Ja’el is an Atlanta, Georgia, based actress, model, singer, life coach, motivational speaker and more.
She has defined herself as “a renaissance woman that doesn’t let anything keep me from being all that I know I have been created to be,” and I cosign that statement.
She has worked with some of the GREATS and pioneers in the entertainment industry and has been nominated as Best Actress at the “Black Film Festival” for her role in the independent film,
Ja’el is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and so much more. In all that she does, her message remains firm and consistent:
“In spite of life’s obstacles, become who you were born to be.”
– La Tasha K. Mason (@Tash1216)
You talk a great deal about knowing your self-worth as a woman and accredit your confidence in knowing your worth to the upbringing and wisdom instilled in you by your father. Tell us about your childhood and how your parents have impacted who you are today personally and professionally.
My childhood was absolutely beautiful, not perfect but I can honestly say that my parents have only shown my siblings and I unconditional love. I am so blessed to have a father who let me know that I am valuable and that I do NOT HAVE TO SETTLE and taught me about life. He showed me, by being a great father, an example of what a real man is. My mother who is amazing and the strongest woman I know is extremely confident, and she taught her children to be the same way. She taught us to love people, not to look down on people and to be thankful and most importantly my parents raised me to have a relationship with God.
You had a child at an early age but did not let that hinder you from striving for your dreams and dedicating your life to God’s plan for you. Tell us about that experience and what advice would you give to teenagers today knowing that teenage pregnancy is considered an epidemic in our country.
That was one of the most difficult times of my life. I think for me what made it most difficult was me not wanting to disappoint my parents. All I can remember thinking when I found out was oh my goodness my parents are going to kill me, and I do not want to hurt them. That is all that kept running through my mind. I did think like, what am I going to do now, I have so many dreams and aspirations etc…. but the biggest fear was not wanting to hurt them. I remember I told one of my girlfriends that I was pregnant, and she was pregnant at the same time but had had an abortion before so she took me to the clinic. I remember being in there thinking I have to do this because I cannot hurt my parents. So long story short, I attempted to go through with it 2x but each time something happened to prevent it (Thank God).
After an encounter with God, I decided to keep my daughter and when I told my mother who of course I told first, all she said was “don’t cry baby, you’re not the first and will not be the last to have a baby before marriage. Just make sure you finish school and don’t have any more until you get married.” I remember she said also not to have any more until marriage because anyone will help you with one child but when you start having two and three it just gets harder. My father, the pastor, NEVER said anything negative till this day, neither one of them has. They just said they would help me with her as long as I needed them to.
I am amazingly blessed. What I tell other young ladies is to make a better choice than I did. Be responsible with your body and heart. I tell them about the option of abstaining, however if they feel as though they are not going to please use protection, not only to prevent pregnancy but to prevent STD’s. I also tell them that using a condom can protect them from unwanted pregnancies and STD’S but CANNOT protect them from a broken heart and the emotional damage that can come along with engaging in pre-marital sex.
I tell them to know they are valuable and are worth being called someone’s wife as opposed to being called someone babies’ mama and that is just real talk.
You’re an advocate for abstinence and have launched many campaigns supporting the cause as well as educating people on HIV testing, etc. Why does this mean so much to you? Tell us more about this movement.
I just want to give people options. Society and our youth are bombarded with images of sex via media and music and the images that are imprinted in their minds is that everyone is doing it but no one is showing consequences of “doing it” be it the after affects of drugs, drinking, pre-marital, unprotected sex etc…I promote abstinence to offer them an alternative to what is being presented to them on a daily basis. I do not force anyone to make a decision to abstain from negative behaviors, however having experienced a lifestyle of doing both, I over stand the peace that comes with making good choices and abstaining from behaviors that can potentially cause me harm both mentally and physically. I have had several friends who have passed away from HIV/AIDS from having unprotected sex, as well as, all of us know someone who has probably passed away from some sort of violence that occurred because of a choice they made.
Since you are an advocate for abstinence, is it safe to say that you are celibate? If so, how did you reach that decision and how long have you maintained that commitment?
I am practicing abstinence. Not only from pre-marital sex but negative behaviors. I take this process one day at a time which is all we can do anyway. I practice abstaining from negative thinking, and anything that will keep me from becoming who I was born to be. That is the slogan I use for the youth and people I life coach and mentor.
I reached the decision to abstain from negative behaviors because of my faith in God, and I just understand how precious my body is and how important it is for me to make positive choices. I am definitely far from perfect and if I mess up in any area I do not beat myself up but get back up and continue the journey.
I let people know (in case I run for President one day) that I have done a lot of things in my past that I should not have done and it is only by the grace of God that I am still here. My mind set is to not take that grace and mercy for granted and one day it behooves us all to make a decision as to the type of life we are going to live.
As a beautiful black woman, does practicing abstinence present difficulty in dating and finding love? Or, have you found love?
Wow, great question. I must say that I remember a few years ago I met this beautiful man and we would hang out, and I really liked him. One day I told him I was abstaining from pre-marital sex and after I told him that he treated me like a nun. I was like dude, I am still a human being, I am just trying to live a certain way. He said to me he didn’t know if he could invite me to parties or how I would feel in certain environments after I told him that. I was like I will never tell a dude that again lol. It has definitely been interesting. I can say that he was the only one that treated me like that. I can so too though, if you want to find out if a man is only with you because he thinks he is going to sleep with you, tell him you’re not having sex with him and see how long he stays. Some, however, like the challenge so you can depend on that method 100% of the time lol.
Tell us about your career in acting, modeling, and singing. How did you get into the business? When did you know that this was what you were meant to do?
I started singing in church when I was like 2. My parents had me in a magnet school growing up, so I was always in plays and musicals; I loved it. However, I did not think about doing it professionally until I got older. I actually was in college when I wrote my first song and would sing at all types of events, programs, talent shows etc… but I was only doing it because I enjoyed singing.
My goal was to go to law school so anything else came second to that. Long story short, I moved to Atlanta to go to law school (my mother told me to come here) however I started meeting all these people in the industry and was like, oh wait, I think I may get into this music business for real. It started off with music, then one day I got an audition for Robert Townsend’s network that he had and out of like 200 people that auditioned, I was one of like 7 chosen for this particular show. So, I said to myself, I could really do this. Long story short, after working several corporate jobs and just not feeling fulfilled or like I was living my purpose, I was listening to radio and a commercial came on and it said, 12 year old girl living her dream will be on Oprah this evening, tune in. I said to myself 12 years old living her dream???? What am I waiting on? I attempted to move to LA to pursue acting full time. That did not work out, so I said to myself, if I am going to be in Atlanta for now, I am going to still get an agent, and do what I was going to LA to do. I did exactly that, I started taking acting classes, got cast in a great romantic comedy called “4 Minutes” as the lead, got an agent and here I am today. I have worked with so far, Tyler Perry, Robert Townsend, Kim Fields who directed me when I played on BET’s new sitcom, “Let’s Stay Together,” with Dwayne Boyd and this is just the beginning.
With whom and what major projects have you worked on?
Tyler Perry, “Meet The Browns” the movie; Robert Townsend’s Musical Theater of Hope, BET’s “Let’s Stay Together”, Dwayne Boyd’s movie “4 Minutes,” I been in commercials, stage plays and look forward to so much more.
What projects are you currently working on?
I start back working on a movie called “Between Friends” where I play a character totally opposite of me named Kenny. I love playing her because it is a challenge, and I love the script. I just had an audition for “Army Wives” and “The Game,” and I auditioned for a play. So, I am praying to be really productive doing what I love.
You teach at Spelman College, what course do you teach and how does this fit into the grand scheme of things…who you are, your branding?
I teach Public Speaking, and I love it. It fits perfectly with my life goals. Being an actress, of course, it only enhances that as well as when I travel and speak/life coach, it fits perfectly with that too. Also, because I mentor and have such a heart for young women, teaching at Spelman allows me to pour into their lives as well as educate them about life.
You also do a great deal of public speaking. Other than abstinence and HIV awareness, what is typically the focus of your motivational speaking?
Typically my focus is to remind people or let them know how amazing they are. Because I was blessed with parents who affirmed me and poured into my life, I desire to give that back, and I do so by speaking into the lives of those who cross my path. I understand how when you know you are fearfully and wonderfully made, when you know your value and worth, you make decisions that reflect that. I was told by my father that I was beautiful and that I did not have to settle and that shaped my self esteem. I was told by my mother to be strong and to treat people with love and respect and am more than glad to be a light to people when I public speak.
You’re also a Life Coach. What qualifications are required for one to become a Life Coach, what services do you provide and what does it take to be successful with your clients?
People have to feel that you genuinely care about their well being and you cannot fake that. Having a heart to see people succeed and living your dreams and values are attributes that helps make a great Life Coach. It also takes you desiring to want to see positive change in one’s life and provide them with the tools that they often times already have but need a little coaching to bring it out. If you are frustrated with your life, not sure how to stop repeating the same negative choices or you desire more happiness, passion, and peace of mind, my sessions will provide that for you. Time with me is a time away from the distractions and demands of everyday life. My coaching sessions are private and the focus is you. This is the place where learning and insight occur in pursuit of your goals and dreams.
As an actress yourself, what 2 actors and actresses have influenced or inspired you the most? Why?
I LOVE Robert Downey, Jr. He is just amazing to me. Not only because he is a phenomenal actor who has had an extensive career, but he overcame some demons and is still doing what he loves. He never gave up, and I admire that about him. He just has IT. Wow, I enjoy the talent of so many actors it is hard to just pick two however I admire the works of Cicely Tyson, Jeffrey Wright, Toni Collette, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, Angela Bassett, Sooo many talented people in the world.
Same question but as Jael the singer what are your influences musically?
My mother would not let us listen to anything but gospel music so growing up most of the voices I heard were of course gospel voices. I just love great talent though. I do not have a favorite because it is so hard to choose between all the different artists and genres of music that are out there. Many of the greats have inspired me however I think what inspires me the most is the fact that they are living their dream. It is not an easy path, the arts. There are no guarantees so people who are doing what they love inspire me in many different ways. I absolutely love, love, love, Prince because of his many, many talents, The Eagles, Erykah Badu…Oh my too many to name.
What movies would we find in your DVD player?
Romantic comedies. I love to laugh. The Wedding Planner, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Little Miss Sunshine, Love and Basketball, Big Fish, The Note Book.
What music could we expect to find in your iPod?
Oooh everything from Prince, to The Eagles, Mary J Blige, Nora Jones, Kanye West, Vashawn Mitchell.
Where did the name “Jael the Great” come from? Is there a special meaning behind it?
Ja`el is Hebrew and you can read about her in Judges Chapter 4 and 5. She was no doubt a fearless woman warrior, and I am a modern day Ja`el Slaying the enemy with my words and through music. The Great comes from God saying He would make our name great, and I believe in the power of words so I create my world with my worlds.
Tell us about your philanthropic endeavors and why you feel it’s important to give back and promote youth empowerment, etc.
It is very important to me to take what I have been so freely given, a heart for people, and give back. I know the power of great influences and desire to be that for people all around the world. I have a clothing line called Brown Angel Apparel; my site is: Brown Angel Tees and every time a tee shirt or tank top is purchased, a proceed goes towards the Brown Angel Scholarship fund for single parents attending Spelman and Jackson State University.
I know what it is like to be a single parent while pursuing higher education, so it is very important to me to be able to raise money and help as much as I can. I have a new mentoring program called The Girl’s Code.
I will be having mentoring workshops once a month for young ladies. Those interested in joining or with questions about the program can reach me: HERE
You speak openly about your belief and Faith in God. How has that belief and Faith guided the direction of your life and career?
It is the most important thing in my life for without it I would not be here. Life can be difficult as we all know so without my faith in God I probably would have given up a long time ago. I am thankful to my parents for stressing the importance of having a relationship with God and owe every blessing and all that is to come to Him. I do not understand how people become arrogant about a gift or gifts that were freely given to them by the Creator. That is another topic though lol.
You wear many hats but what do you do when you take the hats off and let your hair down? What do you do for fun and leisure?
I like to have FUN. I will try almost anything. I like everything from sports, to the Ballet, to rock climbing, horseback riding, traveling, go carts, golf, if it’s fun, I am down.
What is next for you? What legacy do you wish to leave? How do you want to be remembered in history books?
There are no limits to what is next for me. I have huge faith and am just allowing my faith to take me above and beyond what I dream and imagine. I definitely desire to be a light to all those who cross my path and want to be remembered as the woman who lived her life to the fullest. I always say I am going to die empty meaning I would have done everything and helped everyone in every way that I feel that was meant for me to do so. I will be like 89 or 90 still in perfect health but will be ready to go because I would have lived my purpose. My mission statement is “To serve humanity using my gifts and talent”. I have been blessed to be able to speak, sing, write, direct, act, paint and the gift I am most proud of is my gift of Love. I truly love people with all my heart and desire to see everyone live their life on purpose.
You can stay in the know on “Jael the Great” by checking her out at the following links.