Ili Jean

Photo: Denise Lecusay
Photo: Denise Lecusay

Brownsville based pin-up model Ili Jean discusses Andy Warhol, makeup, and inspiration.

Q: What songs are in heavy rotation on your MP3 player right now?

Right now anything by: Johnny Thunders, France Gal, The Clash, The Velvet Underground, Wanda Jackson, The Shangri Las, The Ventures.
Q: You do a lot of conceptual shoots. How much of that is you, and how much of that is the photographers you choose to work with?

One can’t function without the other; a pack of wolves is as good as the hungriest wolf, and we’re all starving to do exactly what’s on our minds. I am very fortunate to be able to work with such artistically driven individuals; we work together on producing photo concepts that fill our goblet of creativity. As of late we have been taking a more avant garde approach which has kept our minds busy with tons of new in depth ideas.

Q: You don’t see a lot of pin-up models in Brownsville, Texas. What’s the scene like there? Do you find yourself mostly traveling for shoots?

Brownsville is a small town with a lot of room grow , the photographers I work with regularly, live here in the Rio Grande Valley, but I do mostly travel to perform more so than shoots.
Q: What are your top three favorite cosmetic products and why?

— Magic Power by Prescriptive is a translucent powder that gives skin a shimmery glow after you have applied your make up. I never leave home without it.
— Show Dior mascara is the only mascara on earth that has ever worked for me. The consistency is thick but not clumpy. I used it even after applying false eyelashes; it is a female must have!
— Dior black eyeliner maybe the most difficult eyeliner to take off, but by far the best! It will not budge!

Photo: Denise Lecusay
Photo: Denise Lecusay

Q: If you could sit down to dinner with 5 people, living or dead, who would they be and why?

A famous Baroque painter named Peter-Paul Rubens. Definitely Andy Warhol just as long as he doesn’t leave me barefoot and glamorous in New York City like Edie Sedgwick. Come to think of it I would really love to see what Rubens would have to say to Warhol about art and vice-versa. Jayne Mansfield, because a dinner party requires both beauty and class. Then maybe Buddy Holly and Joe Strummer. Joe Strummer has always had allot to say so I’m sure the conversation won’t get boring- as for Buddy, I could be the girl in “True Love Ways”.

Q: Your weight and weight loss have been topics you are open about through your blog. In a modern society of “thinner is better” beauty ideals, you have still maintained a high self-esteem. What advice would you give ladies who are struggling with weight issues?

My weight loss was a gradual process taking over a year. My weight will continue to yo-yo give or take a few pounds. I believe it was an overall good decision to get some more exercise and be healthier. I was never dissatisfied with what I weighed before; I just knew I was not getting enough exercise.

Today’s socially imposed beauty standards are unrealistic and frankly unachievable. One can spend a life time trying to climb the beauty ladder to perfection, but the truth is our bodies will continue to change as we do. I hope to inspire women to accept themselves and realize you can be beautiful and full figured.
Q: You maintain that higher education is a top priority. How do you manage to keep a firm head on your shoulders, and balance your shooting/performing schedule with school?

At times it feels there are just not enough hours in the day for it all. I have a planner I write in religiously, planning day by day. After I graduate with a bachelor’s degree I would like to get my master then continue school and get my PhD. So looks like I have to start getting used to the busy life early!

Q: You talk about the concept of re-invention. Do you view your alter egos as extensions of yourself with personalities all their own?

I view them simply as extensions of myself. A prism has many facets, and this is just one reflection of my many colorful artistic genres. I am constantly reinventing and craving creation; it’s a concept that never leaves me.
Q: If 100 years from now, there is an “Ili Jean” legacy, what would you want it to be?

Ultimately, I just want to have a positive influence on women, I would like to inspire through burlesque, art, and education.
Q: What does the future hold for Ili Jean? Any upcoming projects we should know about?

At the moment I am going to school full time, and hopefully by next semester will continue my studies at the University of North Texas in Denton. Right now the sky is the limit; I am excited to see what the future holds for me. When I think of what the future holds I always remember a great quote by Leslie Caron, which I hope to live by.

“I think it’s the end of progress if you stand still and think of what you’ve done in the past. I keep on.”
– Leslie Caron

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