Need to Know: Our Lady J
By Noah Michelson
Trans singer-songwriter Our Lady J first met Daniel Radcliffe at a party given by a mutual friend in 2008. In the spring of 2009, the tabloids got wind of their friendship and began pumping out a stream of wild and uniformed headlines about "Harry Potter's drag queen friend." At the time, Radcliffe and Our Lady J merely acknowledged their friendship and happily left the world to wonder about its exact details. Now, in our September cover story, they chat about magic, music, trans visibility, and finding Daniel a date when he moves to New York City to star in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. We caught up with Our Lady J on the eve of the cover story hitting the web to find out a little bit more about her music, her friendship with the actor, and her brand-new boobs.
OutHow did you choose the name Our Lady J?
Our Lady J: I was reading Jean Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers at the time and it really moved me -- not only because it was one of the first novels that had a trans person as the main character, but because it was just a beautiful piece of poetry. I wanted to honor that and the effect that it had on my art, so I chose 'Our Lady' and the 'J' stands for my legal name, Jonnah. That's an homage to my family because we're all J's.
Just like the Duggars! Do you know the Duggars? They're a crazy couple with like 20 kids and they have their own reality show. All of the names of their children begin with J.
I'm sorry -- having 20 children is morally irresponsible [laughs].
The mother likes to say 'Children are like flowers: You can never have too many.'
[Laughs] Honey! Talk about an out-of-control carbon footprint.
Among other things. And they're incredibly religious --
Of course they are'
And you were also raised in a severely religious environment. How did your upbringing influence your music?
Well, the name I chose also has religious connotations to it, Our Lady being the mother of God. So, that was a bit of rebellion against the religion. I grew up Pentecostal and to be taught that who you are at your core is morally wrong really sets someone on a path of exploration from a young age. I feel like that is reflected in my music and in my lyrics and not only through rebellion but through genuine spiritual inquisition. I had to look at myself and say Am I really morally wrong for being who I am? I used music as a way to explore that and also to reach other people who might be looking for the same answers as I was when I was younger, or the same answers that I will continue to look for.
What's your relationship with religion now?
I consider myself to be a spiritual person, but not a religious person. I understand religion -- finally [laughs]. I really understand its place in society but I think it's constantly misused and abused to put people down and it's used as a power tool rather than a personal path.
You just released your first single, a cover of "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails, from your upcoming album, The Gospel Electric. Why did you choose to cover that song?
The song is about self-mutilation in some way and moving forward through that. I believe it was written about addiction, but my take on it is the preservation of innocence. When I heard it for the first time it was Trent Reznor singing it and then I heard Johnny Cash's version and both versions had such different meanings for me. Cash's was a man looking back on his life and being filled with regret. Reznor's was a man who was in the midst of pain. So I wanted to do a take on it that was more about transcendence through a painful period. That's why I made it such a big sound and in the end it turns into a dance beat that I hope people find transcendent.