It started off as for-Facebook snaps of funny folk sleeping on the NYC subway, then last year, Jarvis Derrell launched the She Has Had It! Instagram account with its legendary hashtags (#getreadykweens, #worshiponabudget, #1991tinaknowleshairsalonrealness) and the imagined back-stories of the Big Apple’s boldest characters.
Now with 35k followers and a growing public profile, Derrell has got a VH1 chat show, reports on New York Fashion Week for MTV and has a coffee table book in the works. People are #gagging for Derrell’s wit: part bitchy queen, part heart of gold and equal measures church lingo, gay slang and musical theatre exclamations. We caught up with the 26-year-old Floridian in his adopted home of New York City to spill some tea.
Tell us how She Has Had It started out.
It started out as just pictures of people asleep on the train – no commentary or anything. My best friend Josh was like, “But what’s her story? Where’s she coming from? What is she going through?” So I started telling these elaborate stories on Facebook, short stories. Then I put it on Instagram and it took a life of its own.
Who is a typical She Has Had It target?
It’s about a bravery, no matter where you’re from, what you’re doing or your financial background. It’s so magnetic. People like, “I’m not apologising for the fact I’m passed out on the train. I’ve had a long day!” Or, “I don’t care: I’m going to wear fur in the summer.”
How do you think you manage to poke fun at people without hurting too much?
It’s a fragile thing. I don’t want to jab deep – I want to laugh with you. I don’t want to hurt anybody.
You have to keep that core of kindness.
Yes. I’ve had my own personal battles with self-esteem. I’m from a very poor family and I didn’t always have the money to dress the way I wanted to. That’s when I fell in love with myself. I started to laugh at myself and not take myself too seriously. I wanted to beat everyone else to the punch, to make fun of myself before anyone else could.
Where does your quick-witted language come from?
I have a really great core group of friends. We laugh at each other. Sometimes we’ll go from crying to dying laughing in like two seconds. And my Mum always encouraged me to be who I am. We just laughed. The core of it is love. Everything that I do is love.
I heard that you had a very religious upbringing, but also a “super gay upbringing”. What’s that?
I don’t remember gender roles, like “boys do this, girls do that.” I wanted to do ballet and my brother played basketball. I was never stifled or told “no”. I came out when I was 13 and that was never an issue. I never felt unloved or weird.
You use the church lingo a lot. Do you still go to church?
Every Sunday I watch my grandfather’s service at home online. They stream it from Florida. Me and my best friend Josh like to church hop too – nothing super preachy, but I like that connection.
Tell us about the drama of the church.
It’s very pomp and circumstance. There are certain things that come from church that I’ve been obsessed with since I was a boy, like, “Ooooh praise!” It’s a constant conversation with god. You pray for the bad stuff and the good stuff, like, “Lord, just one more cigarette, I swear to god!” “Lord if you could help get me home after this hook-up, I swear!”
What about church fashions?
Oh, I love it! It’s such a sliding scale. You get a big hat, and “Ooooh, praise the lord, my daughter’s a prostitute. She’s on the front row. Don’t touch her – she steals!” Stuff like that. It is backhanded. Everyone has to be your friend in church, but everyone isn’t your friend in real life. It’s a little shady, but I love church shade.
What other slang do you riff off?
New York lingo and the musical theatre – that’s part of the inspiration: “Booking it!” “Nailing!” Those are the words I’ve been using since performing. And colloquial gay culture talk too. I don’t use a lot of profanity. I think that’s a whole art of reading. You have to compliment them while you’re kicking them in the shins. The true art form of words is the biggest weapon someone can have in their artillery. Use them – learn how.
Are some New York neighbourhoods better for She Has Had It spots than others?
Brooklyn and Uptown. I get so many from 125th Street in Harlem that it’s ridiculous. That is the best. The craziest, especially after 10pm.