The untold truth of the I Am Jazz star

Jazz Jennings, the star of the TLC show I Am Jazz is a truly inspirational young woman. Assigned male at birth, Jennings always knew she was a girl and, at five years old, became one of the youngest people to ever be diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Her family supported their daughter, and helped the kindergartener transition. Jennings grew out her hair, started wearing dresses, and had her ears pierced.

When she was six years old, an interview with Barbara Walters thrust her into the international spotlight where she has remained ever since. Today, Jennings is using her platform to raise awareness about transgender issues. Far from being just another celebrity, Jennings is a true role model for kids. Years after she first captured the attention of viewers in her first interview, Jennings is a vibrant young woman with an incredible list of accomplishments and a bright future ahead of her.

"This one girl in fourth grade wasn't accepting, so we stopped hanging out"

While attitudes are changing and people are becoming more accepting of members of the LGBTQ community, they still face a lot of discrimination. Most of Jazz Jennings' friends have been accepting of her, especially since she is so open and honest about who she is. Those who don't accept her miss out on the honor of being counted among Jennings' friends. "There have been instances where people didn't know and I had to inform them," she told Paper. "Once I told them they shied away from me… This one girl in fourth grade wasn't accepting, so we stopped hanging out."

People can be cruel, but Jennings is choosing to rise above the haters and focus on positivity. She hopes to be able to create more understanding so that people who are unaccepting now will one day change their hearts. "Education and visibility are super important," she said. "With that visibility comes the knowledge required to be accepting of someone else. If you are educated, you can make less ignorant decisions."

"I'm not just a transgender individual, I'm also Jazz."

Through I Am Jazz, Jennings embraces her identity and is happy to share her journey with the world, but she wants you to know there's more to her than being transgender. Being transgender is not what defines her. "You know, I'm not just a transgender individual, I'm also Jazz," she told Dazed.

Jennings is a public figure who is growing up on camera, but she is also heavily involved in extracurricular activities. In addition to being an athlete and an artist, Jennings has served as a class office representative and has been involved with her school's Gay-Straight Alliance as well as the Jewish Student Connection. 

"I love to do all these different things, and being transgender is just one per cent of who I actually am," she said. "I think that's important — that transgender individuals are just like everyone else. We have our interests, our hobbies, our things we like to do. And people have to understand that."

She feels like she won the jackpot with her parents

Jazz Jennings has known since she was a child that she is a girl. Sadly, many transgender children do not get support from their families, but Jennings' parents always had her back. Her parents didn't know much about transgender issues at first, but once a doctor explained that Jennings' gender identity was not the same as the gender she had been assigned at birth, things clicked into place.

Jennings' parents quickly became her ambassadors, advocating for their daughter in school when teachers and administrators didn't understand what it means to be transgender. Jennings is particularly close to her mother. 

"I'm honestly the luckiest kid in the world," she told Broadly. "Without her, I wouldn't be able to be the proud, confident transgender woman that I am today. I embraced who I am entirely, and I attribute that to her and my dad and my entire family giving me the love and support that I need at that early age and allowing me to live my life as my authentic self."

The very first transgender doll is modeled after her

Jazz Jennings is a pretty big deal, and it's not just because of I Am Jazz. The work she does to raise awareness about the transgender community is groundbreaking. In 2017, the very first transgender doll ever hit the market, and it was modeled after Jennings. "I hope that it can place transgender people in a positive light by showing that we are just like all other people," Jennings wrote on Instagram.

Transgender people are frequently negatively or stereotypically portrayed in the media, which can amplify feelings of isolation and directly impact the well-being of transgender people. The decision to create a doll in her honor is a huge step towards better representation of transgender people. 

"Jazz stands for everything I respect from a human nature point of view," said Tonner Doll Company founder Robert Tonner in a statement on the decision to model a doll after her. "She's incredibly brave, intelligent, warm-hearted and creative."

She doesn't mind having cameras following her for this reason

It might seem contradictory to say that Jazz Jennings — who shares so much of her personal life with the public — considers herself to be largely a private person, but she does. In spite of valuing her personal space, she told HuffPost that she doesn't mind the cameras that follow her around. Giving up her privacy is a sacrifice she's willing to make because of how much she believes in the show and the influence it has. 

"We are an ordinary American family," she said. "We used the platform of the reality show to bring the public into our home to show that, although I'm transgender, our family is very typical… I'm proud of the show. I think it opened hearts and minds and helped people who were struggling."

She added that, fortunately, the cameras don't follow her everywhere. She still gets a lot of what she likes to call "Jazz Time."

Her TV show is literally saving lives

I Am Jazz is also turning the tide when it comes to better representation of transgender people in the media. One of the most heartwarming things for the teen is seeing just how much an impact her show has on people. 

"People have said that because of my show, and because of me putting myself out there and my family sharing our story, that we've been able to have a huge impact in their lives," she told Dazed. "In some cases, they say that we actually saved their lives."

Her show has also helped turn her into a spokesperson and role model. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Jazz gave advice to other transgender kids. "Find people who accept you and let you be your authentic self," she said. "If you have parents who love you but just don't understand, they will come around."

This TLC starlet now wants to go behind the camera

We have seen Jennings all over televisions thanks to I Am Jazz, but her talents go far beyond appearing on the screen. The teen is very creative, and has started learning about photography and has even branched out into making short films. With so much on-screen experience, it makes sense that she would be interested in exploring another storytelling platform. 

"I think in the future I might want to go into the directing or movie-making business because I love coming up with stories," she told Dazed. "I love coming up with these cool ideas and worlds in my mind, and I want to share them with people."

Jennings especially loves science fiction and fantasy films. If she ever becomes a director, she "would definitely want to do smart sci-fi, puzzle movies where people have to think and connect the dots but then come up with their own idea at the end." Don't expect her to star in any of her potential films, though — Jennings said she'd prefer to write the screenplay.

Here's how she deals with the haters

If Jazz Jennings has proven one thing to the world through I Am Jazz and beyond, it's that she is a fierce individual who doesn't have time for haters. She's cracking down on her detractors, and refuses to engage with them. "On every single picture on my instagram page, you'll find a negative comment," she told Teen Vogue. "My supporters will normally stand up to that hateful person, and then it will become a big argument, and it's just a lot."

Jennings does her best to tune out the negativity, and avoids the comments section of her posts "because it's not worth it."  She added, "If someone is judging you without knowing the content of your character, don't listen to them. It's not okay, I'm not going to tolerate it. In fact, it motivates me, because it shows me that there is still more education that needs to happen. I will continue advocating for my community until it's resolved, and the hate is gone."

She says LGBTQ protection laws help, but something else is even more important

She may only be a teenager, but Jazz Jennings is very much politically aware. She was a big fan of former president Barack Obama and the support he showed to transgender people during his time in the White House. Jennings is obviously in favor of legislation that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination, but thinks that we need to go beyond legislation in order to truly make a difference. 

"Laws are very important, but I think the main thing is society," she told Paper. "Even if there is a law, people can still be discriminatory and that's not okay. I wish everyone could be accepting. Not tolerant, because tolerant isn't good enough; tolerant means you're putting up with it. People should be accepting of each other no matter their difference."

With so much wisdom at such a young age, Jennings may just one day become a politician dedicated to implementing change.

She doesn't hold back in her writing

Jazz Jennings has already accomplished more than most teenagers, but she's not stopping with I Am Jazz. She's extending her reach through writing, and has written a powerful memoir that shares her personal journey. Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen isn't her first foray into writing a book, either. In 2014, she co-wrote, I Am Jazz, a picture book geared towards children. Her memoir delves deeper into her experiences, covering her childhood to her early teen years. She hopes that sharing her story will help other transgender teens.

"This book is geared more towards transgender teenagers who are struggling," she told Yahoo. "I think being a teenager is a difficult journey in and of itself, but being transgender makes it that much harder. I'm there to help them realize you just have to love who you are no matter what and just stay authentic."

All she wants is to make the world a better place

Some people might be intimidated by becoming a public figure at such a young age, but Jazz Jennings is taking her I Am Jazz fame in stride and is already thinking about the impact her work will have after she's gone. She's not worried about making her mark on the world, so long as she leaves it in better shape. 

"It's not about me or my 'legacy,' but rather the message and how it will live on," she told HuffPost. "I want to know that in sharing my story, my family has been able to greatly impact the lives of transgender individuals who were struggling to embrace their identities. We just want the world to be a better place for our community."

She isn't sure what she wants to do in the future (although she's done plenty already) but knows that what is most important to her is "to continue helping other people no matter what."