If we could be a rockstar for a day, we would be *･Jem:*･. She’s got candy pink hair, lightning bolt makeup, magic earrings, and the glitter of a thousand unicorns, PLUS the greatest backup band (the Holograms) and girl squad ever to grace the fictional universe.
Jem and the Holograms tell the story of four sisters—Jerrica (Aubrey Peeples), Kimber (Stefanie Scott), Aja (Hayley Kiyoko), and Shana (Aurora Perrineau)—who go from anonymity to YouTube superstardom overnight after Jerrica makes her debut on the internet disguised as mysterious rockstar “Jem.” OH MY STARS, Sparklers, the film will have you weeping off your pink eye makeup and belting out “Young Blood” like you’ve known it your whole life. If you have ever wanted to sing like you don’t care who’s watching, THIS MOVIE WILL INSPIRE THE PLEATHER PANTS RIGHT OFF YOU.
Ahead of the Jemsplosion on October 23, I got to chat with the star of Jem and the Holograms, the super talented and prettiest in pink actress and musician Aubrey Peeples, who you may already be obsessing over for her performance as country music singer Layla Grant on Nashville. She was one of the smartest, most delightful humans I have ever chatted to, and had SO MANY AMAZING THINGS TO SAY about fame, body image, music inspirations, the inevitability of the Sorting Hat, and the Jem that lies inside all of us.
READ ON THEN SQUEE IN THE COMMENTS, POR FAVOR <3 <3
SparkLife: In the film you kind of play two characters: Jerrica is sort of reluctant about her stardom, but you also get to play Jem, the literal rockstar alter ego—
Aubrey Peeples: You know, I don’t really feel that way, I mean they’re the same person, you know? [Jerrica] is just hidden behind hair and makeup, so I really feel like in this film it’s not necessarily her alter ego, it’s what has been designed for her to perform in front of with with all the hair and makeup. [Jem] is just a costume and through the costume, she kind of figures out how to get confident enough to pull it off—but I definitely think she has to grow into it.
I agree with that, and we see in the movie the side of the music business that they’re trying to manufacture her into a star. You’re really well known for your work on Nashville, do you think female artists are treated differently in country music versus in pop music?
Hmmm. I don’t know, I feel like most hits out right now in both genres are female. I definitely think artists in country are in a different atmosphere than artists in pop, but I don’t think that women are necessarily put down in either, I mean you have Taylor Swift doing pop and then you have Carrie Underwood doing country, so if anything they’re both led by people who are female.
In the film, Molly Ringwald plays your mom, and she is the original “Pretty in Pink,” which is a nice sly nod. How well versed in ’80s pop culture—slash—how in love with Molly Ringwald were you prior to Jem?
I obviously LOVED all of her John Hughes films, I LOVE ’80s pop culture, but I didn’t know what Jem and the Holograms was until [the director] told us. It was very under wraps what the film was until our last audition, and then he was like, Guess what, you guys are doing Jem and the Holograms, and we were like, OH COOL! We had no idea because we’re all ’90s babies, so there was definitely a lot of research involved, but once we found out what it was we were so excited and it made the whole film so much more powerful as a career move. It’s so wonderful as an artist to be a part of in something that has been beloved for so long.
I’m curious what the audition process was—they obviously didn’t put you in a pink wig and keytar, which might have tipped you off.
They actually did put color in our hair for the auditions! I think it was blue at the time though, just to see what I would look like with a different color scheme on my face and my hair.
What is your vocal training background, and were you given specific direction around how to sing as Jem? Because your voice is so important to this film.
Thank you, I’ve been vocally classical trained for 11 years, I am a musician but I mostly do blues music, kind of like blues-inspired rock. I grew up doing musical theater, so that’s how I got started.
So you and you costars were all tested against each other, and—I hate to use the phrase—but there was a great #girlsquad vibe in the film…
Oh no I love that.
… OH GOOD, so I loved the different personalities of Kimber, Aja and Shana. Tell me about hanging out with your co-stars.
We became so close, which was so wonderful because we were spending so much time together. We had like two weeks of rehearsal—we were having like “band bootcamp,” learning how to move as a band on stage in front of a crowd—so that helped sped up the process of feeling like a band and bonding, and I really do feel like our chemistry in real life translates very well to the film. I really feel that’s why we have such an authentic bond in the film, or at least why I feel we do. I mean we hang out outside of work, and Stef ( and I have been friends for eight years, I drove her to work every day on the set. We’re very close.
Speaking as someone who once made a Jem wig out of a feather boa and a swimming cap—
NO WAY, that’s so cool.
It didn’t look ~the worst~, but the costuming in Jem is so much fun, I’m wondering if you got to keep any parts of her costume?
No, we didn’t get to keep any, but it was so fun to wear.
What kind of dress-up style did you have as a kid?
Ooooh, when I was a kid I went through that tomboy punk phase, like I wanted to be Avril Lavigne, I just wanted to be her SO BADLY, so I went through a bit of a phase like that, which my mom was not ~thrilled~ with, I just wanted to wear boys clothes, and baseball hats. So that’s where I was in elementary school, and then I calmed down a little after that but I’m still pretty much a tomboy.
So all Hot Topic.
Well no, my mom wouldn’t let me shop there! But yes, I wanted to shop there exclusively.
Your mom did a good job, she was probably right, and we were all wrong.
She did do a good job! I shop at Hot Topic now, (laughs) but she did do an awesome job.
I love the way the film features real YouTubers jamming away on their passions.
And I don’t think fame is everyone’s end goal, so do you have any advice for teens with a thrill for their hobbies?
Yeah I mean I would just say follow it. To me, your individual passion is what makes you an individual, and that might sound cheesy but it’s really true. You should absolutely go after what you’re passionate about because without it you lose what makes you you, and I think that’s applicable not just to kids but to everyone. I feel like that is so integral to, not necessarily happiness, but to being comfortable with who you are. So that’s what I would say, be comfortable with who you are and find self-worth in that.
Are you a fan of any YouTubers?
That’s so hard, because I don’t really follow that too much, I definitely troll YouTube a lot, but I don’t tune in to watch a specific person. I do watch this girl named Hayley Blars,* I started watching her on YouTube and now we’ve become friends, she watches Nashville, and my mom, one time when I was home, she was like “Who are you texting?” and I was like “Oh my friend Hayley,” and she was like, Who’s that, and I was like “Oh we met on the internet,” and she was like “WAHT.” And i was “No we’re internet friends! Like we know each other through the internet.” And she didn’t get it. I was like, “We understand each other, our souls have already met—is what Hayley says.”
Haha, “I met her at Hot Topic!” Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
I used to do Amy Winehouse, but I kind of like to do anything ’80s, Bonnie Tyler, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” or something.
Oh yeeeees. If you were to have a band tomorrow, do you know what you would call it?
Ooo I think it would be so cool to have a band named “Open Your Eyes, Shelby,” from Steel Magnolias. My friend actually came up with that, but I think that sounds like such a cool band name, and there is wall in Nashville, actually it’s a store called Street Tuxedo, but I think *that* would be a cool band name.
You keep deferring Harvard, when you *do* eventually go, what do you want to major in?
Yes, I do really want to go, I would do probably something in the English department, because I’ve always been interested in reading, and journalism and editing, so something that would lend itself to that.
Ahhh, our readers are pretty book-nerd-ish, can you share a fav book?
Sure, my fav author is Haruki Murakami, he’s a Japanese author, and two of my favorite books of his are Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. I also really love Fight Club, t’s probably my favorite book.
Is that your nerd passion or do you have another secret geeky past time?
No that’s deifnitely the geekiest thing, I do also collect skeletons, I actually have skeletons in my closet, no that sounds weird, but I have a collection of butterflies and a snake skeleton, a bat, a lot of weird stuff like that.
So feeeeasibly, you’re into taxonomy if you’re into specimens…
Kind of, yes.
… Have you been sorted by the sorting hat?
Oh yeah, Slytherin! I wanted Ravenclaw but every time—I mean on Pottermore I got Slytherin, and every other quiz I’ve always gotten Slytherin—but i really wanted to be Ravenclaw. So I guess I’m a Slytherin at heart.
It’ss ambition right? You need that to be Jem.
I guess so, yeah.
You recently played the Grand Ole Opry, which was a big moment for you; are there any dreams yet to come true or has everything exceeded your wildest expectations?
No definitely, of course I still have dreams and aspirations! I would love to release an album. I want to have my own band, so to speak, I would love to tour that album and go on tour as myself. I’ve done some covers and whatnot, but I would love to perform it as myself. I would love to write a book, I would love to continue to do more films. And I am just enjoying what I’m doing now as well.
On SparkLife, we talk a lot about how awkward life is, and particularly high school, or for me it never ended, do you have any advice for yourself as a teen?
Yeah, I wish there had been someone to let me know it really does not matter what you look like as long as you’re healthy. It does not matter what size you are, you just have to be healthy. I really feel like that’s still something that boys, but mostly girls struggle with when they’re growing up. And even as adults, you meet so many people especially in my industry that even it’s just a passing comment like, “Oof I feel really fat today”—we are really in that culture. I really wish someone had been there for me when I was younger to figure that out sooner.
DO YOU SEE WHY SHE IS THE BEST AND LOVELIEST AND SMARTEST? AND WHY I SIMPLY HAD TO PAINT STARS AND LIGHTNING BOLTS ALL OVER MY FACE AFTER WATCHING THIS FILM? I LOVE HER. I HONESTLY DO.
I DON’T KNOW HOW TO END SOMETHING THIS AMAZING, OTHER THAN TO INSIST YOU GET THIS SONG IN YOUR HEAD RIGHT NOW.