Since Erika Jayne joined The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in 2015, the Housewives franchise has gotten a lot more fabulous. But the Bravo reality series was certainly not her first rodeo: she had already garnered name recognition as a performer and musician making headway on the Billboard charts and lived a rich life prior to her Bravo debut. But the notoriously private Housewife finally got to tell her story on her own terms in a memoir. And the name to sum it all up? Pretty Mess, the phrase that originated as a poem and became the title of her debut record.
As Erika Jayne puts it, it will likely be on her tombstone, too. The Pretty Mess book details Erika Jayne’s adolescence performing, her relationship with the single mother who raised her, and how she ended up as a star of the hit Bravo show.
We caught up with her about equality in performing arts, Housewives drama, and her friendship with Christina Aguilera.
Pretty Mess is the name of your book and your record. You’ve said that the phrase “Pretty Mess” will probably be on your tombstone.
It started out as a poem Peter Rafelson and I were writing. I thought it was dumb — we were writing the first batch of music in the Erika Jayne project. It wasn’t meant to be anything. It wasn’t contrived — it was just things on a page.
What inspired you to write a memoir?
I think the time was right and I’m in a place in my life where I like to say yes to a lot of cool things that become available so I did it. I would have never thought to write a memoir, but I’m glad I did it. I liked the way it turned out.
What was the writing process like?
I worked with a co-writer, Brian J. Moylan, and he and I worked for about six months. He and I had a lot of conversations and he asked a lot of questions and formed a whole story.
Since being on Housewives, how did your life change?
For Billboard, it was dance club [success] so I had that audience which was mostly LGBT and people that like dance music. But now it’s moms, kids, couples and women my age, and I’m 46. It’s everybody. It’s really great the power of television and the power to deliver music to people’s homes. I had sold records all around the world, but to be in front of people for 18-20 weeks is pretty incredible.
In your book, you talk about your love of Dolly Parton. What made you fall in love with her?
I’m from the south: country music. People don’t really realize what a prolific writer Dolly is — she’s written some of the biggest songs of all time. She’s a great performer, she’s got great costumes and great wigs and I think she’s got a heart of gold.
Something that struck me in the book was your relationship with your mother. Sometimes she’s not painted in the best light. How did she react to it?
She lived the book. I don’t know what else to say other than that she’s my mom. She knows. There’s no pretense: I didn’t hide anything from my mom. I don’t think there’s anything that she needs to be embarrassed about. She was a young woman who had a baby that she provided for in the best way possible. I don’t think she’s a villain and I just portrayed a very honest mother-daughter relationship. I’m sure that yours isn’t perfect either.
It’s definitely not. But something that resonated with me is being treated as an adult when you’re a child. I went through that myself.
It sucks, but it also probably made you very independent. I tend to look at the silver lining of things. Instead of oh my god I feel so bad, I try to think, what can we take from this?
You make a very great statement about equality in the performance industry and your experience as a kid. Can you talk to me about that?
I was fortunate enough to go to an art school where we had a lot of different ethnicities represented. It was whoever was good got the part — not whoever fit the part. It was whoever could hit the notes and do the steps. It was also a great way to bring people together — people that lived on one side of town and people on the other. I think art and dance is something everyone can relate to.
Is the drama on the show mostly organic?
I mean, you can sense my level of frustration or anger. Even the last couple of episodes I’ve been a little upset. Those types of things you can’t fake. I was doing Andy [Cohen]’s show [Watch What Happens Live] the other day and he received so many comments that “Oh it’s manufactured.” And no, not really. You get some strong people and you put them in a room together and you’ll be fine.
Tell me about your style inspiration. You have such a great sense of style that has a big personality.
Well that’s the whole point — to have a personality and to dress around it. I enjoy clothes and I enjoy playing characters like I said on the show. And what’s great is that I get to play. That’s what wardrobe is for. The great part of being on a TV show is to create these characters — like I’ve always said, ’90s Russian hooker supermodel. It’s fun and it’s fun for the audience too.
Is there someone who has approached you that you were surprised is a fan of your music?
I wouldn’t have expected that Christina Aguilera and I to have a friendship and to be asked to do Lip Sync Battle for her. But I’m thankful for my relationship with her. She’s a really good person.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from being on Housewives?
There are a couple of skills you take away from Housewives. You learn to be quick on your feet, stand your ground. I’ve always been kind of unapologetic, but you grow into that or into your own skin. You have a choice: you can either grow into your skin or you can back out. It will test your strength and patience – it will definitely run the gamut so you can figure out a little bit more of what you’re made of.
Do you spend time with the women of the show away from filming?
Yes, and I speak to them as well. They’re all very nice people. You wouldn’t be on the show if you didn’t have something to offer.
What are you working on past your memoir?
We have a new single and we’re in the studio making a new EP. We’re performing at the White Party in April.
There’s a moment in the book where you’re performing and you hurt your ankle really badly. What would have happened if you stopped the show?
I was brought up never to quit onstage, so you couldn’t quit then ever. I think I was more shocked and hurt. I was like, oh my god. I was having a really good time – you’re excited to be back doing something you love, but then you have to finish things up. That’s a way a pro does it. You can’t really quit even though shit goes bad.
You come out very authentically and you’ve become one of the most popular show additions. How did you react to your reception?
I’m just thankful I’m myself and I’m glad people enjoy it and like what I do. That’s all you can really say – you can’t really force it. If you force it, people notice. I think people will appreciate you for who you are if you’re brave enough to be yourself.
Do you watch the show?
I have to. I live it, I make it and I watch it and then I relive it.
Will you write a second book?
I don’t know. Let’s see how this one does. It’s too early to tell.
On Tuesday (April 10), Jayne released a new song called “Cars,” a club banger that interpolates the chorus of L’Trimm’s 1988 ode to subwoofers “Cars With the Boom.” Take a listen below: