Within minutes of poring over Jazz Jennings favorite music and films, it’s clear that the titular star of TLC’s “I Am Jazz” has quite the old soul for a 17-year-old. Her penchant for music by classic singer-songwriters and timeless film, smacks of someone who has been exposed to a wide array of diverse influences. And while her picks may erratically bounce between decades and genres, they always seem to maintain a through-line of love and connection – a refreshing and positive trait that is perfectly on-brand for the young activist.
In heavy rotation on the playlist she shared were several classic rock titles, which Jazz recalled being exposed to by her sister. “My sister was actually in a rock band and I used to go to all of her gigs and just heard all of those different songs,” she said. “It really opened my eyes to different types of music than what was being played on the radio, which was the traditional pop sound. I just really loved it.”
Classics like Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” and Bob Marley’s “One Love” feature right beside “Hey Jude” by the Beatles and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The latter of which holds particular significance to Jazz. “I think it’s such a beautiful song in a way – looking for peace, love and happiness in the world and trying to create this beautiful picture,” she explains. “When he says, ‘I hope someday you will join us;’ I don’t know why people don’t want to join us and be accepting and loving and happy. I definitely love that song.”
More of her family’s influence can be seen in Jazz’s inclusion of the bands Tedeschi Trucks Band and Good Old War. Jazz recalled when her sister would drive her and her brothers to school, “It was all four of us kids and my sister would drive us to school. It was a time when we were all together and she would always play ‘Bound for Glory’ by Tedeschi Trucks Band and ‘Amazing Eyes’ by Good Old Way,’” she explained. “It was a moment for us so we share those songs as kind of our ‘kids songs.’”
Unsurprisingly, Lady Gaga’s queer anthem “Born This Way” also holds a special place in Jazz’s heart for reasons that echo those of many other LGBTQ people. “Obviously, it’s such an impactful song. It came out when I was younger, but that was my bop. I was loving that song and singing it everywhere,” she said. “I just felt so proud to be born in my own body. Really, it kind of created a sense of pride for me, but also for the entire community because it became such an anthem in a sense.”
Jazz also touched on the healing power of music when speaking to Julia Brennan’s song “Inner Demons.” “This was another song that was very powerful for me during my depression,” she shared. “My dad actually showed me the song and I just remember hearing the words and it resonated a lot with me. It talks about the inner struggles that we face, the problems and just trying to overcome that.”
Jazz’s top picks for film are every bit as eclectic as her taste in music and even include several animated features. “I think that a movie is so much more than how it’s made. Just because something is animated doesn’t mean that it has less value. It’s about the message and the characters,” she said. “The fact that I grew up with these characters as well – they hold a special place in my heart.”
It should come as no surprise then that two of Jazz’s favorite films are Disney staples. “I love ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ It’s probably my favorite Disney film,” she said. “I love that Belle was able to not judge a book by its cover and look deeper into the Beast to see him for his personality.” Jazz equated this to her own pansexuality, stating that she was attracted to people by their souls and who they are on the inside. “I’d like to think that I could be like Belle too and that I could fall in love with a ‘Beast’ just because I would see the person for who they are and find them attractive based on their inner beauty.”
Jazz also found a kindred spirit in everyone’s favorite feline future king, Simba. “Literally, everything about the “Lion King” sang to me,” she said. “That first scene where he’s lifted up as a little [cub] and shown to the other animals – Being a young advocate, exposed and in the public eye at such a young age, I felt like that moment kind of spoke to me. I know that is kind of a reach and a bit weird, but I’ve just always felt that way.”
Disney movies aren’t the only animated titles that regularly make it onto Jazz’s watchlist. Increasingly, she finds herself watching anime, which grew out of her love for the Nickelodeon series, “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” “It’s not anime [per se], but I love it. That was the first show I saw when I was younger and because I loved that, it got me into more of the actual anime from Japan,” she said. “I really like this show called “Steins;Gate” – it’s about time travel and I’m all about that. It’s also pretty deep and emotional, but I love that. I love when a show can make me cry.”
And who doesn’t love a good cry, am I right? Stifling tears certainly isn’t the modus operandi of this writer – just throw on an episode of “Queer Eye” and watch the waterworks pouring out of my face. It appears I am in good company with Jazz though. “I don’t know why people try to hold back their tears when they see something,” she said. “Letting the tears come allows you to feel vulnerable while watching the movie. It shows how emotionally connected you’ve become to the characters from the story. I think crying from a movie is such a beautiful thing.”
The other two films that made it onto Jazz’s top picks list both fall into the realm of fantasy and sci-fi – one of her favorite genres and one that’s perfect for a bit of escapism. “I just love fantasy movies. I remember watching the film, “Stardust” and thinking this is everything I would want to see in a fantasy movie. I love this. I love that. I want to live in this world. I want to be with these characters.”
Jazz also pointed to the film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” – a film that made its debut more than 20 years before she was born but resonated nonetheless. “Kind of like ‘Stardust,’ this movie embodies everything about sci-fi that you want to see,” she explained. “And I love how the aliens are friendly and aren’t there to destroy everyone – or at least that’s implied in the way that they’re communicating. It’s an iconic film.”
You can check out Jazz’s favorite films, music and so much more in Xfinity LGBTQ Film & TV’s Guest Editor collections. Simply say “LGBTQ” or “Pride” into your X1 Voice Remote. You can also text search with the term “LGBTQ” on your set top box or in the Stream App to browse the collection.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.