Jewel was homeless at the time she got her record deal, but the star is slamming past reports that she was in that situation because she was “fighting for her dream.”
In a new interview with Stereogum, the singer discussed how famous women were treated by the media in the ‘90s and ‘00s, and how she has personally related to that era’s sexism. “My whole career, the slant that the media gave it was through a really, I dare say, patriarchal lens,” she explained.
“You think of my origin story, right? The whole world knows I lived in my car,” she continued. “They think because I was fighting for my dream of music. That is an absolute misrepresentation of what happened. I was living in my car because I wouldn’t have sex with my boss. I refused to be leveraged and he wouldn’t give me my paycheck and I couldn’t pay my rent and I started living in my car and then my car got stolen and I was homeless because of that, because I wouldn’t bang a boss.”
She added that the information was no secret, as she spoke her truth in a number of interviews, but it was often ignored. “They would just write the story, ‘Jewel lived in her car to pursue her music career.’ That’s not why I lived in my car,” she said. “I was not even thinking I would be a musician. I was trying to figure out how to stand up for myself, how to refuse to be leveraged for anything or anyone. It was an act of defiance [sic], it was an act of courage. It cost me a lot, but it won me myself. It won me my humanity. I’m so proud of that decision. It was so funny to see it portrayed as some cute, fluffy little, ‘Aw, she was fighting for her dream.’ I didn’t even have a dream. It’s not what I was doing.”
Back in 2015, Jewel spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the long, winding path that brought her this far and the sexual harassment she’s had to endure since the very beginning. “The music industry is a very male-dominated business,” she said. “I never slept my way to the top ever. There was never one time I’ve ever compromised anything. I was always willing to walk away…and I think that type of spirit that you bring just informs everybody that’s around you. You know, I’ve heard plenty of stories that the opposite happens.”
“I’ve had men hitting on me sadly since I was really young,” she continued. “At eight, I had men putting dimes in my hands saying, ‘Call me. It’d be so great to f— when you’re older.’ And just horrible stuff.”
Jewel says that traumatic experience early in life helped prepare her for the sexual harassment she’d have to endure in the wake of her big break at 18, when she signed with Atlantic Records. “In the music business, it ended up serving me very well. I learned to keep my energy to myself where there’s nothing about me that seemed approachable. And as men did approach me, I got very good at handling men in a way that sort of didn’t anger them … and at the same time using wit and usually humor to defuse the situation and to inform them, ‘P.S. Not available that way.’”