Jazz Jennings is in Her Self-Care Era

Jazz Jennings’s reality TV show “I Am Jazz” aimed to increase trans visibility by showing she “was just a normal girl going through life, who just happened to be trans.” Now, Jazz is just a normal Harvard student, who also happens to make mermaid tails.


{shortcode-9e32dfdb8c377e15033f759ef2c5d6c2398b7977}azz Jennings ’25 is exactly like she is on her reality TV show. Maybe I should have anticipated this, but the extent of her bubbliness catches me off guard — on sitting down, Jennings immediately peppers me with questions. Tell me about yourself! How old are you? What do you study? Where did you live freshman year? We chat for a bit about first-year dorms and the Color Covid tests of yore. And suddenly, I realize I’ve forgotten that I’m supposed to be the one interviewing her.

Jennings grew up in the spotlight. Starting at age six, when Barbara Walters interviewed her and her family on “20/20,” Jennings has been publicly sharing her experience growing up transgender. At age 12, she started her own Youtube channel. Two years later, TLC aired the Jennings’ reality show “I Am Jazz,” which, Jennings says, increased trans visibility by showing that she “was just a normal girl going through life, who just happened to be trans.”

Now, Jazz is just a normal Harvard student, who also happens to make mermaid tails. It’s a long time passion. From posting a Youtube video in 2013 of her swimming underwater in a tail (viewed 2.5 million times) to sewing and selling them to raise money for her family’s foundation supporting trans youth to having one of her tails featured in a 2021 Smithsonian exhibit on American girlhood, Jennings even crafted wearable mermaid tails as part of an Art, Film, and Visual Studies Studio Course last fall. (One time, she and a friend tried to use the tail at the Harvard swimming pool, only for the lifeguards to shoo them away.)

Beyond her tail-related pursuits, Jennings has dabbled in club lacrosse and is part of the musical theater group The Notables. Last week, she and two friends sang “Hakkunah Matata” at a show.

“I was Pumba the Warthog,” she says. “So I was like, ‘When I was a Young Wartho-og.’” She sings the lyric with Pumba’s full vibrato, giving a flourish with her hand.

Jennings is, evidently, an extremely open person. One would think that her lifetime of sharing behind-the-scenes details on her reality show might’ve primed her to become a Harvard influencer. Yet Jennings doesn’t play up showing the day-to-day of her life as a Harvard student. I ask her why.

“I thought about sharing more about my experience at Harvard and being a Harvard influencer,” she says. But at this point, she’s putting her energy towards introspection and individual growth. “I can’t always take care of the world or put myself out there as much.”

So how does Jennings balance her identity as a student with her long-time role as a trans advocate, especially when the issue has become so contentious in her home state of Florida?

“It’s hard knowing that there’s still so much discrimination going on in Florida,” Jennings says. “I’m not even allowed to use the women’s restroom in public. I don’t care, I still use the women’s restroom in public. Because what am I supposed to do, use the men’s restroom? Like, that just makes me uncomfortable.”

“I don’t understand why people target the trans community,” she says. “We’re just human beings trying to be ourselves. We’re not hurting anyone. And I’m not like the most political person, but I’m aware of what’s going on, and I try to speak out when I can.”

Given that Jennings spent practically her whole life speaking out for trans rights, I ask her how she conceives of herself as being less political.

“Being trans is a political existence, in a way,” she replies. “But I speak more from my heart. I don’t know all the policies. I don’t know all the details of everything, but I know what my experience is as a trans woman and who I am.”

At school, she isn’t so involved with the Office of BGLTQ Student Life or trans activist spaces. Part of this is because she’s got a lot else going on, “but some of it is social anxiety,” she says, which her fame compounds, putting pressure on her to “be this person that people view me as.”

Jazz says she hopes to be more involved in the future. For one thing, her mom is always nagging her to be.

“My mom’s like, ‘You need to go to the Queer Center more,’” she says, going into a goblin-like voice and wagging her finger in disapproval. “She wants me to find — I want to find love. That’s something really important to me. I have never been in love before.” Jenning’s mom believes she’s most likely to find love at the Quoffice, since “‘people who are queer are just more open to loving someone who’s trans.’”

One thing Jennings looks forward to in finding a partner is having someone with whom she can completely share her life — including her show.

“Once I’m deep into a romantic relationship, I want to watch the show back with my partner and just laugh at it,” she says.

When I ask Jennings what she hopes to do after graduation, she gives a slightly panicked “merp.”

She offers me a couple of options, including exploring her art or “coming back to the screen.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” she says. “We’ll see where life takes me.”

I have a feeling that scrolling through Hulu in the next 10 years, we will.

— Associate Magazine Editor Sage S. Lattman can be reached at sage.lattman@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @sagelattman.