Jeanne Heo

IMG_4730.JPG

Jeanne and I met in the strangest of ways. She was at The Line hotel lobby, listening to a woman retell her engagement story in the booth next to hers. That woman was me.

A week later, I had an art exhibition that featured 16 female artists called FEMININE PRODUCT and Jeanne heard about the exhibition and came through. When we were introduced by mutual friends, she told me that I was the woman whose story she had heard just weeks before. It felt a little destined to be so we made plans to meet soon after.

Our first coffee date happened in The Line lobby (naturally) and we cried sharing our life stories, both being Korean-American, both being from Washington state. The thing about Jeanne is, in the work she does at Nous Tous Gallery, and with her new series Proud Asian Woman, there is a depth about her that a surface level friendship could never satisfy. She asks the questions, she responds with honesty and vulnerability, she really does want to know how you’re doing when she asks. The events she hosts are those of deep care and somehow always tethered to community (whether it be her LA community, her Proud Asian Women community or other communities she’s opened spaces for). She processes out loud and in a way that is not showy but challenges a “norm” and people rally around her because she carries a spirit of leadership, and it’s always by example.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Epitome of a dilettante. A socially high-functioning introvert. Gemini sun, Cancer rising, Libra moon and INFP if you’re into that stuff.

Where are you from? If you’re not from LA, what brought you out here?

My parents are split, so I grew up both in LA and Federal Way, WA. I moved back to LA in 2008 to be closer to my sister.

What are you working on that you’re excited about?

I created a talking circle for femme-identifying persons of AAPI heritage called Proud Asian Woman, and I’m excited (nervous) about the possibilities of it growing into something bigger. It’s my baby! The most inspiring thing about PAW are the conversations I’ve had with other Asian sisters about things like mental health, and the pressure of the model minority myth, the struggle for visibility, and the frustrating labor of having to prove our personhood to family and society. It’s been so healing to share our stories and have them validated in a safe space.

It might be too soon to announce, but I’m really excited to be working on a zine project with CARECEN, a border organization offering legal services to migrants and asylum seekers. The border crisis weighs heavy on my mind, and I’m looking forward to bringing my community together to raise awareness on this issue.

What are you currently struggling with?

Oof. I’m struggling to believe that someone is capable of loving me in the myriad of ways I yearn for. Struggling with finishing my personal projects.

At this moment, what are you grateful for?

I’m grateful for e-scooters and the current flexibility in my work schedule.

Where or how do you find rest?

Nature guarantees me the deepest rest. When it’s not easy to go to the beach or go for a hike, I try to incorporate the basic elements of earth, wind, water or fire into my day. Sometimes that looks like taking a long bath, walking around Echo Park Lake, riding an e-scooter on my way home to feel the breeze or journaling with candlelight at a bar. Solitude is also necessary for me to find rest.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? What’s the greatest piece of encouragement?

When I moved back to LA, I worked as a fashion director for a non-profit organization that produces an annual magazine and runway show to raise awareness on human trafficking. I procrastinated on producing this big photoshoot and it showed.

When the creative director wanted to reshoot, I was so embarrassed. I felt like a fraud and wanted to quit.

The creative director had a really honest talk with me and acknowledged that I felt ashamed about being a college dropout and that I didn’t think I had much in my life to be proud of. He encouraged me to “make this something you can be proud of.”

I’ll never forget that talk because someone met me exactly where I was at and spoke to me with compassion instead of reprimand. The four years I spent working at the npo is one of my proudest achievements, and I have to thank the creative director, Jonathan Huang, for believing in me. Jonathan is someone I still reach out to for advice and encouragement. He is now teaching me graphic design.

When you’re a cute grandma (grandpa) at 85, where do you picture yourself and what are you doing?

I picture myself taking walks around the park with a fluffy dog and people watching. At 85, I’m involved in an intergenerational community because I believe passing on wisdom to the youth is important. I can’t and don’t want to imagine a life not being close to my sister, so I’m probably talking shit and cracking jokes with Joanne while we get our halmoni perms.

Sarah Kim