Talia Jackson is here to swoon our hearts, a jack of all trades when it comes to her talents. At only 19 years old, the biracial actress, recording artist, and mental health activist is living her dreams out on the daily, defying all odds and boundaries set against her. Hailing from Wisconsin but raised in sunny Santa Barbara, Jackson aims to use her platform for the greater good, boasting 495K followers on Instagram alone.
Her first big break arrived in August 2018, for her role as Jade McKellan on Netflix’s hit series Family Reunion alongside Tia Mowry and Loretta Devine—trending Top 10 on the platform within the first few weeks of its release. Coming a long way from her first audition at 7 years old, Talia still manages to find time for her first true love: music.
Inspired by the likes of SZA, Jhene Aiko, and Lana Del Ray, Talia sees music as a therapeutic outlet to speak about real-life experiences and things happening in society today. On the heels of her last release “HIDDEN,” Talia unleashes her highly-anticipated new single titled “YOU” on May 14th.
Flaunt caught up with Talia via Zoom to discuss her audition for Family Reunion, what it means to trend on Netflix, conversations with Tia Mowry, the importance in mental health, her definition of self-care, her new single “YOU,” studio essentials, goals, and more!
Fondest memories from Family Reunion?
Learning I booked the role is one of my fondest memories. I was ecstatic. It was almost very confusing for me because I thought “there’s no way I just did this.” Finally, all this work I’d put in for 11 years at the time had finally paid off. That one answer I’d been looking for my entire career, which was “yes, you booked it! You’re perfect for this role.” It was overwhelming. I was overwhelmed, excited, and joyful. I remember crying out of joy, which I don’t do that.. but I did. [laughs]
How does it feel for the show to hit Netflix and be Top 10 trending?
It’s incredible. It’s super weird going on Netflix, an app that I’m on literally everyday, especially with the pandemic. Seeing yourself on the homepage, seeing yourself in the Top 10, not only that but seeing everyone and the whole show—all of us, the entire cast and crew worked so, so hard through the pandemic to specifically give these next two parts: Part 3 and Part 4. It’s overwhelming. I’m so thankful we got to do this and accomplish it. It’s out there. Even though everybody had a hard time from quarantine, we accomplished something great. Everyone’s enjoying it thankfully, so that makes me happy.
I know Tia Mowry helped you through your experiences as a black female in the space, what were those conversations?
Very nurturing. So many nurturing, honest, authentic conversations about how we both felt and feel in the industry. What we don’t like about the way we’re treated, what we do like about the changes that have been made in the industry. She’s always been a person I know I can turn to and go to if I have a question about the industry that feels specific to me. I know Tia will understand it the way I understand it because we both led our careers the same way. I’m headed to where she’s at hopefully, that’s where I hope to be. She’s the goal, right? [laughs] She’d gone through what I’ve been going through in my career, it’s always a very comforting conversation to have. Every time I do, I get the answer I’m looking for.
What ‘s the best piece of advice she’s given you?
She’s given so much good advice, especially for things I have to do in television as a teenager such as scenes and uncomfortable conversations. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, so doing things for the first time in front of a ton of people is a terrifying thing for me. A good piece of advice she gave me was when I had my first kissing/intimate scene in front of everybody on set—who I’d worked with before, but it was so uncomfortable. I was freaking out. I remember literally having a panic attack in my dressing room and coming to set. She could tell that something was off or I was different. She came up to me and asked “are you okay?”
I remember saying “I’m so deadly nervous of doing this in front of people. I feel so uncomfortable, I don’t know what to do.” She pulled me in a corner and said, “I know what it’s like. It’s so uncomfortable. I know that weird feeling you get because you’re doing something intimate with a person and it’s not in an intimate setting.” She said what got her and her sister through those scenes was picking one specific very, very beautiful thing about a person. Doesn’t have to be physical, it could be an emotion they have on their face or the way they eat their food, or their hair, the color of their freckle on their lip, different things like that. One thing that you find beautiful about them and you appreciate. When you’re in the middle of that scene with that person, think about that one thing. It helps you to feel more intimate and more connected to the person without feeling like you’re in a relationship with them. She gave me the advice and I literally turned around, had to go shoot the scene. Pretty sure that’s the take they used because the producer went up to me and said “that looked great! You looked like you knew him, it looked comfortable. It looked passionate.” Great! Thank you so much ‘cause I’m scared to do that again. [laughs]
How important is mental health? What do you do for self-care?
So important to me, it’s everything. It should be everything. Without your brain and your mental health and health, you can’t survive and thrive as a person. I’ve gotten better at self-care, I used to be really bad at it. I used to tuck all my feelings down into a hole and continue through life, hope it’d get better eventually. At some point in the last 2 years, I’ve become really self-aware of what affects me and how to get myself out of those ruts, holes, or dark places. I started doing a lot of self-care. Things that worked for me are hikes, being outside when it’s really sunny. Being outside and alone, going to the park, picnics, hanging out with my dogs. I used to think doing your hair and your nails, spa stuff was good self-care, but now it’s more of the intimate time I spend with myself. Being alone, me learning me, that’s my self-care.
What have you learned about yourself through the pandemic?
So much. I struggled with my mental health since my pre-teen years. It’s crazy to me that I still didn’t really know what was wrong with me or know how to function with what went on inside my head. Last year, I found out a lot, mostly to do with how I use distraction in my life. I started realizing I was surrounding myself with people who I didn’t even enjoy being around, just because I needed people around. I noticed I’d end up doing things: going to a party or going to a concert, certain things I was doing for other people because I thought it’d please them and they’d be happy if I went.
It was never joyful when I was there. I’d always tell people: “people must have this blissful ignorance in order to enjoy things the way they enjoy them,” because I never felt that.” I realized it was because I was never doing what I wanted to do. I was doing what I thought other people wanted me to do or what other people wanted to do with me. For a second, I stopped caring about any of that. I’m going to do whatever I want to do, when I want to do it. As long as it’s not bad, I’m going to do that. Please myself first because I’m one person I’m going to live with forever.
How long have you been making music?
I’ve been making music my entire life by singing and using my voice, but I didn’t start producing, making and writing music to give to the world until last year. March is when I started songwriting a lot, producing, just always in the studio. When I wasn’t in the studio, I was upstairs writing. Mostly because there was literally nothing else to do but also because I was going through something that I needed to heal myself from. I needed to get out of my head. The best way to do that was to write music, get into a song, get it out of here and give it to the world instead. Hopefully by doing that, the hurt I’ve gone through will help other people heal from the hurt they’re going through now.
What inspired your new single “YOU”?
That song’s so incredibly important to me. I wrote it very specifically about a situation that changed me entirely. It’s my favorite song. I love explaining to people what it’s about when people ask me, it’s really about fighting for something that isn’t right for you. That hurt you feel inside yourself when you know it’s bad for you. You know it’s not going to work, but you have this love for this person, this devotion, and care. You’re fighting with yourself. You’re fighting you to make the best decision for you, even if you might end up hurting you in a different sense.
How do you balance the acting with the music? I’d imagine you’re on set all day.
It’s crazy because my entire life acting, I’ve never really done singing professionally. There was never a balance to me, it was always in my free time. I’d sing or record covers that I’d never put out anywhere. This last year, I saw the power struggle between both of them. While we’re filming Family Reunion Part 3 and Part 4 in the middle of the pandemic, I was obviously deep in writing and being in the studio all the time. I was shooting music videos, cover photos, a bunch of different stuff. Being on set 24/7 helped me realize where I want my priorities at, how much of me I can give to each thing because I passionately love both acting and singing equally. Sometimes, you don’t have equal time to devote to both of them. I learned to switch off and on, not get overexerted or stressed out. I don’t want to lose the love I have for both things because one starts to top the other.
3 things you need in the studio?
Lemonade. I love lemonade, cold lemonade sounds great in the studio. I don’t even bring a laptop because I write on my phone. I usually bring my brother, I love to bring my brother to the studio. He’s very helpful, me and him write all the time. I love bouncing ideas off of him. I love his music so when he says he likes my music, it’s like my favorite artist is telling me because they love my music. [laughs] Third thing would be openness, leaving my mind open to multiple ideas.
I used to go into the studio like “I’m writing one song today about this specific thing that I want to write a song about.” When I get in there, I don’t have that creative freedom and I hate losing that because I get stuck on something. Every time I go in the studio now, I’m ready to go in. I have all these songs that I could do, but if something comes to me and it feels like a good idea, let’s just put 100% into that and see if it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Thankfully I work with a team of producers, The Morgue, who we work together and like to figure things out. I never feel like I’m wasting time or money because we work together for fun. Whatever works, we end up compensating each other for and putting it out. It’s a very stress-less situation with them and I love it. They’re my favorite people. The only people who know my sound, seriously.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I want fans to feel less alone. I struggled with that for a while, especially when I was younger from 12 to 13. I never felt seen in the public sense, let alone in my own community. It’s very important to see people you look up to struggle with the same things you struggle with, it helps you feel like you’re not going crazy. You’re not this standalone person struggling alone in this deep, dark world because it’s truly not like that. I hope that people learn from my journey and what I’ve gone through to get to where I’m at that time is the only thing that controls you, your life, and anything that happens. You have to relinquish some of that control sometimes and go with what’s happening in your life.
Do what you have to do to stay centered and stay healthy. Breaks are okay, that’s what I always want to tell everyone. It’s okay to need to not do anything. It’s totally fine. Even people like me, singers, and actors, and producers, directors, they forget to take that time. We take that time. If I need a break, I take it and I don’t do anything. I try to help myself not feel bad about not being productive because everybody needs to relax and be able to heal themselves with themselves. I hope that me sharing my story, the content I share on Instagram, Lives, and TikTok, helps people realize that you don’t have to be on all the time. It’s okay to talk about it too, it’s not embarrassing. It’s fine to literally be doing horrible because you’ll get over it. You will eventually, even if it takes forever.
Goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I recently started developing some projects at Netflix. A big goal for me would definitely be to get something picked up that I’m co-creator and producer on, also hopefully starring in. I really am in the headspace to create my own content. By creating my own projects and concepts is the best way to do it for me. I have so many ideas inside of my head that I keep waiting for auditions to portray, keep waiting for that audition that has everything I want to do as an actor on it. I haven’t gotten it so me and my brother said “Let’s do our own stuff.” We created a production company, we’ve been working hard, writing, conceptualizing ideas. My second goal is to put an album out. I hope I can do that by the end of this year. I’m going to release a bunch of singles up until then. Every month, every 3 weeks, I want to release a single because I have so much music built up. I want to get all of that out there.
Do we have an album name yet?
It’s actually my old EP name, the EP was Maybe We’re Both Fucked Up. There’s a couple other ideas for it, but that’s the one I landed on. It might end up changing, but Maybe We’re Both Fucked Up.
Anything else you’d like to let us know?
Tune in to Family Reunion Part 3, and Part 4 will be out soon. Sooner than everybody thinks.