This Women’s History Month, Atwood Magazine has invited artists to participate in a series of short essays in observance and celebration of the month’s significance. Today’s submission comes from alt-pop artist LACES – AKA Jessica Vaughn, who in addition to her solo project, helms Head Bitch Music, a multi-faceted, multi-service creative company. Originally signed at 18-years-old under the name Charlotte Sometimes, Vaughn learned first hand the traumas that come from being a young woman in the music industry. As LACES, Jessica Vaughn is starting a conversation.
Says Vaughn: “I’ve been in music professionally for 17 years and I am over the sexism, the gaslighting, and general double standards. This essay is for the outsiders: The benefit of being an outsider can far outweigh our inherit need to fit in.“
If someone was unable to see my dreams being realized, it didn’t mean I couldn’t realize them.
I’ve always existed a little left of center. I never found my squad, my people, or effortlessly fit into a group. Maybe I’ve never wanted to. I wouldn’t consider myself a “joiner” but I have friends to confide in and live somewhere on the periphery of full blown hermit and extroverted ham.
When deciding what path to take, I usually go for the grueling one. The one where you’re not sure you’re gonna make it but when you do you’re proud that you didn’t leave a piece of yourself behind.
There is no right way to live a life, but for me if I am not able to authentically be myself, stand in my truth, and work ethically then I simply disengage.
Most of my journey has been met with older white dudes telling me to pick a lane. I can’t be a songwriter and an artist; I can’t be an executive and an artist; I can’t climb the ranks in industry proper while building my own company. L, O fucking L.
I was told once I reached age 25 my career was over.
That you can only really succeed as a female artist if you’re young. I wasn’t believed and blamed when I was assaulted, I’ve been blacklisted, and a lot of people decided that I was washed up and a career in the industry wasn’t in the cards for me.
Lucky for me, they don’t get to write my story.
One of the benefits of not being raised by stage parents, being adopted, and not growing up with unlimited funds is that your status isn’t something you define yourself by. I am me no matter what I have or don’t have. If I am part of the haves or the have nots.
If I was poor, I would work. It didn’t have to be in music. In fact, I’ve worked at adult clubs, advertising companies, event planning, art directing, retail, co-working spaces, production companies, and more. This was after I was signed to a major label and when I was currently signed to Sony/ATV. I sat down and ate humble pie every day and I am better for it. Every non-music job taught me something that I use in my work now and if people thought less of me for it, it fell deaf on my ears.
I used to punish myself for not wanting the same things as everyone else, for taking the odd way to get somewhere, and for my radical candor. Thinking like that was exhausting, because I always ultimately did what I thought was best.
What if I gave myself permission to be myself? What if I celebrated it? What doors would open up for me? What would I be able to do for others? Somewhere along the way, I made a commitment to stay “weird.”
I decided that my goals would remain limitless. If someone was unable to see my dreams being realized, it didn’t mean I couldn’t realize them.
I could and would become an executive. Listen, if Beyoncé can run a clothing brand and release records, why couldn’t I run a custom music house and release records? Why does the public and industry alike tell you you have to be just one thing? Since when is anyone that one-dimensional? Why do we have to wait to become mega-stars to allow ourselves to do what we want and live up to our career potentials?
Perhaps, if we allowed everyone to be multi-dimensional and to come from all schools of thought and life, we might actually be able to build a better industry.
How about that?
All I know is that I am going to continue to be a Super Weirdo and surprise myself. I will be in the room you don’t expect me to be in. I will make music even if you don’t listen to it. I won’t apologize for working to dismantle the business of art so that we can lead with empathy. I will say the thing you’re thinking but are too afraid to say. I will name the predators by name in my business meetings. I will keep taking the long road. I will be myself.
I hope by doing so that you, the reader, will feel empowered to be a Super Weirdo too. They say the only way out is through, so let’s fuck shit up while were in the thick of it. What do you say? Wanna get weird? – LACES
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? © Shari Hoffman
:: LACES ::