Green Market Report: Jay Jackson is a man of many talents. He’s known as a female illusionist, but he’s also a choreographer and he’s an advocate for cannabis. One of the things that he has done in his brand building is that he has been able to straddle the world between female performance and cannabis. So, Jay, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Green Market Report. How did you decide that this was going to be your persona, Laganja Estranja?
Jay Jackson: Well, first off, thank you so much for having me. I’m so grateful to anyone who is giving my voice some cadence in the world. And second of all, how I got to this position that I’m in today. It’s a long, long journey, but the shortened version is that I like to say drag chose me. I did not choose drag. I went to school to be a dancer and a choreographer. I grew up as a performer my whole life. So I had this innate ability to entertain people, but it wasn’t until really in college that the wig, the makeup, all of the things that come along with the art form of drag really happened for me. Because up to that point, I was just focused on dance.
Jay Jackson: So it was a magical experience that really changed my life. I had no idea in the beginning that one day people would be in line with joints for me. The cannabis activist part of my journey really has been a wonderful surprise and something that I’m very proud of because as I’ve learned and gotten an education, there’s a strong linkage between the LGBTQIA+ community and the cannabis community. And I really feel like I’m a good reminder of that and hopefully, doing some new important work in those spaces.
Green Market Report: So, how did you come up with that name? Because I know that performers, really it’s almost like coming up with a band name. It’s so important. And once you choose it, it sticks with you. So how did you come to this name?
Jay Jackson: Well, I get this question a lot and I’ve had to kind of formulate an answer for this because of the truth. The real truth is, I don’t know. I smoked a lot of cannabis in college when I created this persona. There are several theories. My sister drove a Daewoo Lasagna. It sounded very similar to Leganza, so she said, that’s what she called her car. So I could have gotten that word from her. I really loved how my friend, who was a fellow drag queen, his name was Marquita Velveeta. So his name rhymed. So I think I picked up the rhyme scheme from him. His name was also Marcus and Marquita, so it was kind of a pun. So I liked the idea that something represented something else, hence the name Laganja. It’s a name, but it also references cannabis. And then, of course, Estranja could have been from the ball vogue scene they say Estranja. It’s a term they use when people are on the runway working it and feeling it. They’d say, “Estranja,” to the different performers, which means elongate and feel it. So it could have come in… It could have come from a myriad of things. It’s hard to really pinpoint like I say, the true birth of that.
Green Market Report: And you have been able to parlay this into other businesses. So you have partnered with some of the cannabis companies for products. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how that’s come about?
Jay Jackson: Yes, it’s definitely been a struggle as a queer person to partner with companies. I will be honest, that has been something I’ve had to really fight for as an activist is creating safe spaces for queer people in the industry. I think, unfortunately, a lot of big businesses came in and took over and diluted the message and the whole essence of the plant, which is that it’s a medicine. It’s really here to help people. Even when you’re consuming recreationally, you’re getting medical benefits. But what was the point of this question?
Green Market Report: How you parlayed your brand into partnering with cannabis companies.
Jay Jackson: So there was a difficulty that I was faced with, right? And so what I chose to do and what I’ve been lucky enough to have is I’ve worked with a lot of women. Women, I find are able to relate to this feeling that I’ve had as a queer person in the industry because they’re women. I think I have had the similar relations with people who are of color. It’s the same feeling of not really being able to belong and have access to the same medicine as others. And so what I’ve done is partner with those people, partner with those people who have a similar message and a similar desire as me, and that’s been incredible. Fruit Slabs is a wonderful woman-owned company by a woman named Roxanne. And we created, well, she created a vegan gluten-free kosher certified fruit leathers. So they are very organic and delicious. And so I partnered with her and created my own flavor.
I also worked with the Hepburns out of San Francisco, another woman-run owned business by Allie. She had a product that then I, again, created the different strains, worked with her to get the perfect blend. But I’ve never really had my own cannabis yet. That’s something I’m working really hard on and trying to find the right growers and companies to partner with, because I’ve learned in this industry, it’s super important my voice and what I’m saying and I want to make sure that I am a good role model. Even though I smoke cannabis openly, it doesn’t mean that I can’t work with children because I do that. I teach dance. So I like to really think big picture here.
Green Market Report: Certainly, the cannabis industry is known for its canna-bros and-
Jay Jackson: I’ve never heard that. I’m stealing that.
Green Market Report: Oh yeah, the canna-bro. I think that you’re right to fight for your place within the industry. We’re hearing so much performative yip, yap about social equity and we’re inclusive. And then the big corporate companies go and hire this inclusive coordinator. And it’s like, you know what? If you just do the actions, you won’t have to put out a press release that you’ve hired someone to tell you what to do, what’s right.
Jay Jackson: Right, if this actually did the work and care, I think that’s really what it’s about here is there’s a lot of empathy, but it’s not a lot of like action. And I think that’s something that I try to encourage people every day. Every day on my Instagram stories, I’m showing people like, look, I am active every day doing something. Even though there’s a pandemic and even though I’m an artist, I’m still making money, I’m still working, I’m still partnering with really good brands who genuinely care about the world. And so it’s out there. We just have to lift those voices up. And I think it’s a lot easier to lift up the sexy girl in the skimpy outfit voice up, and that’s why we see that marketing time and time again. But I agree with you there. There have been so many women groups and queer led groups that have said, “Well, we’re not a part of that and that’s not acceptable in this environment.” And I think that’s great.
Green Market Report: And you’re truly an entrepreneur because you are making your own way. You have created your own brand and it really seems like that’s where you’re headed with this is a whole lifestyle brand. You’ve got your YouTube channel that has what? Like almost a hundred-
Jay Jackson: Almost 100,000.
Green Market Report: This is amazing. Congratulations to that.
Jay Jackson: Thank you.
Green Market Report: Because that’s really difficult to build up. And then you’ve got your dance, the choreography. You’re doing so many things. And do you have a team that is behind you that’s helping you do all this?
Jay Jackson: I don’t. I have two best friends who are there for me pretty much at every moment. I’m very thankful to both of them. That’s Robert Hayman and Hector Flores. I get very emotional when I talk about them because it’s true, I really wouldn’t be able to do this without them. And then I do work with other artists such as designers, right? So I work with Howie B., who designs most of my clothing, I work with Webster Wigs, which is in the UK. So in a way, I have a team, right? Because there are all these different people that I work with, but it’s not like I have an assistant at home helping me do this. No, no, we’re putting up the lights, he’s pressing the smoke machine, I’m over here doing the choreography, we’ve got a projector going, and it’s just the three of us most of the time.
Jay Jackson: So that’s been a challenge, but it’s also been really fun. I’m an artist and I was so focused on performing in these gay clubs before the pandemic that I wasn’t really able to express these different eccentricities of who I am and what makes Laganja Laganja. And that’s that she is an artist and that she does want to smoke a bunch of pot and come up with some really interesting things and show that and not necessarily always dance to Brittany Spears at midnight. And be kind of the girl in the bikini because it goes back to what we were talking earlier. I love sex sells. I’m totally for it. Anyone who knows my character, I’m very promiscuous when I perform. I love dirty, raunchy, rap music. So I think there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s a time and a place.
And ultimately, it has to be up to the performer. And I think, unfortunately, what we see is a lot of women be cornered into jobs like this, where they don’t really want to do that, but it’s a pandemic and they have to take work and they’re a cannabis influencer. So the next thing you know, they’re in the tiny bra and they’re selling the weed the way they never intended to. And so, it’s about, again, just to kind of bring it back, creating those safe spaces. And I think as a queer person, I’m always trying to have a voice and for those other people.
Green Market Report: When I was looking at the different people in the LGBTQ industry or not industry, but area and cannabis, I really don’t see as many people pushing that narrative or that message of self-care, of wellness and how the cannabis can do so much good. And I think it’s interesting that you were so brave about embracing it and embracing it for your community. And I’m curious, have you seen maybe your impact on that? That your courage to step out that way has maybe had other people say, “Jay, thank you so much for doing this because now I have the courage to also step up and say, “Hey, I’m in the gay community and also I’m in the cannabis community.”
Jay Jackson: I do see it. I do hear it. What I say it’s often probably not, I think more I inspire people internally, I think at this point, it’s still not cool to be gay and smoke pot in the cannabis industry. I think among the LGBT people, if you smoke pot, you are cool. Like most of us all smoke pot because we all have PTSD and it works. So in the queer community, I don’t think it’s seen as like you’re a druggie, whereas in the cannabis industry and you’re bringing the queer term, it’s like, yeah, there’s a level of uncomfortability. And especially because like I said, as a performer, I am a very sexually charged character who owns that.
Jay Jackson: And so I just think it confronts a lot of issues. That’s why drag has always been a rebellious art form is because it is confronting this idea of gender and what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man, and that makes people uncomfortable. So I don’t know. I feel like we’re really making a lot of progress. I think drag is definitely becoming more pop culture and I think cannabis is too. I just hope that both as they are put in the limelight, are truly looked at with an open heart and eye because there are so many misconceptions about both identities and we really need to break the stigma in both areas. And the only way we’re going to do that is through education.
Green Market Report: I agree. And it’s ironic that cannabis, which is so counter-culture, all of a sudden starts to put up walls and say, “Well, we really only want these people in our sandbox because we’re familiar with them.” So I appreciate the efforts that you are making and the work you’re doing and I applaud you. I’m looking forward to the day that you get to perform on a stage again and I get to see you. And thank you for your advocacy and what you’re doing to bridge the worlds between the gay community and the cannabis community.
Jay Jackson: Absolutely. I’m so excited to continue this journey. I think there is a lot of ground to be tilled and turned and I can’t wait to be a part of it. I’m one small voice, but I feel like my voice is helping others, as you said earlier, and that’s what this is about. It’s encouraging people to just be themselves and also accept that maybe the medicine that they’re looking for is the alternative. It is cannabis, and that there’s nothing wrong with that.