WHAT DO YOU CHAMPION: CAMILLE JANSENAugust 14, 2017
What do you #Champion? This month, we teamed up with Champion to ask a group of inspiring interdisciplinary creatives what matters most to them. From art to politics, storytelling to authenticity, get inspired by the causes that are prompting them to dream big.
The mythos of French beauty extends to Camille Jansen, petite seventeen-year-old model, singer, and internet personality. The too-liberally applied idea of je ne sais quoi quickly comes to mind when flipping through her Instagram. She rarely photographs in makeup, her hair is unceremoniously straight and cropped around her face, and she just added braces to the mix. On paper, I had a very similar vibe when I was a bit younger than Jansen, and it certainly didn’t garner any international modelling jobs or social media fandom. Her beauty has that effortless quality, which is as aspirational as it is difficult to emulate.
But deeper than that, there is a distinct, contemporary malaise reflected in Jansen’s selfies— a particular honesty that is in conversation with the zeitgeist (whether Jansen intends it or not). They are photos of a beautiful, bi-national blonde looking bored on the edge of her bed; or tired in a face-mask; or full of ennui on the Fourth of July; or with her face in her hands, pouting in a big denim jacket, bralette, bathing suit, t-shirt, silk ensemble, hoodie, or naked with careful composition. More than half of her photos feature a variation of this emotionally candid pose. She allows the public to witness her as a private, bedroom mirror reflecting her image, rather than a saturated Photobooth at fancy party. She shares with followers her moments of repose— moments in between excitements, events, and friend meet-ups.
And to be clear, something about this is connecting and electric. Jansen’s feed is refreshing in a virtual world of overly-made-up, hyper-edited, and painfully curated young adults. With nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram alone (and a community of fans on Tumblr, Youtube, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc), her career is burgeoning. She signed with an agent in London in the recent past, opening doors into multi-disciplined gigs as a model, filmmaker, and singer. Jansen has a serious platform— the first video of her singing has attracted over 1.3 million views on Youtube— and she plans to use it as a way to champion honesty rather than creating a persona or a false narrative of her personal life. We talked to her about the importance of following your heart and building self-confidence at any age, especially as a young woman navigating an increasingly connected and social world.
Interview by Katherine Noble, Photos by Laurel Golio.
What do you Champion? How did this become a passion?
I champion following your heart. I have always been a pretty open person, and emphatic about my personal values and opinions. But as a high schooler, I realize more than ever the importance of knowing my true self and solidifying what I want out of my life, rather than just reacting to who other people want me to be.
For example, last year I decided that after I graduate I want to take time off before starting university to work on my career and travel. I immediately began saving up so I could make this a reality. At first, it was difficult for my family to understand why I was so set on doing my own thing rather than following a conventional path. But over time they have seen that my dreams are pretty unwavering. I think they sense my commitment to doing what I feel is right for myself, and they have become incredibly supportive of my not-so-normal goals.
Who is a personal hero of yours? What do they Champion?
Amy Winehouse has been a personal hero to me. I have been inspired by her music for years— I love that kind of soul and jazz that you really have to live to create. I watched the documentary, Amy, and was struck by how very, very, very real she was. I mean, she was authentic on and off camera— she was just so unapologetically herself. She didn’t want the fame and she ignored what other people wanted from her and for her. So even though her life was f*cked up, this insanely raw, beautiful music came out of it, and she has this really influential legacy even after passing away so young. She championed authenticity, which is big for me.
Can you name a couple key turning points on your journey so far? What are some things that have determined who you are today?
You know, this could sound superficial, but a few months ago I recorded a video of me playing the piano and singing a song I wrote, and it felt like a step into something new for me since I hadn’t really used social media for music things before. The video got over a million views. My mind was blown, I have no idea how it happened. I think people’s generous response to that song has helped me to remember that things are just beginning. I have a lot of music I want to share with people, and I am lucky that my agency is encouraging me to try out a variety of things— singing, modelling, and film— so that I can kind of test different interests out and see where it leads me.
Please share a favorite book, artist, or musician that has recently affected you.
I went to see Willow Smith, who I love, and was totally blindsided by the woman opening for her, Jessie Reyez whose music I hadn’t heard. She was absolutely amazing—I was crying! She has this powerful song about how the music industry asks women artists to compromise certain things. And she was incredibly vulnerable with her own story about men in the music industry trying to take advantage of her— I felt really moved by her honesty and her performance.
Please share a ritual that helps you recentre.
I actually spend a lot of time alone, which keeps me feeling re-centered. I live 20 minutes outside of Paris, and go into the city to attend an international high school. So I really love going into the city by myself and walking around. It’s such a beautiful city, and it can just be rejuvenating to explore the neighborhoods. I am naturally a people person, and being with my best friends energizes me to a point, but I’m definitely someone who recharges alone.
Describe your current personal style. What’s a favorite clothing piece of yours?
I have described my personal style before as “whatever floats my boat” and I think it’s still how I feel about it. I don’t have a particular style that I’m committed to— I like trying out different looks. I’m not the girliest of girls but I’ll still feel amazing on the special occasions when I’m out in a silk dress. I decide pretty impulsively that I love something and then wear it until I fall in love with another look. Right now, I’ve been feeling good in a pair of wide leg trousers.
What are a few things we can do to champion following your heart?
As cliché as it sounds, don’t care what other people think of you— especially when you are in junior high or high school. At the end of the day, when you are in your bedroom or walking down the street, you are alone inside your own skin. So, you have to figure out what it means to be your best individual, smart self. I think being authentically you is a journey, and your gut will help direct you toward who you really want to be.
I think following your heart means being open and receptive to all the advice you can get before solidifying your opinion. I am bad at this, since I tend to be very direct and opinionated, but my parents always offer really good advice and I am learning to not be so quick to dismiss it. Also, following your heart means asking good questions and getting involved in a variety of things to figure out what you love.
How did you get started recording videos on YouTube? What did you feel like you wanted to accomplish in those early videos? Has that changed?
In 2013, when I was in 8th grade, I joined different social media apps. I got a private Instagram and also started recording myself in some silly videos and posting them on YouTube. I had had a tough year and felt isolated, and social media seemed like a way to connect with people outside my school and community. It was so helpful for me to explore that and because I didn’t have an audience at first, I was just very free to record videos that I thought were fun and real. I found out quickly that there was a group of like-minded people I could connect with online. After a couple years of recording these videos and expanding my online friend group, I took the plunge in 2015 and made my Instagram public. I was surprised that it grew really really quickly after that. I have tried to think of a good answer about how all that happened or why people followed me— I think it helped that I posted a lot of fun photos of my friends and me hanging out, or just like me solo without being all done up. I think people felt that the photos were true to real life.
What are some specific difficulties that people who were seventeen a decade or two ago did not have to consider— especially during the heyday of social media?
I try to be mindful and take time to unplug from social media, but honestly it is hard because it’s so ingrained in our daily lives and it’s how we connect with our family and friends when they aren’t right in front of us.
Girls are tempted to assume someone is their Instagram. I understand that the line can feel blurred, especially for younger kids who follow celebrities or strangers without understanding the difference between real life and the photos that can be edited or posed. So much of my day I am living totally offline— especially since I make a conscious effort to not post a ton of Instagram stories or do live videos— I want to live my actual life. For example— during fashion week, I went to a club with a friend, which was uncharacteristic for us both, so we were not prepared for the vibe, and we were wearing sweatshirts and tourist merch. It was liberating to not worry about how we were looking, or how we would photograph the night. Of course a million girls were there taking videos and photos to post, and it was fun to be on the outside of that, just dancing and being goofy for the sake of being goofy. I honestly think that feeling is happening less and less often. So we need to keep reminding ourselves that real life often happens outside of social media, and that that fact is as true for me as it is for celebrities with insane amounts of followers.
What do you think are some particular benefits to growing up during mass globalization and connectivity? What do you like about YouTube and Instagram as platforms for connectivity and relationships?
Instagram and YouTube are amazing platforms to meet open-minded people from all over the world. For so long, people were limited to their physical communities until they moved out of their parents’ house and established themselves elsewhere. But now, I am able to post something and have it seen by people of all ages anywhere in the world. It’s an incredible privilege. I feel so lucky to be able to connect via DM and videos with new friends in other countries, many of whom I have yet to meet in the real world. I think the possibility for connection has changed the mindset of a lot of teenagers today— they really feel like anything is possible. Teens aren’t waiting around for their lives to start, they are working hard to follow their dreams right now.
Follow Camille on Instagram