How Jaime King finds strength in the shadows

Jaime King has transitioned from 90s grunge fashion muse to actress, activist and mother. In addition to “Hart of Dixie” and “Escape Plan 2,” she appears as a lead actress in the indie film “Bitch,” about a mom in the 70s who feels so stressed and overlooked she takes on the psyche of a dog. In this shoot, Jaime takes us through the many sides of her personality — inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins — and reflects on her life in the spotlight so far.

When I think of the women I’ve looked up to, the first person who comes to mind is my sister, Barry.

She came out at a young age in Omaha, Nebraska. Without the internet, there wasn’t a community she could take refuge in. But she was so connected to who she is, she couldn’t pretend to live or feel any other way.

My mom is the other person I think of. My mom adopted my sister when she was 24 and pregnant with me, and my sister was 13. Think of a 24-year-old, pregnant with her first child, adopting a teenager. It blows my mind.

A big shift in me happened when I was diagnosed with endometriosis and poly-cystic ovary syndrome, which are very painful reproductive illnesses. I also had countless miscarriages and almost lost my children.

I thought that because my womb didn’t work the way I was taught it should work, I was broken. We are told as women that our great value is to be able to carry life, to carry a child. If we’re fertile and abundant, we’re a worthy goddess. But for some reason, those parts don’t function for some of us.

When I was told I couldn’t carry a child, it crushed me in a way that was so much deeper than I could explain. I felt ashamed that I was suffering every day. I would wake up in pools of blood, and feel ashamed. And then I said, fuck this. I’m not going to be ashamed.

We need to talk about these things. We grow up with a mentality that menstruation is not supposed to be painful, and if it is, you deal with it yourself and don’t complain. We need to talk about this and spread as much awareness as we can. Girls as young as 12 get diagnosed with endometriosis and PCOS. When you’re living with it, it can be constant agony.

The possibility of Planned Parenthood being defunded sends me into such a rage. The free birth control provided by Planned Parenthood not only suppresses endometriosis, but also protects your fertility. So girls who don’t know they have endometriosis are at least treating it with birth control and taking the only medication out there to suppress these conditions. It’s preserving life.

When I started campaigning for Hillary Clinton, I lost about 80,000 followers on Instagram. But those who are put in the spotlight have a very, very big responsibility. We have to be true to ourselves. I’ve been conditioned to put out this perfect illusion — I’m supposed to look beautiful, speak beautifully, be beautiful, and be this unattainable thing. But it’s not the truth for me or any of us.

With social media, everyone’s created a museum of what their life is. Do we want that museum to be halls of untruths and unattainable expectations? Or do we want to create a museum where people can walk through and cry or laugh in recognition and connection?

With this shoot, it was important for me to show the different masks that we wear on a day-to-day basis. We can become conscious of those masks by taking them off and learning who we are. We don’t learn who we are through Instagram or Twitter. Those can be great tools, but we learn who we are by going inside, looking at the shadows and the light sides of ourselves.

Coat by House of CB | Bra by Dyspnea | Shorts by Sugar Thrillz | Choker stylist’s own

We’re living in a time of excess and gluttony. We just want to consume everything around us whether it be food, beauty, or social media. It’s an insatiable need to consume.

That consumption is to push something down, and typically that’s sadness, fears, anxieties and concerns. What are all the distractions that we have? We shove our faces with a million different things. We numb ourselves to all the things we’re going through.

Kimono by Murmur | Lingerie set by La Perla | Earrings by Vida Kush | Shoes by House of CB | Ring by Stefere

My whole life, it feels like I’ve been sold through my imagery. A lot of the time, it’s about selling sex.

Society has celebrated and shamed sexuality at the same time. I remember feeling very confused as a young model because I’d be accused of leading people on if they thought I was too sexy or too beautiful. So I want these photos to be a celebration of that side we all have, that we can embrace and love without fear of being judged or harassed.

We can also harness our sexuality and sensuality and use it as a celebration of who we are. The idea is to make love not just to others, but to ourselves — celebrate this beautiful form, no matter what shape or size.

Corset by Elliot Joseph Rentz | Earrings by F+H Jewelry | Choker stylist’s own

We get so caught up in what we want our lives to look like. Everything is so manipulated. When we move into that space of manipulating our image because our soul needs to feel loved and gratified, we’re diminishing who we really are.

There will never be true validation from the outside world. It doesn’t matter how many accolades or awards or how much money you have. Some of the most famous people I know are some of the most unhappy people I know. They long for that feeling of being told they’re loved. I know that feeling because I have felt it.

People think if you’re surrounded by beautiful people and clothing and cars and fabulous places then you’ll somehow be embraced. But that’s not really what you’re embraced for, when it comes down to it.

Top by Current Mood | Briefs by Dolls Kill | Chaps by Understated Leather | Jacket by Hollywood Savage Society | Shoes by Joyce Echols | Hat by Rinaldy Yunardi | Crystal necklace by Jen Hansen | Star necklace by F+H Jewelry

I’ve been rebellious my entire life because I realized I wasn’t going to fit into anybody’s mold. Rebellion can have a negative connotation but to me it’s about saying I’m going to do whatever it takes to learn everything I can, to experience life and every single facet of it by trying different things.

The rebels are the ones changing this world. Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon, Gloria Steinem — they were rebels who had a vision and a dream that was so much greater than what people could understand at that time. And they got into trouble quite often, but they were able to change this planet.

Suit by Hollywood Savage Society | Tie stylist’s own

I’ve always felt masculine and feminine. I love men and I’ve chosen to be in a heterosexual marriage, but I’ve been in relationships with women and I love women, too.

I was called James at the start of my career because my mom called me that as a kid. I’ve always identified more with James than Jaime. I didn’t just want to be a girl or woman and I didn’t want to be a man. There’s no vocabulary for what I identify with. We’re all trying to find the words for such a complex thing. With more people expressing who they are, it’s so much healthier and so much better.

That’s what I tell my son, who one minute is wearing princess dresses and the next minute is chasing every chick in the preschool. One day he came home upset because someone said boys can’t wear makeup and it broke his heart. He didn’t understand why. Why can’t our children do whatever they want? I don’t want to tell my children “you’re this” or “you’re that.”

Top by Arrive | Bra and shorts by Baja East | Underwear by Calvin Klein | Shoes by Longchamp | Glasses by Le Specs | Wrap gloves by Everlast

The concept of strength reminds me of where I came from. I always knew what I wanted to do with my life. I always knew how to rise above my circumstances and the limitations of where I grew up.

If you come from a wealthy family, you’re getting a lot of opportunities to do things that kids in the midwest and elsewhere in the world would really love to do. Some kids don’t get opportunities just because they come from a certain background and that’s scary. I hope that every kid feels strong enough to know that no matter where they come from, if they have a vision and stick to it, there’s always a way to achieve what they want to achieve and I’m a living example of that.

I have a natural tendency to isolate. I’ve always been a loner. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was read books and go to the library and play with my imaginary friends. My mom said I was never sad and never had any pain until I reached the age where I felt like I had to be accepted by others.

That’s when I started getting bullied and not knowing how I’d make it through the day. I was terrified of school. It was even bad outside of school — kids would throw bricks of fireworks through my window onto my bed. They’d go to a party and call me to tease me. Horrors.

But I’m grateful that it happened. It taught me the importance of standing up for myself. It taught me I was a misfit, I was different, and I was going to have to find something outside the norm.

I had severe postpartum depression. I isolated myself. I was anxious all the time, I felt like I was unlovable. I couldn’t even think straight. I had to live through an entire pregnancy where I didn’t know if my child was going to live or die. I couldn’t even process the trauma because I was too busy trying to keep him and myself alive.

The judgment of yourself as a mother is consistent. So I’m really trying to find my identity of who I am as a mom. I’m trying to realize it’s okay to go to lunch for an hour with a girlfriend. If we’re not nurturing our souls and the things we love, it’s easy to get lost and lonely.

Vulnerability is our greatest strength. When you’re able to really speak and share from the heart, that’s when you truly connect with other people, which heals everything. None of this outside stuff matters if we’re with the people we love.

Photography by Jamie Nelson

Styling by Alexandra Mandelkorn

Makeup by Mynxii White

Hair by Dimitris Giannetos

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