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STORY – JAIMIE ALEXANDER

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JAIMIE_1st

“I can say my life was rough. And I wouldn’t trade. I’ve gotten to a point where I like who I am. And I don’t think any of that would’ve been possible if I hadn’t gone through what I’ve been through.”

Jaimie Alexander is crushing it. “I’m just gonna be what I want to be. And look how I want to look. And not worry about trying to one up somebody. It’s too exhausting.” Crushing “it,” and a few dumb beauty standards along with it. Tons of striking celebs claim a page from The Ugly Duckling, saying that their looks were something they had to grow into. In Jaimie Alexander’s case, it was the whole entertainment industry that had to morph to make her a kick-ass, statuesque, super swan. “I would literally go in for things that said blonde bombshell. And I was like, ‘Huh, I’m flat-chested, 5’9”, deep-voiced, with brunette hair.” Nowhere near the early-aughts, teen-drama, chunky-blonde-highlights mold. Fast-forward to the moment comic book panels became frames of every blockbuster, and suddenly looking like the Norse Goddess counterpart to Thor, means you’ve found your Scandinavian story, hold the ducks.

Now Pinterest survives purely based on searches for her dark and fierce tousled bob. Alexander is everywhere, from turns hosting The TODAY show to starring as a suspected former Navy SEAL in Blindspot, and yet somehow she still has time to bake gluten-free bread or vegan cookies and post recipes on her Instagram. “Norse goddesses in huge comic franchises—they’re just like us!” It’s that role that lets her jump between TV and movies, with the unique bonus of playing the same character. Alexander is Sif in Thor and Thor: The Dark World on the big screen, and on TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That’s what happens when you’re part of a Universe. While her Sif character is “super” in the traditional sense, it’s Blindspot’s Jane Doe that is crushing the rules of what it means to be strong today. “‘The girl’ was always the secondary character, or had to have some sort of abnormal ability, like other worldly, to be tough. They had to be a super hero or they had to, you know, turn a building into a puddle or something like that,” her undeniably sexy rasp is cut with a wry twist. “How about we just have a normal woman with a very specific skill set in an extraordinary situation?”

Jane Doe gives her a chance to separate the “super,” from the strong. “I want to play a woman that is relatable but doesn’t have to be a super hero and doesn’t have to wear tight clothes and show her breasts and do all of those things. We don’t do any of that.” It helps that the story supports that vision, pairing her tough, tatted character with the asphalt grit of New York, and giving her space to kick ass. “Everyone on the show, our fight choreographers, are very much about female empowerment. We make the fight scenes real, we’re not over the top. You know, I’m not gonna knock somebody out with just one punch.” It seems like a job that requires almost a full day’s work sitting in the makeup chair, painstakingly adorned with Jane Doe’s signature ink, all before actual work even starts would be the hardest part of the gig, but it’s the action scenes that really add up. “I started working on the show and it just sort of happened—I started putting on weight because I’m always fighting. My body is always in flight-or-fight mode for like 16 hours a day. I think my body was like, ‘You need to weigh more. You’re gonna break.’”

Thin is out, and muscles are in. “I have such a sturdy base now. I’m actually quite happy with my size, like I enjoy it more. I feel more feminine like with my curves and that sort of thing. The show in general has just helped me embrace being a woman more.” The tomboy who grew up with a band of brothers isn’t afraid of frills now. “In my days off, I actually really enjoy tapping into the feminine side which is also equally as powerful. Girly colors and all of the stereotypical female traits— they’re not a weakness. I think people mistake that, and they’re not. They’re actually quite powerful.” With Blindspot guest stars like MMA’s Ronda Rousey, the show is sending a powerful message. “There are a lot of strong women that’ve been on the show. And all types of body size, height, and age—everybody’s different. It’s a different type of hero.”

Alexander doesn’t shy away from making political statements on social media, and in real life, speaking at the United Nations on female empowerment, themes her show tackles head on. “We’ve done everything in such a very powerful, respectful way to women and to men in general. We respect anyone’s religious beliefs. Our show questions the government, it questions terrorists, it shows how both sides can be equally justified in what they’re doing.” It’s not easy, but it’s important work. “There are days I’m doing three fight scenes back to back and I’ve cut myself I’ve bruised myself. I’ve broken a bone and then I gotta keep going.” It’s as if showing the super-tough is contagious. “Every day you have to tell yourself, somehow out there there’s somebody it’s helping. And it’s helping some young woman get through something. I don’t what it is but I feel and that’s what keeps me going.”

After a bruising breakup that Alexander figures was partly because of the long-distance shooting the East Coast creates, she takes comfort now in being there. “There’s something gritty and real and something tough about New York. There’s so many different professions, life, culture and different ethnicities—it’s just such a melting pot of the world’s finest and worst. And that’s amazing.” Her tough spirit loves the city, and her small town heart makes it work. “You sort of have to fight to find the realism and to connect with people. Because a lot of people here, you know, you walk around, and you have your headphones on, and there’s all of this energy going on past you but nobody’s acting on it.” That’s where you might spot Alexander being a real-life super hero, swooping in to help someone struggling with a stroller on the subway steps like so many of us. “If you can, why wouldn’t you? I was blessed with like a 5’9” body that’s just extremely strong and I can’t just watch somebody struggling and not help. It’s just not in my blood to do that. So this is just the best place for me. I’m needed here.”

It makes sense then, that the super-tough actress has less of a “growing up anecdote,” and more of an Origin Story. “My life has been—I can safely say, since now I’m an actor and I’ve played so many different kinds of characters —I can say my life was rough. And I wouldn’t trade. I’ve gotten to a point where I like who I am. And I don’t think any of that would’ve been possible if I hadn’t gone through what I’ve been through.” Born in the middle of five boys, she says she’s always felt like “the boss.” This tomboy grew up working for everything, three jobs on top of sports all through school. She was the jock who was also the mascot, with no plans for stardom. She was discovered by accident, in a kind of perfect alter-ego moment. It was her blonde friend who had an agency open call—but couldn’t show up. “I remember going to Lisa’s house, her face was swollen, and I was like, ‘Lisa I’ll go for you. I guess?’” Alexander showed up in track bottoms and nothing prepared, and ended up reading sides from some kind of G.I. Jane-esque commercial. That was all it took to show she had something. She lucked into callbacks from almost every agency.

After high school graduation, she took a chance and headed to Hollywood. “I’d never been west of Texas. I was scared shitless. I was super naive. I started waiting tables, slept in my car for awhile—my mom knows that now she didn’t back then. I was just a waitress. I worked at a gym so that I could train for free. I worked at a clothing store so that I could have free clothes. I worked at restaurants, obviously for free food and tips.” She’s brutally frank about her strategy, hazel eyes glowing. “Oh yeah, where could I get free stuff?” After years of living wherever her work took her, she’s declared work her Home Sweet Home. “I don’t have a place to go back and say that’s home. Not even Texas. Somebody said something funny to me: ‘Isn’t there that saying where like home is where the heart is, right? Or home is whenever when I’m with you, so it’s like the people that I interact with I’m involved with a lot, I wear my heart, and it really just moves all over the place.”

If Alexander’s helping nature isn’t because of her Lone Star roots, maybe it’s because of all the stars. “I always want to try and heal people maybe because I’m a Pisces. I don’t know.” She muses about an alternate universe as the proprietor of a healing emporium. “What if I open a little cafe where if you’re sick in your stomach, we have a soup for that. If your muscles are really sore or having a hard time let’s make a turmeric rub we can use.” While that kind of help is fantasy, she’s spent time rolling up her sleeves and serving at the Dream Center in L.A. It’s a place for people to start over, with programs and support—problems that require super-human strength to overcome. “They have a lot of human trafficking victims, women who were prostitutes that we pulled off the streets, and a lot of young girls that are homeless and young men that used to be gang members who are now reformed.” Alexander was able to use her Sif physique to teach skills and healing. “I had started training a lot of the human trafficking victims in self defense, and yoga, and weightlifting. A lot of them because they were pulled off of drugs they were gaining a lot of weight they were going through hell pretty much.” Water signs empathize and she feels the pain of everyone she helped. “Man, some of their stories of where they had been. It was just heartbreaking. No human should go through that. Especially a child should ever have to go through what they went through.”

While she uses social media to advocate for women’s rights, and spread empowering messages about equality, she’s glad it wasn’t around when she was growing up. “It’s doing a horrible thing to our youth now. There’s all of these apps where you can blur your wrinkles out and make yourself thinner and I can’t imagine being a teenager right now. It sucks. You can’t look at that crap and think that’s real. Like half the time if I see some magazine that photoshopped me like crazy I post it on my account and say that I don’t look like this.” Instead, she posts pics of herself looking badass on set, or making Wookie noises in the green room. “I think diversity is great. If you’re curvy, great. If you’re skinny, great. If you have no hair. Get a tattoo. I think diversity is great. I think life is too short to think like that.” Duckling, swan, super hero or badass, who ever you are be you. She sums it up like a real boss.

“It’s too much work to be perfect.”

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photography by Ondrea Barbe
stylist Kemal Harris
hair Matt Fugate
makeup Stephanie Pasicov
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