own. That’s something I was given and I’ve worked for. You can put a shiny bow on it and pretend you did all the work but people know that’s not true. This all taught me to be a stronger and to be my own person, always. See fear isn’t in actually being fired, it’s facing the unknown of what comes after.
What’s next for me? Honestly, I’ve grown to be so practical. As much of a dreamer I am, I would have two answers for what I wish to do. In the fake mystical world, I would probably be…and this is going to sound crazy…an action movie performer. I’d love to be that girl doing stunts, climbing things, fighting, diving, and all that crazy stuff. In the practical world…where do I believe I belong is Shadowbox. Helping progress this company is something I love. Shadowbox is going to be huge, its going to have much success and I’m 100% behind the brand. Whether it be the image, the message, the people I work with that I really appreciate, respect and am inspired by – I love everything about it. Just being the creative director excites me because I get to help move us in the right direction and I’d love to help impact more people around the country. I think that’s my end goal for sure and that’s the practical one – the one I see in my future.
For the dreamers reading this, the advice I have is to stay focus and find inspiration around you. For me, random things and random people can inspire me. My father, my mother of course (even though I have to say that) – just kidding, but also friends, strangers, art, music. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve randomly listened to just a solo cello playing and just had so many ideas that burst into my mind. Inspiration is everywhere; you have to just look for it. Its even in me, I inspire myself to do bigger and better things. Other than that you have to stay focused. You have to believe that you can do something because it puts all the right energy behind it. You can’t just expect things to happen for you. You have to make them happen. You have to work hard…you have to keep working hard. I remember once I was at a show performing and when we were done Madonna came to the dressing room to talk to us. She told us what an amazing job we did but she stopped and looked around at each of us and said “But never stop working, never stop dancing, all of you in here, every single one of you have room to grow. You’re all stronger than you think, and I know there’s more. It’s never enough, there’s always more. “ So that would be my message. Someone’s always out there more tired than you. Someone’s always more busy. Someone’s always working harder. What are you going to do to make your dreams a reality? Find something you love and dedicate yourself to it. "
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