Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.
Jacquelyn DeJesu Center is the Founder and CEO of DEEJAYZOO, a femme-focused design and innovation company with creativity at its core. Their first product launch, flagship brand, and team’s current focus is SHHHOWERCAP®, a multimillion-dollar patented invention that rethinks haircare for the modern-day consumer.
What is the thing you like doing most in the world?
Creating new things that have never existed and seeing how the world receives them. It’s what inspired me daily in my advertising career through pitches, ideas, and campaigns, and now what inspires me daily running SHHHOWERCAP with our new launches and beyond. It’s how I feel I’m best part of creating change in the world. That fuels my soul.
I also absolutely love singing; belting, actually. It’s the purest release. I sing when I’m happy, stressed, or bored, and it always shifts my mood and clears my head, whether it’s Karaoke night with my girlfriends or just into my hairbrush.
When I’m creating while singing—which has been known to happen—that is when I’m truly the happiest and best version of myself.
What is the first memory you have of being creative?
I can’t remember the first time I was creative, but I remember the first time I felt my creativity had value.
Here’s the story. I couldn’t have been more than seven years old—kindergarten or first grade. My dad is a set builder, and he had a workshop in our basement growing up. He had created a large abstract sculpture of a bull from some repurposed painted wood pieces, leftover scraps from a different project that he’d just finished. When I went downstairs, I remember he showed me what he’d made just for fun. It was a bit macabre and a touch skeletal. I instinctively took the chain hanging from the bull’s nose and looped it through the eye.
My dad’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and he exclaimed that this addition had “made the piece.” He immediately placed it on display in our home and would make sure every guest that came over knew my role in its creation—bragging about his daughter, as all dads do. For me, it meant everything. Every time I overheard him mention it only reinforced the type of parents I had, and the creative environment I was raised in. The bull was there for my entire childhood until we moved out in my teens. No clue where it is today; I literally just texted my dad to ask. He said he made a mini version for his best friend, and the original is in storage at his set design studio. So small, but that experience meant so much. Details make the difference!
What is your biggest regret?
Not spending the money to file an injunction against the company that currently infringes on my patent portfolio (and copyright and registered trademarks) back when I had the chance to in 2018. What I thought, at the time, was a large business expense turned out to be pennies in comparison. Everything is relative. I’ve had to spend protecting my rights against their egregious and strategic acts of theft over the past four years. They’ve made millions off the knockoff version of my invention. It seems like they’ll continue to until it’s resolved. Ugh.
Holistically, honestly, outside of that—falling into the trap thinking that my company was my life and that so much else I was living for could take a back seat. Last year, the pandemic put a lot into perspective. I’m a better boss, partner, wife, and more inspiring entrepreneur when I have support to manage the team as well as a bit of distance for vacations and breathers from the life of a solo founder.
How have you gotten over heartbreak?
I’ve only been in true love once, and luckily we hit it off immediately, were inseparable through our courtship, and eventually married. My husband has not broken my heart yet. And he’s the only one who has had my heart to be able to break it.
When I was younger and thought I was “heartbroken,” I licked my wounds and mended with a classic combination of romcoms, binge eating delicious treats, hanging out with my girlfriends, shopping at the mall, letting myself wallow, and then immediately finding someone more attractive and more successful than the ex-flame to be seen around town with. I was more mature than that honest answer might make it seem.
What makes you cry?
Exhaustion. When I’m tired, I can get choked up from almost anything. Quite embarrassing. When rested? Injustice of any kind, large or small.
How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?
Nanoseconds, if that. My ongoing gratitude and perspective is a daily practice. I’m actively trying to make the wins last longer.
Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?
I’ve never put this in print. I believe in the power of the universe. I believe that the energy we put into the world can have a positive or negative impact on the outcome of our lives and those around us. That this sliver of life as we know it is only one reality, and that there are infinite possibilities. With a universe so expansive along with incredibly strange things happening daily, it’s one of the only things that seems to make it make sense. There’s more to life than we know it, and probably more to life than we ever will. I was raised Unitarian Universalist, but my life is guided by spirituality.
What do you hate most about yourself?
How deeply I feel. My own feelings, the feelings of others, being as sensitive as I am, paired with how I present to the world as a “badass, powerhouse, woman,” has proven an unfortunate and personally challenging disconnect over the years. I always have to remind people that I’m not made of Teflon. There’s so much interpersonal bias in my being a curvy, tall, notably loud, sometimes brash, brunette, born and raised New Yorker.
What do you love most about yourself?
The core pairing of my authenticity and charisma. I am who I am, and I’ve always intimately known who that is. It allows me to be reflective as I evolve and grow. But, most of all, to know that if people love me, they love me for me. And, if they don’t, that’s okay because I wasn’t putting on for anything or anyone; there’s freedom in the pairing of those qualities as I navigate the world.
What is your absolute favorite meal?
A sushi feast. Preferably at my favorite spot where I grew up in Brooklyn. It now has so much sentimental value. It was the location of my first real dinner date with Alex Center, my now husband, 15 years ago! It’s where we celebrated our engagement, where we take friends and family, where we celebrate work wins and birthdays. We know the owner, and they treat us like the king and queen of the place, even on a random Tuesday. I love a sushi feast at any high-quality spot. But, my favorite meal? It has to be that sushi feast above all others, specifically.