For all the conversations surrounding the lack of women in the music industry, singer and producer Jaleh, aka Jals, is out to do something about the state of the business and leaving her mark. Though Jaleh moonlights as a model and musician, the 18-year-old college freshman is far more interested in what happens behind the scenes — she’s currently pursuing a degree in music production, with the goal of approaching her music from a more well-rounded and well-informed perspective.
It makes sense for someone like Jaleh. A quick scroll through her IG feed shows a young woman with a distinct aesthetic that marries old-school hip-hop with “dad” style. (In fact, her handle @fatherlyjals is a clapback to her middle school haters who had once teased her for dressing like a “father.”) With her unique personal style down pat, Jaleh now aims to solidify her musical style off camera. And she’s well on her way — Jaleh’s first EP is expected to drop in spring 2019.
Though the Brooklyn native is rooted in New York City for her studies, Jaleh is inspired by California’s laid-back vibe (more on that later) and has a hunger for global experiences. Outfitted in the new ’80s-inspired PUMA Cali sneakers, the style star walks us through three looks at three significant locations that represent her journey from the past to the present to the future. We chat about her West Coast dreams, how she’s embraced who she is, and why “gendered” clothing is such an eye-roll, ahead.
So you’re pursuing music production. Tell us what led you on that path.
“Ever since I’ve loved music, I’ve wanted to understand how it’s made. I felt that by studying music production, and the music industry and the business, I’d be able to be a more hands-on artist. I know I don’t just wanna be a voice or someone who just raps. I wanna be able to express myself as much as I can, whether I’m styling myself or creative directing my own videos or writing my own music.”
At what age did you begin expressing yourself through clothing?
“The end of my sophomore year. I was going through a lot of identity crises until then. In middle school, people said I dressed like a guy or whatever, so I stopped wearing certain things so I could fit in. I was trying to please everyone and look like everybody else. And then I realized pleasing other people really wasn’t it for me, so I went back to wearing things I wanted to and not caring. You can’t give a piece of clothing a gender; it’s literally just clothes. By the end of my sophomore year, I just was pushed to be myself 100%.”
How do you decide on your outfits?
“I create off of a mood when I wake up. Sometimes I’ll be feeling really baggy, colorful clothes, sometimes I’ll be described as goth. But really my sense of style is things that I like, things that can visually describe me if someone sees me walking on the street. That’s what I think fashion is; when you’re looking at someone, you can see their story from the outside. It’s what people let you see about themselves.”
We shot this first look at a handball court. Why does this place hold significance for you?
“When I was in elementary and middle school, me and my cousin and her friends would play handball. It brings back those memories in the hood that I grew up in. At that age, I was also singing. I was doing a lot of stuff from dancing to acting classes on 42nd street. I was auditioning for commercials, I was competing in hip-hop, singing in school productions of Broadway musicals; I was always performing.”
You’re a Brooklynite through and through, but you embrace the California mentality.
“I’ve never been to California, but from what I hear, it’s more laid-back and chill than New York. I’d say that I’m like that; I’m a ‘go with the flow’ type of person. If things change up for me, I try not to let them bother me so much. That laid-back vibe definitely fits into my sense of style.”
For your second look, you brought us to a rooftop, which represents your present. Why is this spot meaningful to you?
“Honestly, one thing I found that helped me a lot with writing in the summer was getting out of my room, going on top of my roof, seeing the skyline and the train that’s right there, and just writing. It’s a place where I can play my music loud and no one’s up there to hear me. It’s an open stage, no roof above my head, and it gave me a lot of clarity and a lot of room. It really helped me create. One of my songs is called ‘This is My Story’ or ‘The Never Ending Story,’ which is about Bushwick. That song was written on my roof.”
Tell us about your look here.
“Since the PUMA Cali shoes are white and black, I thought it’d be cool to mix the socks up. So I mix-matched fishnet socks and then chose this one-piece fishnet top to play off them. The blue gives it a pop. The look feels super high fashion but then the sneakers make it for the everyday. And the hat made the outfit complete. It gave it a late ’80s vibe.”
Finally, tell us about the significance of this tour van, which represents your future dreams.
“My vision is to travel around the globe and express myself. You know how people would travel in vans and tour? This is the vibe I’m going after. I’ve never been to Cali, but I will go there one day and probably love it. I’m coming for the world; I have this journey on my back, and this is what I’m bringing. This is my energy. This is who I am, this is how I present myself, and this is what I’m wearing. I pulled one of my favorite shirts that I thrifted, and the glasses, and the earrings, with my fro out. This is inspired by ’90s hip-hop.”
Are sneakers a big part of your everyday look?
“Definitely. I love sneakers so much. They can make or break an outfit, from worn-out-looking shoes to high-end shoes. I feel like either way you put it, sneakers help tell a story of what’s going on and what you’re wearing. I also love sneakers ’cause they’re comfortable. I never wore heels, unless it was for prom. I’m always throwing on sneakers like the PUMA Cali last minute before I run out of my crib. If I ever get onto a red carpet, I’ll be that girl wearing a dress with sneakers. I put my sneakers on knowing that when I’m in them, day by day, I can take another step toward my dream. I can really tie everything together in my journey with sneakers.”
Lastly, what kind of influence would you like your music to have?
“I’m trying to change the mindset that’s stuck in my generation. One thing that I’ve seen for too long [is that negativity is] such a prominent thing in today’s music, and I wanna switch it up and bring back positivity and love. Five to 10 years from now, I see myself using my voice to speak up and make a difference, ’cause it’s honestly crazy out here. Love is really the answer, and I wanna show how you don’t have to be dependent on negativity.”
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