Itty Bitty Titty Committee actress and international supermodel Jenny Shimizu has been on the path of superstardom since college, but she is really beginning to strike gold with the passion of respect, love and loyalty in her heart. Embarking on a new venture with Women-Direct Model in New York, Shimizu sat down to chat with The Seattle Lesbian to discuss the past, the future and those pesky little rumors that start with “A” and end with “a”….
You attended California State University, Northridge on a basketball scholarship. We had no idea over here that you were such a sports enthusiast. What else might your fans be surprised to know about you? I wasn’t actually planning on going to college and then I registered late and my dad went down and asked if I could try out for the basketball team because I had been playing basketball my whole life and had done really well. They told me to go down and try out and I did and was made a part of the team. I was on the team, but didn’t get to play for the next four seasons (one year) but it was great because I didn’t have to miss out on a full year that way.
Your androgynous look was what initially paved the way to your famous introduction to fashion mogul Calvin Klein. How did that come about? I wasn’t really planning to do that as a career and was definitely caught off-guard. I wasn’t really prepared and didn’t even have a passport or anything! I had to pack up a small bag, go to New York, get a passport, and then the rest is history. The next week I was on a plane to Milan on my way to meeting Gianni Versace.
I imagine you have many interesting stories under your proverbial belt regarding that time in your life as a young model. Oh, yeah [laughs]. I have many, many stories. When I look back in hindsight, I can definitely see that I never said “no” and I never turned anything down that scared me. I took the opportunity to do everything. I made myself available for the projects that came along and never let fear get in the way.
Do you ever get tired of being referred to in the media as “the androgynous Jenny Shimizu?” Well, you know, I think that that is how I look. I still look that way today, except that today I have short, bleached blonde hair because I just worked for a job that required me to look that way modeling. Look, your differences are really your strengths. I think that it was definitely a strength for me to come and just be myself. 50-percent of [this business] is yeah, how you look. The other 50-percent in order to be a great model is having a great personality and something a bit more special. Every model is beautiful, but not every model has that extra “thing” and that “thing” is the confidence that sets you apart.
You have played the part of role model to many women around the world who may look a little different or are struggling to come out of the closet and live truthfully. How does that responsibility weigh on you? I guess I have to be careful about what I do and say – especially now that I am older. It’s such a gift to have people tell you that you have affected them in a positive way.
How do you feel about using labels in the LGBT community? Would you argue for them or against them? When I came out when I was younger, the only real label out there was “lesbian” and that was hard to hide. That was another part of myself and I never felt like it was something that I had to hide at all. I was kind of fortunate. I think there are many fractions in our community now and I think that’s good because people are educating themselves. They are coming out and realizing that there might be more than just “gay,” “bisexual,” or “straight” and I respect them for that. I don’t live in their shoes so I am not here to judge anybody about anything. My label for myself has just always been “queer.”
A lot of people have very strong feelings about labeling. Yeah, I think that everybody has their opinions on themselves and on other things. With me, I always feel like – if someone were to mislabel another person, it’s doesn’t have to be a heated debate. There are so many layers and it’s hard to just see someone and know exactly what they are and how they are choosing to present themselves and all. You get more bees with honey, basically.
You know that right now I’m referring to… Yeah and no, no, it never happened [laughs]. I have no idea what you are talking about.
You were in Ellen’s [DeGeneres] ‘Coming Out’ episode. How proud are you of Ellen today? Oh, yeah, I mean, come on. She’s an iconic role model for everybody and to come out and be better than ever and perservere and not go back into the closet or apologize for her lifestyle, she’s part of our team. There’s so much to be said for people like that. She knows that she represents a huge community and has such a great responsibility and she does it so well! I cannot even imagine the amount of pressure she must be under to support and hold up the community.
Also, one of my proudest moments was to be involved with that show. No one knew. I mean, everybody was in tears. It opened the lines of communication for so many children and parents and you would not believe how many people the show touched. I was just so honored to be a part of that.
You are stepping behind-the-scenes as an agent at the modeling agency Women-Direct Model in New York. What makes you most excited about this venture? I have a wealth of information in this business and I never knew what I would do with it. I moved back to New York and had the opportunity to intern and learn at the modeling agency. If I’m taking action and I’m learning something, I look at it as it’s a great experience and opportunity. I realized that this opportunity was where I could really contribute. I am so grateful that I have an outlet to really help these young girls learn about this business – to teach them that it’s not about them personally, but about the business when things don’t work out, etc. You just have to keep going. It’s really nice to be able to talk to these girls and help them along. I want to make sure that they are safe, making money and taking care of themselves. This is another gift from the universe to me. I feel very respected in this role.
Speaking of respect… I am in a place where I love to be and feel very confident in knowing this business. It’s nice to be respected for past work and not for who I’ve bedded [laughs].