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West Coast grad JESSIA now a rising Canadian pop star

The singer-songwriter penned breakthrough hit ‘I’m Not Pretty’ from childhood room in Ucluelet
West Coast pop singer-songwriter JESSIA offers an important message through her viral hit song ‘I’m Not Pretty’. (William Amarcand photo)

With her inspiring single ‘I’m Not Pretty’ going viral and catapulting her onto the Rolling Stone Breakthrough 25, West Coast born and raised pop singer-songwriter JESSIA proclaims to be part of a new wave of “real music that’s breaking down boundaries.”

She remembers penning the lyrics to ‘I’m Not Pretty’ over Christmas 2020 from her childhood bedroom in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. Verses like ‘But I can’t find a way to lose weight / Without literally starving’ and ‘But sometimes I hate myself / I get inside my head and I think that I somehow deserve this’ poured onto the page.

“I came to my mom about all these subjects and she told me that this needs to be said. She said to go for it. Her encouragement is definitely the reason why those verses are as ballsy as they are. Big props to my mom,” said JESSIA, who graduated from Ucluelet Secondary School in 2012 and went on to pursue a music degree at MacEwan University in Edmonton.

JESSIA signed a five-year contract with Republic Records shortly after releasing ‘I’m Not Pretty’ as a TikTok video clip in January 2021. Within the last seven months, she’s performed live at Lollapalooza Chicago music festival, shot and released two music videos, collaborated with her songwriter idols Ryan Tedder (lead singer of OneRepublic) and Justin Tranter, and was the top emerging artist on Canada’s billboard charts for more than 10 weeks.

“‘I’m Not Pretty’ has gone platinum. It’s been a wild seven months for sure. It’s just the beginning, get ready guys,” said the rising Canadian pop star.

One thing JESSIA especially loves about ‘I’m Not Pretty’ is the fact that it’s not a gendered song, so the community of listeners that connect to it is broad.

She says teenage boys and postpartum moms send her messages telling her the song made them feel good about their body.

“I feel like a lot of women have a lot of songs that hype you up and tell you that your body is great, men don’t really have that and I think men experience body dysmorphia and insecurities as much as women do and it’s just not talked about as much,” JESSIA said.

“That song broke all these boundaries of things I could talk about and subjects that would be considered taboo or too far. I’m taking that and running with it and opening up all the jars and spilling all of the (stuff) everywhere. Here you go world, deal with it.”

JESSIA also wrote and recorded her second track ‘I Should Quit’ from her childhood bedroom.

“It’s really strange thinking about me as little girl dancing in front of the same mirror with my hairbrush and now my dreams are actually coming true. It all happened in Ucluelet,” said JESSIA.

Mom Beth Harling, a longtime music teacher in the communities of Tofino and Ucluelet, says JESSIA’s music is like her diary.

“She writes about things her friends are going through and her family is going through. She just wants to make the world a better place and be really honest with her music,” said Harling.

“My music is very conversational,” JESSIA adds. “I just want to talk about things that I would talk about with my best friends over a cup of tea kind of thing.”

She is acutely aware of the ugly side of the music industry that has been shamed for oversexualising female artists, yet she says everyone’s been kind and supportive.

“My team and my management are vouching for the movement that ‘I’m Not Pretty’ has created. We are one big happy family. At the end of the day we all just want to make good music,” JESSIA said.

The rising pop star offers a tidbit of advice to the youngsters holding hairbrushes and singing their hearts out in their bedrooms:

“Work at it. If you are working hard at something, something has to come from it. Work your butt off and be kind.”

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