Jasmine Lobe, thirties
Writer, actress and producerAlthough Sex and The City may have romanticised the term “sex columnist,” for actress Jasmine Lobe, it was a difficult career path to accept. “Often what you are most afraid of, is where the gold lies,” says Lobe, who pens “The J-Spot” in The Observer [Candace Bushnell’s former “Sex and The City” column], despite her initial hesitations. With the goal of opening up honest dialogue for women everywhere, Lobe has now set her sights on producing. And, like the illustrious Carrie, she’s optioned her writing for a TV show.
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
It sounds cliche but I didn't choose to be a sex columnist, it chose me. I was an actress in Hollywood and wrote about my crazy experiences to stay sane. I showed my writing to a good friend of mine who took a shot on me and gave me my first column in an online magazine called New York Natives. Shortly thereafter, the Observer approached me to be their new sex columnist. The Observer is where Candace Bushnell’s column “Sex and the City” originated so I had big shoes to fill. But I couldn’t think about it that way— I had to make it my own, otherwise, I would have freaked out. I called my column “The J-Spot”, for um, you know, Jasmine. I’m very proud of my column. And then, just recently I optioned the “The J-Spot” to Universal Studios through Full Fathom 5 Productions. So now “The-Jspot” may be a TV show!
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
I was told if I didn’t make it as an actress by the time I was 25, I should find another career. Of course, now it looks like I’ll be producing, so when the time is right, I’ll produce shows or movies to cast myself in. Also, I always knew in my gut I was a writer as well as a performer, and thinking back, it was the harsh words I told myself that hurt the most. How could an actress in Hollywood trying out for parts like "hot blonde #2 in push up bra", break into the media / literary world from her studio apartment in West Hollywood?
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
One of the biggest stereotypes of being a sex columnist is a lot of people assume you’re into orgies or are always up for having sex. One guy accused me of being a prude and a bad sex columnist because I didn’t want to have sex with him. “Do it for research,” he said. As a woman, if you don’t have enough sex your labeled a prude and if you have a lot of sex you’re labeled a slut. It’s really hard to “get it right” if you’re in the habit of pleasing men.
4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
It took courage to sway the narrative or at least my own narrative. I’d walk into a party in Hollywood as the sweet, pretty girl, maybe even on some producer's arm, and only when asked, I’d say,“ I’m an actress.” But inside I was dying. I knew I was so much more than getting rejected from so many ditzy, blonde acting roles.
I was sick of feeling powerless and not honoring the tiger within me. But I was also afraid to write about my inner most feelings about sex, power dynamics, social status, money and all the issues I felt compelled to unravel. I was afraid to show my anger. I was afraid people wouldn’t like me anymore and that I'd shatter that passive, sweet girl image I had cloaked myself in. Well, I think I shattered that and thank God!
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
I think my number one piece of advice is often what you are most afraid of, is where the gold lies. It can seem safer in the familiar, but the joy is in the expansion. So don’t be afraid to find your joy. I’ve always loved Elizabeth’ Appell’s line, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
It seemed like everything happened overnight because, well… it did.
One moment, my team and I were business as usual, running a multi-million-dollar edible cookie dough company I built from scratch in my at-home kitchen five years ago and the next we were sitting in an emergency management team meeting asking ourselves, "What do we do now?" Things had escalated in New York, and we were all called to do our part in "flattening the curve" and "slowing the spread."
The governor had declared that all restaurants immediately close to the public. All non-essential businesses were also closed, and 8.7 million New Yorkers were quarantined to their tiny apartments for the foreseeable future. Things like "social distancing" and "quarantine" were our new 2020 vernacular — and reality.
What did that mean for us? Our main revenue source was the retail part of the business. Sure, we offered delivery and take-out, but that was such a small portion of our sales. I had built a retail experience where people from near and far came to eat edible cookie dough exactly how they craved it. We had two stores, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, which employed over 55 people. We have two production facilities; an online business shipping cookie dough nationwide; a wholesale arm that supplies stores, restaurants, and other retail establishments with treats; and a catering vertical for customizable treats for celebrations of all sizes. And while business and sales were nearly at a complete halt, we still had bills. We had payroll to pay, vendors we owed, services we were contractually obligated to continue, rent, utilities, insurance, and none of that was stopping.
How were we going to do this? And for how long will this go on? No one knew.
As an entrepreneur, this certainly wasn't my first-time facing challenges. But this was unprecedented. Unimaginable. Unbelievable. Certainly unplanned. This control-freak type-A gal was unraveling. I had to make decisions quickly. What was best for my team? For my business? For the safety of my staff? For the city? For my family and unborn baby (oh, yeah, throw being 28 weeks pregnant and all those fun hormones in there, it's real interesting!). Everything was spiraling out of control.
I decided to take the advice I had given to many people over the years — focus on the things you can control. There's no point worrying about all the things you have no control over. If you focus there, you'll just continue spiraling into a deeper, darker hole. Let it go. Once you shift your perspective, you can move forward. It's not going to be easy; the challenges still exist. But you can control certain things, so focus your energy and attention on those.
So that's what I did. I chose, for the safety of staff and customers, to close the retail portion completely — it wasn't worth the take-out and delivery volume to staff the store, open ourselves up to more germs and human contact than absolutely necessary.
I went back to our mission and the reason I started the business in the first place — to spread joy. How could we continue to bring happiness to people during this uncertain time? That's our purpose. With millions of people across the globe stuck inside, working from home, quarantined with their families, how can we reach them since they can't come to us? So I thought back to how and why we got started.
Baking, for me, has always been a type of therapy. I could get lost in the mixing bowl and forget about everything else for a moment in time. Sure, I have a huge sweet tooth, but it's about the process. It's about taking all of these different ingredients and mixing them together to create something magically sweet and special. It's about creating and being creative with the simple things. It's about allowing people to indulge in something that brings them joy — a lick from the spatula or a big batch of cookies.
It's about joy in the moment and sharing that joy with others. So my focus is back on that, and it feels good.
We could still ship nationwide, straight to people's doorstep. So we are making it easier and less expensive to send the ultimate comfort food (edible cookie dough) by introducing a reduced shipping rate, and deals on some of our best-selling packages.
In a way for us, it feels like we are going back in time… back to our roots. When I first started the business, we were only shipping nationwide. There were no stores, no big team, no wholesale. It was just me, a small crew juggling it all, and we made it work then. And we'll make it work again. We have to leverage our online business and hope it floats us through this time.
We are focusing our digital content strategy on sharing recipes, activities, and at-home treats with our engaged, amazing social following so they bake with their families and stay busy at-home. We started live baking tutorials where our fans can bake-along with me and I can share all the tips and tricks I've learned over the years with them.
I've leveraged the cookbook I published last year, Hello, Cookie Dough: 110 Doughlicious Confections to Eat, Bake & Share, to come up with fun content and additional things to do at home. We started shipping it and our at-home baking mixes for free to encourage people to get busy in their kitchens!
And as a business, we will continue to connect with our community to bring them joy and focus on what we can control, including our attitude and outlook first.
During times of uncertainty, which this certainly is, you should do the same. Identify the things you can control and focus your time and energy on those things. Distract yourself with the positive. Force yourself to stop asking and worrying about all the what-ifs. Do what you can for the moment and then the next moment. Make a list, and take it day-by-day.
It's going to be okay. You will be okay. We will all be okay.