Meet Jess Molina. Founder of Loudly Quietly, a space for storytelling. Sharing her voice, and offering a platform to others, Jess has created an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity.
Jess is a fellow candle lover, pasta eater, fashion fanatic, beauty devotee, ambassador for New Zealand Fashion Week 2021 and most importantly, an advocate. Jess’ passion and creativity challenges beauty 'standards', fighting for an equitable world.
Here, we speak with Jess, a modest woman despite some serious accolades, about her influence on the world. She talks us through what fuels her passion and motivates her to contribute to the conversations she cares most about.
New Zealand has been your home since your 18th Birthday, tell us, what is it that you love most about the NZ community and culture? I was born in Manila, Philippines but I feel like I was reborn in New Zealand! It’s a strange time to move because I wasn’t a child but I didn’t feel like an adult either. But it was here where I grew into who I’ve always wanted to be. I love the relaxed culture and pace of life here and the people!
How did growing up in Manila, Philippines shape you? All my core values have been instilled with me from my upbringing in Manila – being kind to everyone I meet and treating everyone equally, working hard, valuing family, integrity, and optimism. I carry these with me everywhere I go.
Your love of fashion has existed since childhood, and at one stage even dreamed of a career as a fashion designer! We’ve heard that whilst in High School, you loved creating fun and stylish outfits. How has your style and love of fashion evolved over time?I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was in High School! I was always sketching instead of paying attention in maths (and science tbh haha) and then on my Senior year, I got asked to design the cheerleading squads uniform. I was so excited! The first time I saw the whole squad wear it to a pep rally, I felt so so proud. I also realised I couldn’t really sew… and I didn’t have the patience to perfect it so I said goodbye to that dream. Luckily I realised that there are actually so many different career paths in fashion. I could do other things! Haha.
My love of fashion, good design, pieces that are made well and fit well, is as strong as ever! My style has evolved a lot – I used to have a vintage/80s obsession and wore a lot of floral. Then I went through a goth/grunge phase. I mean, didn’t we all in 2011? Haha. I was the typical Tumblr girl – pastel hair, Dr Martens, lots of leather and lace, dark lipstick. I’ve always loved the minimal/neutral aesthetic though but at that time, I struggled to find pieces that would fit me (on a student budget no less). Nowadays I like to incorporate my old Tumblr self into the person I am now in the form of wearing a lot of dark lipsticks and leather and lace still!
Personal style is so much fun. I literally get to decide daily who I want to be and show up as her.
What is one fashion faux-pas that you made which makes cringe at the very thought? I don’t know if I have anything – there are outfits I regret, yes, but at the same time I probably felt suuuuuuper cool in it so I think I will give my past self some grace haha.
COVID-19 and the year of 2020. What was your biggest learning? To never take anything for granted. Not one sip of coffee at my favourite café. Not one hug from a friend. Not a chance to tell someone how much they mean to me. Life is too short not to wear your heart on your sleeve and tell people how much you love and appreciate them.
We love the body-positive messaging which you share online. Why is it important to you, to keep contributing to these conversations on body inclusivity in the fashion and beauty industries? Thank you. That means a lot! I am so passionate about these industries and genuinely want it to be better. It’s important for me to do my part in helping make this happen. I know I can’t do it alone. I’m one voice in a sea of voices, one voice among institutions that are not necessarily welcoming of change. For so long we’ve moved through these spaces just accepting it for what it is. When I was younger, I’d read articles in magazines about how clothes just naturally look better on skinnier frames (this was in an actual printed article in a teen magazine!), and I feel like part of me just blindly accepted that. So that affected my relationship with my body and my love for fashion and the way I see myself.
I think one day you just wake up and think, “WTF?”. I can’t believe I’ve accepted those opinions as ‘facts’ and it breaks my heart to think about how many others read these things and just believe it as fact. That’s why I use my voice to challenge these ideals and status quo.
What fuels your passion for creating a better world?The changes I want to impact and help drive are longterm changes and I’ve accepted that some of them probably won’t even happen in my lifetime. I might not be able to see the full extent of the work I’m putting in. But what fuels me is that someday someone won’t feel the feelings I’ve felt, won’t be ashamed of their bodies and feel like they don’t fit into the spaces they love.
I’m fuelled by hope. I believe in a better world, I believe in a better future, and this hope is what gets me out of bed everyday.
As a writer and former magazine editor, you have interviewed some iconic women. Is there one experience that particularly stands out to you? Who did you have the most fun interviewing? I recently wrote a piece for Ensemble Magazine where I got to interview the icon that is Sonya Renee Taylor – an activist and poet that I really admire. It was so memorable because the whole time we were talking, it didn’t feel like an interview. It felt like a conversation between two people with similar passions and values. I felt like I could chime in and share my thoughts as well as obviously focus on her answers. It was so dynamic and I wish more interviews were like that!
Who provoked your thoughts or was it someone or something that happened that perhaps lead you to form Loudly Quietly? Loudly Quietly was a name I thought of while I was on a train to meet my best friend for brunch. It was April 2019. The whole country was still reeling from the horrendous terrorism attacks in Christchurch a month before and like many people, it was still heavy on my mind. I was thinking about that cycle of hate and how one can go from intolerance to having that much hate in their hearts to violence and terrorism. I kept thinking about the aftermath and how lost/scared everyone felt. And then the helplessness kicked in. How do we actually stop these hateful ideologies? What can I personally do to help make sure nothing like this happens again?
I went back to a very simplistic idea – that these acts are escalations of little things – things that happen in our backyards daily like microagressions, casual racist remarks etc. At the time I also felt quite lost in my own voice. I didn’t feel like writing, expressing my opinions etc. I wanted to hear directly from the voices from the community that is affected the most. I wanted to centre their voices and give them agency to tell their own stories.
I realised on that train ride in order for change to happen, we need to know when to be loud and when to be quiet. When to speak up and when to shut up and listen. Those two things cannot live without each other. We need loud to know when to be quiet and vice versa. I registered loudlyquietly.com as soon as I got off the train. I didn’t know what kind of platform it would be yet but I just knew it was going to be home for me.
What failure do you cherish the most? Not getting into fashion school – it’s paved the way to a path I never could have imagined existed.
What is the most courageous thing you have done in your life? To believe in myself wholeheartedly, unflinchingly. It takes courage to believe that you can achieve your wildest dreams. It’s human nature to want to protect ourselves from failure, from heartbreak, from disappointment so we don’t allow ourselves to dream as big as we want to because we don’t want to get hurt if it doesn’t happen. But I think it’s courageous to believe in yourself so much and be secure in knowing that you can achieve your dreams and that you can be anything you want to be in this world. That’s not to say there are no barriers or level of privilege involved. I dream of existing in spaces that are notoriously known for not welcoming people like me. I’m prepared for the work it will take to change that. I am courageous in my self-belief and hope.
You have many passions and are supportive of many movements both within your local community and on a global scale. We would like to know, is there one cause which you feel most connected with? I am involved in a few causes and groups and I think their common denominator is that they have something to do with equity and justice.
At only 29 years of age, you have a lot to be proud of! What achievement do you find most rewarding? I was catching up with a friend recently and over dessert, she looked me in the eye and said “You’ve been through so much in your life. How are you still standing and how are you so happy/hopeful?” and I laughed. Because I’ve never thought of the things I’ve gone through as ‘a lot’ which I guess maybe is a trauma response? LOL. But when you’re going through storms, you don’t really have time or the energy to sit there and process or think about how you’re in the middle of a storm. You just feel the rain, you see the darkness, you push against the winds. So I guess while all the accolades are nice, the achievement I find most rewarding is not losing my heart throughout everything I have been through. I’m so proud to have risen through challenges with my big, hopeful, fragile, and kind heart intact. That it has gone through so much yet still holds more love and compassion than ever. I’m proud of the fact that in a world filled with challenges and pain, I still look at the world with wonder, gratitude, and hope.
Do you have any plans for celebrating the big 3.0 later this year? I’m currently trying to get through a house move, a job change, and fashion week at the same time. I haven’t thought about my birthday yet but I feel like I’ll be verrryyyy extra about it because I’m a Libra. HAHA. I want to celebrate with my nearest and dearest and dance until the sun comes up!
It's important to have female role models especially when it comes to inspiring young girls. Who are your role models, and why? I don’t really have a specific role model. I’m inspired by people in general! I guess the closest thing to role models that I have are my friends – each of them doing their own thing, living their truth and being so authentically themselves. That inspires me so much. To see my loved ones love themselves, discover their own power, and step into that!
Who (or what) are your favourite social media accounts that you recommend following? I love meme accounts! Haha. I can always rely on them for a good chuckle especially when I’ve had a rough day. Another personal favourite of mine is Chris Corsini! Everything he says resonates and I do his guided meditations/workshops quite a lot.
You’ve kept quiet on social for a while as you work, can you give us some insight on what we can expect to see from you in the future? It’s funny because I didn’t realise people noticed my absence on there but every once in a while I’d get a message from people just checking in. My absence has been a combination of going through so many life changes in one go, feeling uninspired, feeling bogged down from what’s going on around the world, and then figuring out how I fit into all that and what I want to do. I’m currently in the middle of preparing to reintroduce loudlyquietly.com to the world so there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that comes with that. I’m excited to finally share it but at the same time I want it to be perfect so I’m taking my time.
What legacy do you hope you leave behind in this world? I hope when people think of me or my legacy, they feel inspired to follow their dreams and to take action for the kind of world they want to live in. And I hope to leave a legacy that encourages people to wear their heart on their sleeves and not be afraid to love loudly.
Who is your favourite; Story Teller: Sonya Renee Taylor, Roseanne Liang, Isabel Sandoval, and Christie Tyler for different reasons. Each of them telling stories in their own field that really inspires and moves me! Editor: Fellow Filipina Christine Centenera Photographer: Abhi Chnniah from Ramii Studio International Designer: Cecile Bahnsen
Most Importantly.. As an avid pasta lover, tell us, what is your favourite pasta dish?Spaghetti Bolognese forever. Especially the one I make. It’s the ultimate comfort food! In fact, I’m making it for dinner tonight.
We love you both as a person and as a professional, but we want to know… What do you like/love most about Joslin? I genuinely feel like Joslin is unparalleled when it comes to design, execution, and inclusivity! Joslin manages to be so current with the design and aesthetic while also creating pieces that are timeless at the same time AND being future-focussed by thinking about sizing and inclusivity. I love that the pieces fit like a glove – whether I’m wearing a knitted jumper or the most beautiful dress of my life. Joslin makes me feel beautiful and wants me to feel beautiful in my own body.
What is your favourite piece(s) from Joslin’s Current or Past Collections? OK so I’ve been in love with my Estelle Linen Ramie Maxi Dress for ages but lately the Melinda Linen Ramie Maxi Dress has captured my heart. I am tempted to get it in both white and natural flax because this is one of those dresses I’d happily pass on to any future children I’ll have. It’s that special!
Where and how will you be wearing it? I’ve been wearing it everywhere! I have a high tea coming up in a few weeks and this is totally the perfect dress for it. I also can’t wait to wear it when it’s not so cold anymore because a coat over it just hides the beautiful details! I’ve loved prancing around in it while barefoot, though. It makes me feel lovely.