Exclusive Interview: A Coffee With Jessi Malay

In the world of social media, the market for female fashion influencers has quickly become saturated with new fashion mavens popping up daily.  In order to remain relevant in this quickly expanding demographic, one must be more than just a fashion blogger. Los Angeles native Jessi Malay not only documents her her daily outfit inspiration on her blog My White T , but has also had a successful career in the music industry long before the days of #ootd's.  With over 100,000 followers on Instagram Jessi has successfully merged her love of music and fashion and turned it into a full-time career.  We recently sat down with Mrs. Malay and got the inside scoop to her life off-line. 

Photography: Cibelle Levi

Music artist and fashion influencer Jessi Malay 1. When Did You Realize That Singing Was Your Passion? Dancing was my first love and passion, right when I started dancing when I was 2. I would see ballerinas on TV and beg my mom to take me, so as soon as I could walk I was dancing. And then one thing led to another, and I was joining performing groups when I was 5, 6, 7, and singing is just part of it. You had to do it. So, when I was 8 or 9, my group got invited to go tour Disney World and the Big Red Road and the Bahamas and we were doing Shirley Temple number at the time. Like look at me, I naturally have really dark brown hair, I got the lead Shirley Temple role and I had to wear this short curly blonde wig, and I was also really tan, which just looked really ridiculous. But, I was Shirley Temple in our Disney World Tour. Tap was my main thing when I was little. I actually really miss it. There is something about Tap. It is just so fun. That's when I started singing, and then I joined a different performing group. I met this girl named Angel, she just auditioned for a girl band, and they needed one another lead singer. So, they invited me to audition, and that night, I recorded my first song ever. It was a song called Trilogy. By a week later, we were already auditioning for all of the major labels, and we signed with Jive Records. So that was when I was 14. I begged my parents to let me do it. I was home schooled and we went on tour for two years. After that, I was 17, and the group kind of dismantled. After, I signed solo to Warner Brothers Records. I had a mixed experience with them, they didn't really have a pop division, they only had a really strong rock division, and a hip-hop department. So they were like you look more hip-hop, lets throw you over there. I am not hip hop. Like, Wiz Khalifa used to open for me. Three 6 Mafia, I've done shows with. E-40 I have songs with. Like my first single was featuring Yung Joc. That was my world. It was not a genuine fit for me. It just did not genuinely make sense. That was my experience with them. Then I decided to negotiate out of my contract because they kind of just shelved me. So then I went back to school, went back to UCLA, graduated. While I was there my best friend and I decided to start our own production company. She was just coming out of film school at the time and I still had all of my music connections. My boyfriend at the time, I'm married now, he is now my husband, he is a music producer, so the three of us started our own little company. Now we call it the Coalition group. We started producing music videos for other artists, and for myself. And then now, we are moving more into film and television.

Music artist and fashion influencer Jessi Malay

1. When Did You Realize That Singing Was Your Passion?

Dancing was my first love and passion, right when I started dancing when I was 2. I would see ballerinas on TV and beg my mom to take me, so as soon as I could walk I was dancing. And then one thing led to another, and I was joining performing groups when I was 5, 6, 7, and singing is just part of it. You had to do it. So, when I was 8 or 9, my group got invited to go tour Disney World and the Big Red Road and the Bahamas and we were doing Shirley Temple number at the time. Like look at me, I naturally have really dark brown hair, I got the lead Shirley Temple role and I had to wear this short curly blonde wig, and I was also really tan, which just looked really ridiculous. But, I was Shirley Temple in our Disney World Tour.

Tap was my main thing when I was little. I actually really miss it. There is something about Tap. It is just so fun. That's when I started singing, and then I joined a different performing group. I met this girl named Angel, she just auditioned for a girl band, and they needed one another lead singer. So, they invited me to audition, and that night, I recorded my first song ever. It was a song called Trilogy. By a week later, we were already auditioning for all of the major labels, and we signed with Jive Records. So that was when I was 14. I begged my parents to let me do it. I was home schooled and we went on tour for two years. After that, I was 17, and the group kind of dismantled.

After, I signed solo to Warner Brothers Records. I had a mixed experience with them, they didn't really have a pop division, they only had a really strong rock division, and a hip-hop department. So they were like you look more hip-hop, lets throw you over there. I am not hip hop. Like, Wiz Khalifa used to open for me. Three 6 Mafia, I've done shows with. E-40 I have songs with. Like my first single was featuring Yung Joc. That was my world. It was not a genuine fit for me. It just did not genuinely make sense. That was my experience with them. Then I decided to negotiate out of my contract because they kind of just shelved me. So then I went back to school, went back to UCLA, graduated. While I was there my best friend and I decided to start our own production company. She was just coming out of film school at the time and I still had all of my music connections. My boyfriend at the time, I'm married now, he is now my husband, he is a music producer, so the three of us started our own little company. Now we call it the Coalition group. We started producing music videos for other artists, and for myself. And then now, we are moving more into film and television.

Music artist and fashion influencer Jessi Malay 2. How Did All Of That Transcend Into The Fashion Blogging And The Fashion World? Fashion blogging... I've always loved fashion. At labels, especially Warner, it was the time when Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, were all trying to top each other. It was the era of the meat dress. And like, all of those extreme looks. So they were always trying to make me more of a character, more eccentric, it was just not natural for me either. Like, I appreciate more daily street style. So, it was just not natural for me. They were always like "oh you have no style." I was like that is just not the case at all. I kind of started blogging, a little bit to show like I know what I'm talking about. I started that way, and very quickly I became a part of the community. You start meeting so many cool people and girls that appreciate the same thing you appreciate and love, and then I just loved it for that reason. It is fun to kind of be a stylist to all of these people that follow you. I just fell in love with it, I started about a year and a half ago.  3. Are A Lot Of Your Followers From The Music Or Fashion World? Initially, a lot of my followers were from music, but I have a big gay male population in my music world, so most of them don't really care about my fashion stuff. So it did not cross over that much initially. But, it erupted completely on its own. Instagram helps immensely. 

Music artist and fashion influencer Jessi Malay

2. How Did All Of That Transcend Into The Fashion Blogging And The Fashion World?

Fashion blogging... I've always loved fashion. At labels, especially Warner, it was the time when Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, were all trying to top each other. It was the era of the meat dress. And like, all of those extreme looks. So they were always trying to make me more of a character, more eccentric, it was just not natural for me either. Like, I appreciate more daily street style. So, it was just not natural for me. They were always like "oh you have no style." I was like that is just not the case at all. I kind of started blogging, a little bit to show like I know what I'm talking about. I started that way, and very quickly I became a part of the community. You start meeting so many cool people and girls that appreciate the same thing you appreciate and love, and then I just loved it for that reason. It is fun to kind of be a stylist to all of these people that follow you. I just fell in love with it, I started about a year and a half ago. 

3. Are A Lot Of Your Followers From The Music Or Fashion World?

Initially, a lot of my followers were from music, but I have a big gay male population in my music world, so most of them don't really care about my fashion stuff. So it did not cross over that much initially. But, it erupted completely on its own. Instagram helps immensely. 

4. What Do You Think Inspires Your Music And Fashion? Musically, I've always been inspired by like the old school pop Gods. I love the Jacksons, I love Michael and Janet Jackson. I think Janet has really had a huge impact on my life. She has inspired me a lot. She was always such an amazing performer, I really appreciate a show. She was always such an incredible dancer, entertainer, and actress. She has this approachable, sweet side, but then she's like dominatrix beast on the other hand, and I always just loved that about her. Her music really relays that too, it shows both sides of her. Like that Janet album where, somebody is holding her boobs, that album for me was everything. So a lot of my music is kind of in that lane too. I balance both ends, like I sing a song called Fetish, and I do very "dominatrixy" kind of video, and I have a softer side, where I sing songs like The Edge, where I am talking about vulnerability and falling in love. A lot of my music is influenced by her.  On the fashion side of things, I really love women from that 60s and 70s era, like I really love Brigitte Bordeaux, and I really love Bianca Jagger. I love that era because those women were still such women, but it was a time when they were realizing their power as women, and it was about more independence, and sexuality. I love what happened in that era. Both of those women seem just equally comfortable in jeans and a little sweater or in a gown, and I just love that. Both of them have this certain essence about them that I try to emulate. 

4. What Do You Think Inspires Your Music And Fashion?

Musically, I've always been inspired by like the old school pop Gods. I love the Jacksons, I love Michael and Janet Jackson. I think Janet has really had a huge impact on my life. She has inspired me a lot. She was always such an amazing performer, I really appreciate a show. She was always such an incredible dancer, entertainer, and actress. She has this approachable, sweet side, but then she's like dominatrix beast on the other hand, and I always just loved that about her. Her music really relays that too, it shows both sides of her. Like that Janet album where, somebody is holding her boobs, that album for me was everything. So a lot of my music is kind of in that lane too. I balance both ends, like I sing a song called Fetish, and I do very "dominatrixy" kind of video, and I have a softer side, where I sing songs like The Edge, where I am talking about vulnerability and falling in love. A lot of my music is influenced by her. 

On the fashion side of things, I really love women from that 60s and 70s era, like I really love Brigitte Bordeaux, and I really love Bianca Jagger. I love that era because those women were still such women, but it was a time when they were realizing their power as women, and it was about more independence, and sexuality. I love what happened in that era. Both of those women seem just equally comfortable in jeans and a little sweater or in a gown, and I just love that. Both of them have this certain essence about them that I try to emulate. 

5. What Advice Do You Have For Aspiring Artists? Just jump in, dive in. So many people are just so scared to begin, and I think that's the hardest part, just starting. Just dive in. I think so many people focus on that they feel that they need to put out the finish product as soon as they start. Not the case, people want to grow with you. People want to develop with you. People want to discover you as a new artist. It is natural to evolve, it is natural for your style to evolve both in music and fashion. I think my greatest advice would be just go for it. Like if you go and look at my earliest posts, they suck. Just dive in and also as an artist, you need to be prepared to understand that it is never going to be just a job. It is going to be your existence, like your whole life and lifestyle and being, if you want to be an artist of any kind. 

5. What Advice Do You Have For Aspiring Artists?

Just jump in, dive in. So many people are just so scared to begin, and I think that's the hardest part, just starting. Just dive in. I think so many people focus on that they feel that they need to put out the finish product as soon as they start. Not the case, people want to grow with you. People want to develop with you. People want to discover you as a new artist. It is natural to evolve, it is natural for your style to evolve both in music and fashion. I think my greatest advice would be just go for it. Like if you go and look at my earliest posts, they suck. Just dive in and also as an artist, you need to be prepared to understand that it is never going to be just a job. It is going to be your existence, like your whole life and lifestyle and being, if you want to be an artist of any kind.