I knew of the infamous Jess Lee before I’d even met her.
“How?!” I hear you all cry.
In the words of Snoop Dogg, let’s take a journey…
Before starting secondary school in 2002, we all attended an induction evening with our parents where the headteacher gave a speech to welcome us all. The Chinese population wasn’t the biggest in Devon so, naturally, my parents skimmed over the 120 surnames in the year group when we signed in. They were very excited to have found 2 Chinese surnames, besides my own!
Obviously, you can imagine my surprise when I finally met Jess in Year 7 and discovered that she was very much not Chinese. Nevertheless, I didn’t let it stop us from becoming friends.
Plus, she’s ginger so still kind of a minority.
If you asked me to describe Jess in three words, I’d probably go for: snacks, documentaries and sarcasm.
I think that she is one of those people who could probably hold a conversation with anyone and when you talk to her, you feel like she’s really listening, asks lots of questions and always has something interesting to say.
Jess has done incredibly well in her career – I really admire what she does, as well as how much she can eat. She really doesn’t let her lactose-intolerance or allergy to kiwis get in the way and if that isn’t worth a salute (genuinely how she ended one of her Tinder dates), then I don’t know what is.
Hi Jess, tell us a little about yourself.
Heyyy, I’m Jess. I’ve somehow ended up living in Birmingham and teaching English in a secondary school which I did not envision whilst growing up in Devon and hating English in my secondary school.
In these unprecedented times, how are you doing and what are you doing to keep yourself occupied?
I am still working during the week and slowly starting to adjust to having a desk job. I have no idea how people stare at screens all day every day! I am also reading loads, playing board games (unfortunately the one I enjoy the most is Pandemic which is a little too true to life these days) and obviously watching everything on Netflix and Now TV.
What are you most looking forward to doing when freedom is upon us again?
I cannot wait to be in a restaurant/ beer garden with a large drink and just sit and chat for hours with anyone and everyone that I love. Oh and the beach. I cannot wait to see the sea even though I am fully aware I wouldn’t usually be seeing it in Birmingham anyway.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
Umm when I was really little, I wanted to be a ballerina. Then a makeup artist or fashion journalist when I was a teenager and obviously very stylish. Oh and I had approximately 6 months of wanting to be a RnB singer known as “Jay” when I was about 7.
What’s the best gift you’ve been given?
A Swarovski necklace from a year 11 student who had told me a year and a half earlier that I was a bitch and the worst teacher she had ever had. She told me that she and her mum saved up for it to say thanks.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Out of lockdown. Happy, hopefully in a house that has an actual real life garden and with lots more stamps in my passport.
What is your proudest achievement?
I am always really proud of myself and the kids I teach on GCSE results day. It’s a shame we won’t have that this year because it really is amazing to see their hard work pay off, especially those who have succeeded against the odds like those who came into education late with no English or those who have difficult home lives.
Oh, or the time I single handedly kayaked our way to safety whilst you took the more laid back approach…
If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?
The ability to travel anywhere at any time. Granted, it wouldn’t offer much right now but the idea of travelling without the 20 hour flight is a good enough reason for me.
A genie gives you three wishes: what are they?
1. An end to world poverty
2. Equal opportunity and education for all.
3. My super power?
If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change anything. Apart from the time I cut my own fringe. I would also probably re-think the skinny jean and high top converse phase.
Do you collect anything?
Only books really. I have so many that I have never and probably will never read but I just love a charity shop book purchase.
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
I am honestly the least daring person. Play by the rules, that’s my motto.
What’s your most prized possession and why?
I don’t think there is anything I could actually say I couldn’t live without. Makes me wonder why I have so much stuff.
If you were the ruler of your own country, what would be the first law you would introduce?
Higher taxes for the rich. 🙌
What is your biggest fear?
Birds. And losing the people I love.
What makes you angry/biggest pet peeves?
Rudeness. Which I guess makes the working in an inner-city secondary school an unfortunate life choice.
Oh and litter. Which I guess also makes living in Birmingham an unfortunate life choice.
Which celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a coffee?
Louis Theroux because just think of the stories he would have and also because I used to kind of fancy him in a he’s weird and awkward but very also intelligent kind of way.
What’s the most interesting thing that you can see out of your window right now?
I can see garages and a gnome. But sometimes I can see foxes and the other day I could see/hear people playing drum and bass out of their car at 12pm so that was nice.
What is your earliest memory?
I seem to vividly remember being at a horse race on holiday when I was about 3 or 4 and the horse I wanted to win winning. However, both my parents say that they don’t remember so maybe I should stop using it as the reason I say 3 is my lucky number.
What would be your ‘death row meal’?
Mussels/scallops in garlic oil to start
My dad’s steak and ale pie for a main
Ben and Jerry’s vegan ice cream for a dessert
What’s your favourite quote from a TV show/film/book?
I think the one that really resonates with me is “get in loser, we’re going shopping”
Ideally, how would you like to spend your birthday this year?
Well it’s the last one of my 20s so ideally not in my flat getting drunk with one other person. I was meant to be in Cambodia but I would settle for a BBQ with family and/or friends.
What’s the silliest argument you’ve ever been in?
I just asked my boyfriend what his take on this was and he said “pretty sure we have had about 3 during lockdown that were so ridiculous and were about literally about things like cleaning” sooo probably one of them.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
I don’t think it even counts as unusual but you made me eat chicken feet in Hong Kong and turns out I was not a fan.
If I were to come round to your house for dinner, what would you cook for me?
Probably a big Thai green curry. And I would use the excuse of you visiting to cook meat as living with a vegan is taking its toll.
If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Eat. Then eat some more.
What personality traits do you share with your relatives?
Empathy, left-wing politics and sarcasm. (apart from my mom, she couldn’t be sarcastic if she tried)
Which of your personality traits are you most proud of and why?
My ability to listen to others and calm them down.
Do you ever wish you were raised differently?
Not at all. I feel very lucky but, as beautiful as Devon is, it would have been nice to grow up somewhere more diverse and far less ignorant.
What’s the first thing you look for in a partner and/or friend?
Humour, kindness and intelligence.
What is your favourite memory of ours?
So many to choose from but I would probably say either the day I arrived in Hong Kong disorientated and jet lagged as hell and you were like “hey let’s go to mong kok, it’s really busy there” or the day I landed in Vietnam and we had approx 16 mains between us. Or the time you came back from Hong Kong in year 9 with a bowl-haircut. It’s too hard to say which really.
Share your favourite photo of us:
TV series: Black mirror
Book: A handmaids Tale
Drink: Cider/Gin and Tonic/ Diet Coke in the bottle
Food: Ramen/Pho/Thai curry/sushi
Type of cuisine: Generally Asian (see above)
Subject at school: Art
Country that you’ve visited: The Philippines
Instagram accounts: I can’t even pretend to follow interesting Instagram accounts as one follower search and you would see it’s mainly Love Island and Made in Chelsea “stars.”
Animal: Dogs (mainly Milly)
If you’d like to see more of Jess, you can check her out on Instagram!