The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Jayne Girardi started her sensual and irreverent music project Erika Jayne when she was the 35-year-old mother of a teenager. Twelve years later, her latest banger, “XXPEN$IVE,” has more than 16 million YouTube views and a hook that repeats, “It’s expensive to me.”
Her then-15-year-old son was at an age when he didn’t really want her around, so she could return to her roots as a performer. “He needed me, but he knew how to feed himself,” she explains. “That gave me some freedom. I knew he had his own identity; he wasn’t relying on me so much. I was able to put some time in and develop Erika. It’s all about timing.”
Jayne grew up in children’s theater in Atlanta and performed in front of huge crowds around the world with her performing arts high school. She moved to New York after graduation to pursue a career in the spotlight. “I was able to walk the streets, broke and hungry. I took the subway mostly to auditions and stood in line like everybody else. I had an agent; then I didn’t — the whole New York hustle. It was a great learning curve.” She performed as a stand-in member of several girl groups, such as the Flirts and I-Dolls. She did indie film and commercials. “You name it, I did it.”
But as the wife of well-known lawyer Thomas Girardi of Erin Brockovich fame, she was used to living a more subdued and proper lifestyle. However, as she discussed in her recent TED Talk at TEDxPasadena, “Living Life as an Exaggerated Figment of People’s Imaginations,” there came a time when she had to break out of that mold.
As a grown woman and a mother, she didn’t fit the youthful pop-star profile, but, she says, “I never really felt like those old rules applied. I felt like things were changing. And if you put limits on yourself, I’ll guarantee you they’ll show up. I just didn’t want to operate from a sense of a lack or limit. It was the perfect timing for me to do something on my own to operate on my own, to do something that was solely mine, that I could put something out as an independent artist and people would hear it. Those old rules were fading away faster and faster, and they’re almost gone now. That’s what I did, and I did it on my own with no limits or expectations, and here we are.”
Jayne became famous fast with her platinum-blond-bombshell look and sexy songs built for the dance floor. She hit the U.S. Billboard Dance Club Songs chart nine times before joining Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in 2015. She says the show offered plenty of exposure and many opportunities. “I’d have been a fool to turn it down,” she explains, and has nothing bad to say about the experience. “It’s reality TV, so you have to roll with the punches. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Yes.” She has since been the face of cosmetics brands such as Too Faced and Beautyblender, written and published the New York Times best sellerPretty Mess, and appeared as a contestant on Dancing With the Stars.
Of all the work she’s done in every arena, the thing that placed her farthest outside her comfort zone was the TED Talk. “That was probably the most demanding thing I’ve ever done. It’s you revealing yourself in a different way,” Jayne says, calling it humbling and frightening — “much more scary than Housewives. I’d rather be in a tiny costume whipping my hair than giving a TED Talk, because the TED Talk was down to the bone.”
She’s now on the Pretty Mess Tour and says to expect “glitz, glamor, fun, fantasy, escape, Erika Jayne in three acts — it’s a great time” at her upcoming Fort Lauderdale show. Those qualifiers are probably what made her a cult figure in the gay community, which is known for its fabulous party chops. “Growing up in children’s theater, my family, my mentors, my teachers, my closest friends have all been gay,” she says. “They were there for me first, accepted the project, and have been so supportive, and I’m grateful for that.”
Jayne estimates she’s probably played every gay pride festival in America. “There’s nothing quite like playing Pride because everyone there is being themselves. Everyone is there to embrace and uplift each other, exactly who you are. There’s such a sense of love, acceptance, and creativity that it’s almost magical in a way.” She says that energy is a formula for great shows.
Her Sunday-night show at Revolution Live will top off Miami Art Week and offer revelers a hair of the dog after a long party. Because of the venue’s proximity to gay-friendly Wilton Manors, there’s sure to be some magical happenings at this glamorous performance with plenty of fantasy to go around.
Erika Jayne Presents: The Pretty Mess Tour. 9 p.m. Sunday, December 9, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-449-1025; jointherevolution.net. Tickets start at $40 via ticketmaster.com.