Rumors of my death are way out of proportion. More by fate than design I slid over to a video format during the last two weeks. Facebook’s live feed didn’t impress me at first, being with YouTube for years, but the ease, and availability of the medium became apparent, that and the sudden rise of March For America, and the ability to get a point across on a personal level, combined with interaction with the viewers provided feedback heretofore unavailable on YouTube. It’s not that YouTube doesn’t have a live feature, it’s just that Facebook is so darn people friendly, but aside from all that, I’d like to tell you a tale about a little girl from Detroit.
In the early days of the Tube everyone was scrambling to learn and improve the platform. No one took it very seriously because no one had ever seen such a thing before. The term “YouTube Star” was a joke. It was an oxymoron, like saying, “Please pass me the piano.” Everyone knew that stars rose in Hollywood, not on some computer generated video from some bubble headed geek in Mississippi. But times they were a changing. Enter The Boring Dispatcher, Lonelygirl15, and a little girl from Detroit the world would come to know as Ijackie.
Jacqueline Brandt came in n the scene quite by accident. While sitting around a home office one afternoon, watching someone fool around with a camera she leaned over and asked, “What are we doing here?” When it was explained that there was a new website called YouTube, she casually took the mouse and began to explore. Jackie’s father was a sound engineer, and in spite of her clumsy personal appearance, she DID know her way around a console, and had mastered MySpace. It wasn’t long before she had the nuts and bolts of this new website figured out.
Jackie’s personal life was a train wreck and she wasn’t a babe in the woods. Born in Nashville, raised in Detroit, pregnant at sixteen, exported to Texas, she had a lot on her plate long before the birth of her first child. Around two weeks after discovering YouTube, Jacqueline stared into a Canon camera on a porch bordering an Arnold Palmer golf course and said, “Hi, I’m Jackie,” and BECAME Ijackie! It was as if a muse had come out of the woods behind her and blended with her personality. In time psychologists would use terms like “multiple personalities,” but it wasn’t that, it was pure, raw talent with an a cute understanding of screen delivery and how to effectively communicate on a higher level. And it was beautiful! In spite of her personal turmoils, her films were always light, and happy, but carried a real world theme to her audience of teenage girls searching for answers in their lives. Jackie spoke TO them, not AT them. From talking about sex in a pool, to explaining baby bottles, to admitting she had smoked marijuana, she led her young viewers through puberty, while telling them that smoking didn’t get her pregnant, having sex with someone who doesn’t care for her DID, and she didn’t flinch or cry when she said it! Jackie’s brand of plot became a reality series before anyone even knew the term.
While Lonelygirl15 WAS out of Hollywood, WITH a budget, Jackie beamed out of Austin with only a camera and a cigarette, which she never smoked on camera, talking to teen girls about the trials of drugs, sex, growing up, and surviving. The difference was that when you saw Jackie there was mileage in her eyes that couldn’t be faked. She really WAS pregnant, she really DID survive in the streets of Detroit, and she really DID marry a convict by proxy to keep her little girl. While Lonelygirl sat in her bedroom, searching for “The One,” iJacke WAS the one!
There were sixty-six Ijackie videos in all, getting thousands of views. She was so new at video production that she looked at her computer one day and asked what the little numbers below the video meant. When she asked that question the “little numbers” were thirty five thousand views for one night! After that she got a lot of laughs refreshing the screen over and over, and watching the “little numbers” roll to unbelievable heights.
Jackie was a happy little pothead who never harmed a fly. The world doesn’t like happily little potheads, and punished her accordingly. Like the song said, “This world was never meant for anyone as beautiful as you.” Before it was all over she lost her family, her home, and her happiness. After she was gone, we compiled all of her work and discovered a story that was so powerful that it was actually hard to watch. Knowing what was happening off camera as she smiled for YouTube was heart breaking. We strung the videos together in a first effort to make sense of it all, and called it “Traveling Shoes.”
Jackie sat before the camera for the last time in August of 2011. A friend was down from LA, and he filmed her in a video called “Gypsies” but she didn’t act, only allowing him to film her as she went through her day. She was a broken woman. , In a final video she called “The Last Testament” she explained the previous four years, her hopes, dreams, and love of her family. What her fans didn’t know was she had lost all of those things, even the baby she was carrying at the time, and was holding her cell phone in her right hand, off camera because her son was dying in a hospital. The CPS would not allow her to be there, and she was waiting on “the call!” Jackie got one break in her life, and the child lived.
I took her to the bus station that last day. On the way from Georgetown to Killeen she didn’t speak, just stared out the window. When we pulled up to the station she calmly got out, retrieved her suitcase with all her worldly possessions, gave me a wink, a thumbs up, and one last smile. I never saw her again, but I never forgot. Jacqueline was gone, but the muse that was Ijackie didn’t, and over the years the story grew, and evolved. One day there will be a film, and that muse will come to light again, and the story will be told. At this point it appears that the spirit that was in Jackie will possess an actress called Amy, who will play the part, but God forbid that she should ever have to walk in the shoes of the little girl from Detroit.