Known in town as both an indie film actor and a singer / songwriter / producer with a crowd-pleasing stage presence, Jesse Vega’s new project commands your immediate attention.
Thotyssey: Hello Jesse! You had a busy summer, performing in most of the borough Pride festivals like you’ve done over the past several years! Did you have a favorite Pride moment?
Jesse Vega: Yes! I did, funny you should ask. This year my favorite Pride moment will have to be on June 18, 2022: Destination Tomorrow had their annual “Da Bronx Pride Festival,” and they considered me to perform yet again. This year the budget was huge. Let me tell you, it was an amazing experience because I was not only performing on a bigger stage, but my image was playing in the background; I felt like such a superstar performing for my friends and supporters. Me and my dancers killed it. My whole ensemble was on a 10, and I won’t forget that moment of 2022.
You’re a singer songwriter who produces his own music, but I feel like your real love in the process is performing live. You can really detect your enjoyment and positive vibes onstage.
Yes, that is so true! You understood my place on this earth — especially how I present myself to the world. Which is awesome for you to pinpoint that out.
The world can use some more positivity and live performance artistry. Would you like to see more live pop music performances return to the bar scene soon?
Obviously! I feel like there are so many eclectic pop artists, especially on the male side. Now, let me clarify: we love all different types of art from females and gender-fluid and drag entertainers, but I want to see more male entertainers in the forefront… or just versatility in general.
The LGBT scene is more than drag entertainers on the main headline flyers. We’re more than that, and I feel promoters tend to be one-dimensional in investing in drag because that is the only main type of art that can grab audiences’ attention. We need to do better in the nightlife scene, and start putting all different entertainers aside from our drag sisters to be headliners.
We will come back to these performances in a bit, but first off let’s get a bit of the origin story! Where are you from originally, and were music and performance always a part of your life?
I was born and raised in the Bronx in NYC; my heritage is Puerto Rican. Music has always run through me, especially growing up in the projects. When you grow up in a Spanish-speaking culture, music is always playing when there are family gatherings. Most importantly, I always had a natural gift to perform on stage — whether in music or acting — but music being always there. It just took me a long time to believe in myself… that I am an artist, and I can show my story through lyrics and song.
Do you think of yourself as more of a musician than an actor?
I think of myself as a solidified born natural entertainer. Entertaining people, whether through making people laugh or showing people a 1-2-5678 choreographed performance is something I’m equally naturally gifted at. They go hand-in-hand, but where I started has evolved to becoming bigger and better and stronger than what I have become to what I was then.
You’ve released a number singles and music videos over the years. Is that all 100% you, or do you have a lot of regular collaborators?
It depends: 85% of the songs I put out were all written and produced by me. Then there are those songs where I will work with a producer, and he will make a beat from scratch, and he/she will get into my brain on what I’m hearing to execute the record I fit most to my liking. In terms of the visuals, they are all me. Yes, of course I’ll collaborate with different cinematographers or directors… but 9 out of 10, I’m the one directing and producing my visuals. Sometimes I’ll use beats I’ll listen to on a website, and I’ll be like “oooh I want that,” or I’ll take it as a reference to create my own.
You’ve also acted in some indie films and shorts. Have you had a favorite role?
I’ve done so many shorts! If I would have to count, I filmed seven, and six were released. In terms of features: five.
My favorite short film? I’m going to have to say Silentious; it was a black and white film. As an actor, it was challenge to do a film based on silence. Never thought the importance of silence speaks more levels then words. That film was entered in a lot of festivals. It challenged me as an actor to do something different. Plus, it related to my personal life in different ways when I played that specific character.
As for features my favorite will have to be Pride & Prejudice-Cut. It was my first feature film, where I got to travel outside of NYC and do what I love, and act on a big indie film. Not to mention it got to be on TV channels. So to see myself on TV was kiki; finally, I’m one step closer to make it worldwide!
Tell us a bit about this new short film you’re a part of: Fucked Up! Fellow local queer music artist Kenny Supreme is in the cast as well, but you are also a producer and writer! What’s this movie about, what inspired it, and what was the timeline of its production?
So, Fucked Up is a film about life choices — how one rash decision without thinking can change you life forever. In this film, Kenny Supreme plays the lead role named Dennis. On a night out with friends partying and drinking, he ends up doing something the next morning to lead him to be “Fucked Up.” [It’s about] how he navigates his life moving forward, with the power of friendship guiding him through.
This film started with an idea in 2020 that transformed to what it is today. We only shot for two days in Long Island. All I knew when I collaborated with director and producer Jordan L. Sims — I told him [it would work] as long as the main point is having “friends” there who will help this character make it through. I’m a big believer that having friends can make you pull through any major circumstance. Since it was my first short, I wanted to produce and play a supporting role while I gave the major role to someone who’s a friend of mine, by giving opportunities that people never gave me. Changing peoples lives is my motto in any way that I can.
And this is fun: Friday’s “Torch” at Macri Park — which usually just showcases local queer singers care of producers R0zegld and Danielle Cardona — will function this time as a premiere screening for Fucked Up! What can audiences expect on this special night?
They can expect comedy, heartfelt moments and possibly take away from the film [that you should] be responsible for your actions. With one decision, without thinking, you can change your life… so think before you do something, because it can be the last [thing you do].
Sounds very compelling! And there will be live performances after?
Yes, I’ll be performing my Number One LDM Radio Pop/Latin nominated record “Seras Tu.” It’s so crazy, because the night before I’ll find out the verdict if I win both the Latin and pop categories. So I’m taking it home this weekend with shows and events.
That is amazing, good luck! What else is coming up for you?
Currently, I’m in post-production of my next short film. It’s the first film I’m directing and starring in: Room 702. It will be a crime suspenseful thriller, out next year. As well, I’m in the early stages of working on my follow-up single, to be released end of the year.
All excellent things to look forward to! In closing: who should play you in the eventual Jesse Vega movie biopic?
Oh God! What a question. First, I got way more stories to tell and life to live before that happens. I really can’t think of anyone at the top of my head, but now I’ll say I’m okay with playing myself… until someone catches my eye.
My vote is for Bad Bunny, with lots of nude scenes! Thanks, Jesse!