Jennifer Love Williams an entertainer, activist, and Jersey City resident. She’s the founder of the Jen Love Project, a nonprofit that provides home packages to recently released and soon to be released LGBTQ+ people coming home from prison/jail. Growing up, her role models were her mom and Jane Jackson. We had a chat with Jennifer about life, career, and being a part of the local LGBTQ+ community. Jennifer is our latest feature in our partnership with the Hudson Pride Center that sims to amplify local LGBTQ+ voices. Read on to learn more about Jennifer Love Williams.
Hoboken Girl: What is your gender identity?
Jennifer Love Williams: Female and transwoman.
HG: What is your sexual orientation?
JLW: Heterosexual and Asexual
HG: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
JLW: I’m an Entertainer and Activist. I’m the Foundress of the Jen Love Project. I love traveling and I love LOVE. Fun fact: I love Janet Jackson ever since I was 8 years old.
HG: What has been the highlight in your life so far?
JLW: Creating the Jen Love Project Was one of my dreams. I built her from scratch and of course, I had help bringing my vision to life but on June 4th, 2020 I was finally able to go public. Even though I’ve won some amazing pageants and worked with some heavyweights throughout my career none of it compares to the joy of helping others and fighting for the so many voiceless.
HG: What is your coming out story?
JLW: The funny thing about me coming out is that I had to come out twice. The first time was in 1995, I came out as a gay male at Thanksgiving dinner. Even though I was always naturally feminine, my family pretty much accepted and loved me regardless. My parents just changed the rules slightly which consisted of boys were no longer allowed in my room and I accepted that because they accepted me.
However, three years later In 1998, I came out as trans. That wasn’t so easy for my family to accept. They never disrespected me but they also didn’t understand and this was a part of me since I was a kid. They probably thought it was a phase. It was a hard road for them and they felt that I was going to have a harder time because I’m black, gay, and then now being trans.
They wanted me to focus on college and finish and become an amazing human but I knew since I was little that I always should have been a girl so these conversations had to happen and so ultimately, I had packed up one night after I was told to not wear women’s clothing anymore and left while my family was asleep.
My mother found a way to reach out to me and gave me the family camcorder. I thought of recording a night in the life of Jennifer Love so they could see me as to showgirl that I am. They asked me to come home to have a talk and at this point in time, there were minor alterations to my exterior. We had this talk and I told them that this is mean it is more important for me to become the woman that I always knew I was meant to be, I didn’t care about love, children, or even my family. At that point, they realized that this was something serious and we began the journey of them understanding me and my understanding myself.
I took my transition very slow so I could explain to my family what I was doing and why I was doing it. We’ve gotten to a place where I feel valued and loved. I often explain to them that for so many years no matter what you’ve said to me, I’ve always questioned if they really love me. They respect me, they include me, they protect me, and that’s more than anything I can ever ask for. I am a 45-year-old black transwoman, an entertainer, and an activist and I know my family is proud of me and I’m proud of them.
HG: What is your favorite thing about the Queer community?
JLW: Some of my favorite things about the queer community are that we stand tall we are fighters, we are resilient, we are amazing. I remember my first time going to Greenwich Village and I got to see people that look like me of all different races. I wasn’t an outcast and it’s a part of me that I still feel to this day. I love seeing the younger LGBTQ+ community find themselves and know that they can be the great human that they were meant to be and live loud, live proudly, and live comfortably even though we still have a road to travel.
HG: What LGBTQ+-related issues do they hope to see change within the next year?
JLW: Now this is a touchy topic because I want to see my LGBTQ+ people become more inclusive. I live in Jersey City and it includes Bayonne and Hoboken as well, if you have an LGBTQ+ function it’s not inclusive, it’s not showing the diversity. We are in one of the most inclusive states and cities in the country, yet, I stand here as a black transwoman and I don’t see diversity or inclusivity which includes trans people, and the black queer community.
HG: What do you love most about your LGBTQ+ identity?
JLW: What I love most about my LGBTQ+ identity is that I finally started to learn self-love and self-care. I love the fact that I am trans, melanated, college-educated. I love everything about me now. There was a time when I had to go through the back doors at night because I was fearful of being hurt and attacked. I still have these same fears but I’m thriving, traveling, moving, and growing. I am loving out loud in front of the world for everyone to see. I want the rest of my LGBTQ+ community to know that we are here and we matter. I can’t expect anyone else to love and respect me if I don’t love myself. I am happier within myself more proud of my trans womanhood, my LGBTQ+ cuteness than I have ever been in my 44 years of life.
HG: What advice would you share with someone who is planning to come out?
JLW: Some advice that I would like to share with anyone who is coming out or coming to terms with who they are is that there is nothing wrong with you. You are destined for greatness and it doesn’t matter what or who you become, the only person you have to answer to is yourself. Love yourself. It’s important to understand that not everyone will agree with your life choices to become who you are and that is quite all right because you becoming the great human who you are meant to be is what you need to do for yourself to find love and happiness. I wish I’d known these things way back when but I want you to know that there is a community that can talk to you that can be a shoulder to cry on, there are therapists out here to help you along your journey. I love you, we love you, and I want you to live proud within yourself most importantly.
HG: What is your favorite local LGBTQ+-owned business?
JLW: As far as stores or restaurants Actually I don’t know of any. I just see LGBTQ managed. Hudson Pride Center is an excellent LGBTQ-owned organization as well as The Jen Love Project. There are also a few local designers and makeup experts who I absolutely love.
HG: What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in Hudson County?
JLW: The waterfront at Exchange Place.
HG: Where do you go out with friends in the area?
JLW: My friends and I pretty much go to every restaurant in our local area.
HG: What is something you think needs to come to Hoboken or Jersey City?
JLW: I’d love to see something that’s geared towards the black LGBTQ+ community because we’re overlooked and not being included.
If you’d like to support Jennifer, donations are always welcomed at her nonprofit, The Jennifer Love Project.