Meet Jane Claire Hervey, the big sister you wish you had.
December 10, 2020 / Camille Bao
In the past five years, Jane Claire founded #bossbabesatx, ran a boutique creative studio, and produced her first EP, “Sour Grapefruit.” But why did it take a pandemic for her to feel like she’s really ‘made it’? Austin’s beloved creative opens up about anxiety, change, and (not) doing it all.
Jane Claire Hervey wears many hats, and I’m not just referring to the iconic red cowboy hat she wears on stage. She’s an entrepreneur, former “American Idol” contestant, plant mom, and girl boss. Fresh out of college, Jane created #bossbabesatx, a community space for women and nonbinary creatives to be fully and permissibly themselves. Since then, her dream has turned into reality — with over 17,000 guests annually and several accolades added to her name.
Starting this summer, BossBabes ATX events saw a void of Zoom profiles rather than a room bustling with creatives. The real, tangible connection Jane prided herself on was missing from virtual events, not to mention the financial difficulties that came with a pandemic. But she is not new to change. Almost immediately, she scheduled a weekly 8 a.m. therapy session and gradually rebuilt her world.
Her journey alone inspires any creative to get off the couch and do good work. But, at our meeting in the BossBabes ATX headquarters, I saw that it was her mindset, not her accomplishments, that truly kept her going.
She sits a social-distanced 10 feet away from me, drip coffee in hand. Dressed in full velvet and a red polka dot mask, Jane blends in seamlessly with the art-adorned creative studio. Her warm, podcast-ready voice projects into the early afternoon light as we chat about anything and everything, from adulting to having an alter ego. Somewhere along the way, I realized she is the big sister everyone wants to have.
For many, COVID-19 has been a time of difficulty but also of reflection. How have you guys been?
Well, (sighs), I mean, you’re sitting in our space. So you can see that we’re making major changes because this year has been … I don’t want to be doom and gloom. I’ve learned a lot this year. We’re a team of four at the nonprofit, and we all feel like we’ve learned so much that we could take on anything that comes next. We’re not fearless, but a little more confident. A lot of small businesses we know are closing, and the communities we serve at large are feeling work to the bone. We’re trying to grapple with reality, but also not get too stuck in it where you feel hopeless.
When organizing virtual events, did you fear losing that raw component of being in person?
The pivot to virtual was really difficult because bossbabes started as a response to only seeing representation online and wanting that in real life. That’s something a lot of us experience. I’ll just identify myself — I’m a white, cisgender woman, I’m queer, I’m fat. I now know I’m bisexual. That’s been a whole exploration. If I didn’t have social media, I don’t think I would have ever known those worlds were possible to make in my own real life.
It’s really hard to be yourself in person. We’re all struggling with internalized oppression and racism and sexism, and we hurt each other’s feelings. But on the flip side, being able to see people with your own eyes and smell them and watch them move in the world: It's freeing. It's liberating. It's exciting. It makes us want to live here. It makes us want to do things.
Going virtual has been ego death after ego death. Think about that thing you do, where after you do it, you feel like you did something, and you feel like you belong somewhere. I don’t think that belonging is the same in online spaces. All the euphoria I would normally get from an event now only lasts a few hours. It almost feels like it dissolves into zeros and ones.
You mentioned the idea of just “living” in these stressful times in some of your social posts. How exactly do you deal with discontent or feeling that you’re not doing enough?
Being anxious is sometimes an asset for entrepreneurs because you’re thinking years in advance. You’re subscribing to a level of perfection that helps your work, so your anxiety gets rewarded, which is a really bad thing. At the beginning of this pandemic, I knew I was going to struggle, so I immediately signed up for therapy. I've been in therapy once a week since then. Something I've been struggling with and still holding true is that you have to show up each day and only pay attention to the urgency of surviving that day.
I think it’s good to plan and think about the future. I believe in resiliency. But if you're so much in that world, you don't show up for the stuff that happens every day in your life, and you miss everything. You miss all the good stuff, all the stuff that could change your life. Showing up each day with attention to your here and now, to your body, to the people around you, to the spaces you're in. That's the daily urgency.
From starting Orange Magazine at UT to now hosting the biggest events in Austin, what has the journey been like?
At the start of my career, I got into festivals because I loved the rush of a good show and meeting a bunch of different people. Now, that doesn’t need to be a driving force in my career or my choices. I’m actually really interested in people who ask good questions. And I’m really, really interested in people who are curious and approach music and art and film with curiosity and resourcefulness. And who just fucking do it. They challenge themselves, and they don't care if they get the accolades.
I didn't self reflect at the beginning of my career, but I don't know how anyone could. So, I also look back on my past self with self-compassion because becoming an adult is so hard and so complicated, and no one tells you how to do anything. It's information overload every day, all the time. You just have to do the best you can.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 18-year-old self?
I hate telling this to people who are in college because it can feel really demoralizing, but if I had to honestly tell myself something back then, it would be to not work as hard. In my college years, I spent all my weekends studying, worked a part-time job, and had two internships. I wanted to do it all because I was anxious. I wanted a padded resume. I came out of college really burnt out and tired, and I’m still recovering from that. I’m 27, and I’m still like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I did all that shit in college.”
You’re doing yourself a disservice by performing the work. Follow the things you’re curious about. Ask honest questions. Do quality, not quantity. Focus.
Is there a particular moment or event where everything became real to you? Or when you realized you’ve made it?
(laughs) Well, thank you. I don’t think I’ve made it. But just hearing you say I’ve made it, I’m like, “Okay, cool, I’ll take it.” Surviving this year has probably been the moment in which I’ve been like … this is what I do. Because if I can still do the work I do in the midst of a pandemic and still find a way to keep my staff employed and pay the bills and have an impact and make bullshit happen, then yeah, this is probably what I do.
I've been featured in so many different publications. You’d think that kind of stuff would make you feel real, but I don't think anybody else or any other thing can make you feel real. You just have to show up and believe in yourself. I don't really think I've ever done that until this year, which is tough to say, but it's true.
How does being an entrepreneur feed into your music?
Launching the nonprofit and having my own creative studio has definitely sucked the air out of making music. The singing side of me is so disorganized and emotional. But it’s still a part of myself that I have to nurture and cultivate. She really doesn’t give a fuck about deadlines because she’s a response to all the discipline and ideas and goals I have in my day to day. She just wants to make music, perform, wear good outfits, feel beautiful, and make other people feel beautiful. She’s the Yin to my Yang. Not cultivating her can be really disappointing and off-balance. That’s part of having different seasons. I’ve done some fun stuff with my music side. I’ve performed in SXSW and opened for some artists I really respect. If a career happens there, that’s great. But that Jane Claire has no goal, like she doesn’t give a fuck. So I’m like, fine. I have to respect that about her. I’m tending on a meandering course to all these different sides of myself.
When Jane pulls into the driveway of the BossBabes ATX studio, she does it in style — in a beat-up Nissan Cube. Its quaint exterior and reliable interior stay true to her personality. She’s the one you go to for fun sleepover talks and life advice, and you know she’ll look good doing it.
Now that Jane’s made it through a pandemic, she has exciting things in store for us: the BossBabes ATX membership launch, contactless in-person workshops, and more music collaborations. The world is limitless for a woman who has reclaimed the power of being fully and authentically herself. ■
by: Camille Bao
layout: Marley Crawford
photographer: Shuer Zhuo
stylists: Alex Cao & Caleb Zhang
hmua: Carmela Urdaneta