When diagnosed with HPV, actress Jess Kazamel found herself worried and misinformed, but has now made it her mission to make sure no one else is! HPV Barbie, written by Lindsay Bradish, directed by Aliza Berger, and produced by JKLM Productions features an informative discussion of HPV in the setting of a children's playroom. The comical production aims to shed light on the disease, while being both medically accurate and laughable about a serious topic.
We had a chance to talk to HPV Barbie star Jess Kazamel about her experiences, the production and goals for her work.
Tell us a little bit about your project and your inspiration behind it.
HPV Barbie is a short comedic sketch with the purpose of approaching the conversation around HPV. It has been approved by two registered nurses in Canada, and one in the US. Medically accurate, fun, easy, digestible content.
I was diagnosed with HPV at 18 (the cancer kind) and I had no idea what to do with that information. To me it sounded awfully close to HIV (insight: I went to Catholic school, no sex ed), I was told it was an STI, and I immediately felt fear and shame. My doctor didn’t tell me much about it except that I needed to get paps more regularly to monitor the cells on my cervix. So obviously I went home and Googled it and read myself terrified and misinformed. Since then my body has changed, the HPV went away, I got the latest Gardasil vaccination, and the HPV came back. When I was introduced to Lindsay Bradish and she shared HPV Barbie with me, I wanted to share it with every young person as misinformed as I was. It was such a relief to read a funny script about something that had caused me so much unnecessary stress. I couldn’t wait to work on it.
PS: Did you know that it wasn’t until 1993 that the FDA rescinded the act from 1977 that banned women from participating in clinical trials? So much of women/non-men’s health is still a big giant "?"
What challenges, if any, have you faced in the creation of the sketch?
One of my biggest challenges, as with my work outside of HPV Barbie, is the response from men. Either refusing to watch it, or mansplaining in the comments, or spamming my social media with anti-vax comments. It’s not so much a challenge I guess... more just annoying. While HPV Barbie was geared towards an audience of women and non-men, it wasn’t made to exclude men. There’s information for them in there too.
How do you think your experiences as a woman in entertainment have influenced this work?
As an empath, I have always felt an overwhelming sense to help people feel validated, and I use my role in the entertainment world to encourage that. With such easy access to content now, I feel that I have a platform where I can scream “YOU ARE OK, YOU ARE NORMAL, YOU ARE STRONG, LETS TO THIS TOGETHER” and people really hear me and participate. As a woman, of privilege, with access to create work like HPV Barbie, I think it is my duty to create art that could potentially make other women and non-men more accepting of themselves. And hopefully make them giggle too. I’m not interested in making content without an impact.
What advice do you have for other women seeking to create their own content?
I am no expert at creating my own content, I am very much still learning as I go. But my biggest word of advice is to find your people. There are folx out there who want to make art like you do and are also looking for an opportunity. The best part of creating your own content is making your own opportunities and sharing them with like minded artists. We out here <3. -- Oh - keep a professional set, even if you are having fun, feed your cast and crew, and create the schedule so you end early (add: coffee).
Interested in this funny and informative sketch? Check out HPV Barbie now, only at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X_G3yHgfuo&feature=emb_title
Follow JKLM Productions: @jklmproductions
Interview By: Caitlin Arcand
Image: Jessica Kazamel