It seems like Jordan Alexander became a super starlet overnight. As Julien in HBO’s new Gossip Girl, the musician and actress embodies a coolness, charisma, and comfort that translates to her on-screen performance as someone who unquestionably belongs as a teenage "It Girl" on the New York scene.
Jordan relocated from Toronto to New York for filming, and the magic of the city definitely seems to be treating her well. New York has given her a bit of an education on the rising faces in fashion, like Christopher John Rogers, and where all the cool queer people seem to hang out. The rest of her lessons come from Constance Billard and the set of Gossip Girl.
Read on for the latest installment of Byrdie's Zoom Date series with Jordan Alexander.
First of all, I've loved Gossip Girl. How's the ride been since the start? The timeline, auditioning, all of it.
"I initially heard about the project from Emily Alyn Lind—who's on the show with me now—because we were on a show in 2019 called Sacred Lies together. She was telling me about it, and we got on really well. And she was like, 'Oh my God, you should be part of this show.' And I was like, 'sure, let me try, I'll put my best shot in, right?'
"I never heard back, which you know is super normal for the acting industry. And so you move on. But then, in August of 2020, I got a request for a screen test, which is a really accelerated part of the auditioning process. So I was like, 'Wait, I did one audition... eight months ago, and now I'm doing a screen test?' That was very shocking and crazy. And then, by the end of September, I was in New York."
That's amazing. And then I'm assuming you're on the upper east side these days?
"[Laughs] When I'm filming, yeah, for sure. But I live in Brooklyn. I'm in Manhattan right now. I was on a night shoot last night, and then I woke up and got into a car and came here to do a little press thing. I'm on a need-to-know basis. I'm like, 'I'll get myself there. I'll be there. I'll know what I need to do, but where am I? I'm in New York.' It's nice. I love it."
What have you gotten up to in the city while filming or in your off time?
"I definitely work a lot. And then aside from that, I am a little bit of a homebody—maybe a lot a bit of a homebody. But I've definitely checked out some cute restaurants in Brooklyn. There's safety in mind, but there's a lot of cool parties [in my neighborhood] I like to go to—just exploring New York and the people here. I definitely work a lot, though. Because when I started, I thought, 'What have I done?' But I get to see a lot of New York through my job, so that's really cool."
You know, when you hear a song, and you're like, 'Oh, that sounds familiar, but I don't know where or how?' It gives you that good feeling, but it's not a replica of the old show at all.
Did you get a chance to spend Pride in New York?
"Yeah, I went to a couple Pride things. I went to a really cool Black-owned bar in Bed-Stuy. And then I also went to Papi Juice, which was really fun and cool. It's beautiful seeing all of the wonderful people freely expressing themselves. That's something I'm always so happy to be surrounded by."
How has the reboot compared to your initial expectations?
"I don't really know what I thought it would be. At the time, there was a lot going on, and I was kind of shooting my shot with acting. I was definitely still doing music a lot. That had a lot of my attention, but also it was very, very under wraps. I slowly started to discover it was going to be a reboot.
"I loved the [original], and I think this show is very different. But in a good way, not in an unrecognizable way. You know, when you hear a song, and you're like, 'Oh, that sounds familiar, but I don't know where or how?' It just gives you that good feeling, but it's not a replica of the old show at all."
I would love to ask you a little bit more about your music. Are you still able to work on that or focusing on acting?
"I'm really enjoying acting. This is just such a huge blessing, and I'm so excited to be a part of it. [I'm] definitely always working on music. That's just part of who I am as a human being. But, professionally, it has taken a back seat to acting. As we're starting to wrap up the show (I think we have about a month and a half left), I've started to reach back out, and especially with my new, larger platform, I am setting my sights on collaborations I wouldn't have had access to before. I'm grateful to Gossip Girl because it's platformed me in a way that I've never had before."
I know you've been in the industry for a while now. Did you learn any beauty tips from the pros on set?
"Oh, definitely. People in the industry are going to know the most about beauty and skincare because it's so constant. I never had to know which products were the best to take off your makeup because I was never wearing makeup like that. When you wear makeup once a month, you can just use whatever to wash it off. But, when you have to get makeup off every single night...
"Amy Tagliamonti, the head of makeup of Gossip Girl, is fantastic and amazing. And she's always putting me on to new products and seeing what works for me. Most recently, she got me these biodegradable eye makeup wipes because she knows I care about the environment. I have all of these little tips and tricks I never knew before but are super helpful."
Do you have any you've adopted, apart from the biodegradable eye makeup remover?
"I discovered this brand—they were so nice to send [stuff to] me—Peach Slices. It's an exfoliating toner ($11). I always have lots of breakouts on my cheeks and chin. And I just started using that toner, testing it out. And I haven't had [acne], which is so shocking to me because it was just a fact of my skin forever and I didn't think there was anything I could do to change it. I've definitely found a couple of magic products that, for me, just really work and help."
What’s your skincare routine like? Has it had to adapt with travel and being on set?
"I've had to become a lot more regimented about it, which is nice because you have this routine you get into. Especially after coming off the set, I like to have a wind-down. You're interacting with a lot of people for a very long period of time. Having that moment to take for yourself. While I'm at work, I use the MakeUp Eraser, and I just wet it, and then I wipe as much off as I can. And then I take a car home. Then when I get there, I use Innisfree; it's this volcanic face wash ($12). I washed my face with that.
"These are products my partner put me on to; even before this, she was helping me to figure out skincare stuff. I do those two face washes because there's a lot of makeup on my face. Then I use that toner I told you about. For moisturizers, I use Hada Labo, I believe it's a Japanese skincare line, and I really liked their hyaluronic acid ($23). It works really well for my skin. I also use Starface Patches ($15) if I do end up getting a pimple."
Do you get to experiment with beauty, hair, and makeup? I saw on your Instagram your hair was at one point bleached.
"The hair journey... I shaved my head 10 years ago. It's been a minute, and initially, I think I cut it really short. I cut it to maybe an inch, and then I ended up just buzzing it the whole way. For a while, I was dyeing it red, and I'd have this little red clown Afro. I was aggressively doing my own thing. And then I shaved it into a Mohawk and would dye it blue. I'm just doing whatever. And sometimes, I let it grow out. I haven't because I'm on the show, but I would usually just let it grow until I got annoyed with it. And then I'd shave it myself.
"I do really want to start experimenting with stuff because I miss having braids. I wanted to grow my Afro for a little bit and then do two braids really long, then shave all of the rest and just have these two pieces. I just had that vision and now I'm set on it. So, hopefully, I'll get to experiment with that once I'm off the show because I need to keep my hair continuity."
Do you ever get those hair visions and want to do something about it?
"They usually are fleeting because I am very much a low maintenance type of person. Even getting on this skincare regime was a little bit of a challenge. To just be, 'no, we wake up, we do this, before we go to bed, we do this.' And hair, especially Black hair, takes a lot of effort and love and knowledge. So, I get turned off pretty quickly because I don't want to put in the effort. I want to be able just to get up and go. And I want to be able to do whatever I want and not have to think about it. The shaved head is because I can look put together. I just rolled out of bed. Easy solution."
The new Gossip Girl’s two main leads are Black girls. That’s obviously pretty different from the original. Do you feel Hollywood has embraced this shift in diversity in your experience?
"[Laughs.] Begrudgingly. [Laughs again.] Institutions are slow to change, especially when they're so powerful and their power is fueled by exclusion and lack of diversity. But I think we're all seeing a lot of positive change and steps in the right direction. Yeah, it is monumental in the realm of Gossip Girl to have main characters being minorities. Because, for anyone who doesn't know the entire cast of the prior gossip girl, was white. With the exception of Vanessa, who was kind of a peripheral character and didn't really play as much.
Institutions are slow to change, especially when they're powerful and their power is fueled by exclusion and lack of diversity. But I think we're all seeing a lot of positive change and steps in the right direction.
"So, it's over time, and we've just kind of started evolving. But, it was not that long ago where you could have an entirely white cast. When I was watching the show, I never knew that. Other shows where I would be experiencing entirely white casts... that never even registered to me. Probably because I grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods, so that wasn't out of the ordinary, but I think it's exciting, and I think it's good. And I want to keep moving in that direction. You can't just put people in these roles; you have to listen to their needs and how they might be different from other artists and people who have intersections of oppression and need to be handled in a way that is conducive for them.
"When you're dealing with all of that, you're coming at things from a different perspective—and that needs to be understood, respected, and valued. People who live at those intersections are so valuable to us, they can show what's wrong with our society because they experience it, where we might be blind to it. Yes, I am Black, viewed by the world, but I am mixed. My mother is white, and I'm also light-skinned and [have] pretty Eurocentric features. So there are a lot of things that would go over my head. And I value people who have different experiences to me so much because then I can make a bigger and better impact on the world."
I love that, in the show, it doesn’t feel revolutionary whatsoever. It just feels like it should be normal. And I think that if the people behind the scenes looked different, it would feel really token-y.
"Yeah, absolutely. In terms of diversity, it needs to be that on all levels, you can't just snatch a Black artist and put them in the space of entirely white people and expect that to kind of enact the change that we want. It needs to be at all levels. It needs to be that we're including these voices and experiences at all levels. So that it's real change, and it's not performative, and it's not surface level."
People who live at those intersections are so valuable to us, they can show what's wrong with our society because they experience it, where we might be blind to it.
I was so impressed they included the Christopher John Rogers show in the pilot. He's New York fashion’s 'It Boy.' What was it like to be the runway model in the episode?
"I feel a bit like a bumpkin for not having known about Christopher John Rogers before, but now that I do, I'm totally gaga. I mean, fashion in that world is... I'm getting a crash course in it right now. Thanks to Eric Daman.
"I look at something, and I'm like, 'oh my gosh, that's beautiful and amazing.' And then to learn the story of this incredible young, Black artist who is excelling—that just makes me so happy and excited. And so it brings extra meaning to wearing a beautiful garment. And I got to wear two of his dresses, which was so incredible.
"I don't really walk in heels that much, and so that runway, I was wearing Louis Vuitton's. And I don't know if they're all that high—or if that's a thing about Louis Vuitton—but they're literally vertical. It was one of those moments where I was like, 'no fear, just go.' Do you know what I mean? When I see it, I can even see that on my face. I can tell that I was just like, 'we're doing this, it's going to be amazing, everything is fine.' Because it was a real fashion show, it was obviously staged, but a hundred people are sitting there in the crowd, and there's someone backstage going, 'go, go, go, go, go.' As far as I know, it was as real as real [shows]."
Have you gotten sentimental being in New York? It sounds like such an important chapter in your career, and I always want to hear about people's New York journeys.
"There are so many iconic songs about New York, so I feel like those have been spitting in my head a little bit. There's just so much resiliency here, and there's so much artistic history, and you're walking the streets that some of these huge creative minds and amazing artists of our time have walked. And places they've been and in a city that inspired them. That's very sentimental. The idea of New York as a whole, the architecture, the way the city looks, those are things that I really only heard about. And so to be here is to be blessed."