She sat and waited for over an hour and a half. Surrounded by sky blue walls covered in shelves crowded with shoes, hats, shirts, bikinis, purses and bags of all styles, Jessica Latshaw, a viral Youtube hit now forging her way into the music industry, waited at her publicists office on 35th St. in midtown Manhattan for her publicist and a photographer to show up to their meeting. They had told her 2:00pm on Feb. 21st. It was 3:35pm.
The photographer, Tatijana Shoan, walked in quickly and apologized for her tardiness. Shoan, fashionable and blond, tall and upright, extended an industrious hand. Latshaw stood, smiled, and shook Shoan’s protracted hand in a flowing motion. Shoan had come to help Latshaw begin to create her image, to help her build her brand. Latshaw’s publicist, Pamela DePalma, had called shortly before to say she couldn’t make it, so the meeting went forward with her assistant in her place.
First, Shoan wanted Latshaw to describe herself, explain who she was and what she was doing. Latshaw talked about how she had always been a dancer, musician, and artist, and had been writing music forever. She moved to New York in March, 2010, and had never heard of a viral video until mid-January of this year when a clip of her singing on the subway received over one million hits in two weeks, unexpectedly launching her into the music industry and its fine-tuned machinery.
“This is great,” Shoan said, “because it really is a story from obscurity. Nothing happens overnight, people work on this for years and years.”
Over the past six weeks, Latshaw has recorded more songs and performed many gigs. Her publicist scheduled this appointment with Shoan in order to begin the stages of brand and image building.
“It is important for you when you walk the red carpet that people can establish who you are,” Shoan said almost immediately after Latshaw finished telling her story. “I think with you, because you are so different, the market is looking for another Jewel, someone sweet and fun who writes her own music and sings from the heart.”
Latshaw nodded. She spoke minimally at first. She seemed almost out of place, in a new world she was trying to figure out as fast as it came at her. When asked what singer she related to, she didn’t have an answer. Later, when flipping through “As If” magazine, a magazine produced by Shoan and her partner, Latshaw recognized very few of the important profiled celebrities.
Yet, she had no problem describing herself or asserting what she wanted. She said she feels folksy but plays classic piano. She loves old, beautiful things juxtaposed with the new.
“You have a romantic and rustic look,” Shoan said.
“I’m low maintenance,” Latshaw said. “I want to stay me, but I’m not opposed to suggestions.”
“More than anything, in the music industry you need branding,” Shoan explained. “You have to have your look. […] If people don’t know what you are, they don’t know how to follow you. They need a message.”
They spoke together about the images of other music stars (Shoan said that branding is not as important for actors). Katy Perry strives to be avant garde. Lady Gaga loves theatrics. Latshaw, however, has a romantic feel. She is bohemian. Today, for instance, she wore a lace sundress with a brown belt and vintage brown boots, covered by a large, olive green cardigan.
Shoan began to create an actual picture of Latshaw. Blond highlights streaking down Latshaw’s dirty blond hair with her roots showing: make her look like she’s been in the sun. The image that appeared before Shoan was of Brigette Bardot, a former French model and actress. Latshaw did not know who she was. They pulled up a picture of Bardot online.
Latshaw leaned forward and looked at the picture with a sundry of bags in various colors and styles hanging on racks over her head. All three in the meeting loved the images.