Who says that you have to limit your talents and gifts to just one lane? Creative and visionary Jaleska Holman, better known as J. Mulan is redefining that notion. At just twenty seven years old, the Houston native has already launched a successful modeling and casting agency, the J. Mulan Agency, and has even assisted in the success stories of major corporations, brands and household names alike.
J. Mulan has utilized her dot-connecting gifts to propel the careers of Travis Scott, Drake, Chris Brown. And has even nurtured partnerships with Atlantic Records, Cash App, Roc Nation, REVOLT, and so many more. Although her work calls her to cross the arenas of sports, entertainment, fashion and music, J. Mulan has never shied away from a challenge and consistently shows up as a selfless creative who utilizes her platforms to uplift and champion others.
We sat down with the multi-faceted creative to discuss what inspired her to launch the J. Mulan Agency, why uplifting others has always been at the forefront of her work, the power of the Black dollar and so much more!
Jadriena Solomon: So first and foremost, can you tell us more about the many hats that you wear?
J. Mulan: Absolutely. I really love that I have been able to create a life with no limits – I just really hate being boxed in. And I know it’s a frequently asked question for everybody, like ‘What is it that you do?’, because you can’t just pinpoint one thing that I do because I’m a creator at the end of the day.
Modeling was really like my first love and it led to the launch of J. Mulan Agency, which is a modeling and casting agency, back in 2016. And it really all started because so many people were reaching out to me and asking me how to enter the industry and I realized that other models were reluctant to give away information on casting calls, photo shoots, fashion shows and other different opportunities. People were just keeping the information to themselves, and all of these young girls would reach out to me for help.
So I would share opportunities with them because I was never like a mean girl. I always wanted to help other people succeed, even if it’s not for my own personal gain. So I’m constantly always wearing so many different hats – especially when it pertains to the J. Mulan Agency.
JS: Wow, so you work across so many industries from fashion to music, to sports, to entertainment, all due to your wide range of clients. How do you stay prepared each and every day to conquer your different tasks at hand?
JM: I like that old saying that goes ‘I stay ready, so I don’t have to get ready.’ I’m always on my toes and I’m always the one really creating the opportunities – you know, really putting those different people in place that can come together and make magic.
I always felt like that was one of my special talents – I’m able to meet someone and compartmentalize in my head how they can connect with someone else that’s like-minded, and be able to create something that’s mutually beneficial to them both. I’ve always just been able to connect the dots. And so I’m always formulating ideas and putting connections together. It’s just a natural gift.
JS: Prior to launching your business, have you always been someone who was motivated by connecting the dots for others? Have you always had that character trait growing up?
JM: Absolutely. I went to twelve different schools growing up so I’ve always had to adapt. Whether the school was all white, all Black, or all Latino, on a whole different side of town – or even in just relocating to the East coast and being from the South. I’ve always noticed that I had that special talent of being able to take something I learned elsewhere, and applying it where it currently was. It’s like my superpower in a sense.
I always felt like it was a natural thing. I don’t think it was something that I necessarily calculated as a dot connector. I just felt like I was making connections happen naturally. Then it really took off as I got older.
JS: How do you stay equipped with all of the right information to first know which moves are the best moves for your clients across all of these different industries? How do you always stay ahead of the curve?
JM: I’m around the younger generation. The kids are definitely the future and they’re the ones who can really tell what’s cool, what’s hot, and what’s not. They’re the ones who really set the trends. I also develop my relationships – I’m always interacting and connecting the dots for so many different people across tons of industries so I try to nurture those connections and find the crossovers that allow us all to grow.
And the thing is once you get into these spaces, it’s like the circles are always tight. You know, they’re not really trying to let that new girl sit at the table with them. And I feel like that’s been more of a crutch than anything. I’m always bringing in new innovators, whether they’re interns- and having my ears to the streets of young talent and bringing them close.
I remember when Megan Thee Stallion and Don Toliver first started, I was the liaison and the one really connecting them to a lot of DJs, producers, and promoters. And even though they’re from the city of Houston, I was really exposing them to more than just that. I feel like it’s important for people to remember that even though you’re talented, you can’t get anywhere by yourself. So in working with them so early on in their career, I was able to put them in front of the right people to hep take their career to the next level.
JS: So that’s a perfect segue into my next question – You’re someone who’s selfless on your journey and you’re always acknowledging the importance of creating a “shortcut” or “building an escalator” to help those who are striving to one day be where you presently are in your career. Can you talk more about the importance of reaching a hand back to help others, and what that exactly looks like to you?
JM: Reaching back is the foundation of who I am. I wouldn’t have J. Mulan Agency and I wouldn’t be as popular as I am now, if it wasn’t for other people. I’m not a person who believes that you can get anywhere by yourself. I hate that whole saying of “being self-made.” All of my success is on others, because I’ve pulled everybody up around me.
I’m the type of person that I can look at potential and see it as talent. I can pull that out of someone. Let’s say I know someone who wants to be a chef – well, I’m going to hire them, book them at every event that I have, and really put them on my back. And that goes for any and everybody that’s around me. That’s just who I am.
When I was younger, I was bullied a lot – and not physically bullied, but just mentally bullied. And I always remember this one teacher that looked at me as a star pupil. And because of her, it gave me the confidence to believe in myself. I wasn’t a part of the popular kids growing up and when you’re like that as a kid, other children kind of look down on you, call you names, and you can start to believe it. And because of my experience, I feel like it only takes that one person to believe in you to change your whole life. Because I had that one person for me, I’ve always wanted to be that one person for everybody else.
JS: Yes. One very important way that you’ve been able to do that is through event curation and partnerships. You recently partnered with Diageo and & Prauper Studios to bring your event, Essence Of A Masterpiece to Houston. Can you tell us more about this event, as well as the meaning behind it?
JM: So the event brought together a group of women, artists, creators, and business women for a networking experience. We partnered with Diageo, Johnny Walker, and Don Julio to raise a glass to diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality.
The Essence of Masterpiece comes in because all of these beautiful women that we honor and invite wear all of these different hats and have to be dynamic in their fields. And, you know, as a woman you have to be beautiful, you’re a mentor, you’re a mother, you’re a therapist. I mean, we wear so many different hats – but we do it all so flawlessly. And a lot of times we don’t really get the recognition and applause that we deserve when we juggle all of these things, so I really want to start an event that lets these women know like, ‘Hey, you’re doing your thing … I’m applauding you, supporting you. And I’m holding your hand through your journey.’
I really wanted to highlight women that I’ve seen that are not only killing it in their industries, but are also up and coming trailblazers. I didn’t want to just honor the women that already have all of the accomplishments and accolades. I made it a point to honor the women that are consistent, successfully branding themselves, putting themselves out there, and going hard for themselves.
With this event series, I really want to create an atmosphere that is a safe space for women to be able to connect with each other, applaud each other, compliment each other, love on each other, and encourage each other. Because it’s hard out here by yourself. And in this day and age, we spend so much time on social media that we hardly ever get to connect in person. So I really wanted to pull these women out of their comfort zones and get them in front of other women that are like minded, and are going to support them.
JS: I love that. So of course you have these major brands that support and partner with you on these events. Why do you feel it’s so important for brands and companies to champion black and minority owned female business owners?
JM: I think it’s important for companies and brands, such as Diageo, to stand on their commitment to championing diversity and self-expression because it really helps to amplify it and uplift the amazing work and stories of the people who support their brands. There’s a lot of big companies and brands that capitalize off the Black dollar, but don’t support or celebrate Black communities. And they’re not reaching success by themselves. So by creating events like this, we’re getting together, calling them out, and really seeing which ones are truly going to support us. We’re saying that we’re not going to continue to allow them to capitalize off our dollar, if they’re not going to support and champion us.
JS: I think that’s so important. And I love that you’re really focusing on the power of the black dollar, because it really does have so much power. Day to day, many of us can become blind to it – the power that we hold – and how much we could really change things if we change our spending habits.
JM: Absolutely. And we’re the only community that has trouble with keeping our Black dollar within the community. Every other community can. And so it has to start with somewhere with someone – if not us then who? So I’m really, really big on making sure that we’re at the forefront of that.
JS: What advice would you give to young women who are striving to one day be where you are?
JM: You really have to believe in yourself and believe in your journey. I feel like a lot of times women, and just people in general, get caught up with what they see on social media and instant gratification. And sometimes we look at other people’s journeys, and think that it’s for us. But you have to stay true to what it is that you’re passionate about. And if this is the journey that you’re passionate about, you have to be very disciplined and you can’t get distracted by all the smoke in mirrors.
I really pride myself on being a woman of character and respecting myself, respecting my body, and respecting my ideas. And as women, it’s so easy for us to be scrutinized, torn down, and even sexualized for what we look like. And I think it’s just really important that you stand firm on who you are and don’t let anyone knock you off your course. Be a leader in everything that you want to accomplish – you can get there, you just have to stay in your own lane, honestly.
JS: So we’ve already seen you kick off an amazing event to start the year. But what other exciting projects or events do you have planned that we can look forward to? What goals are you working towards?
JM: I’m really excited because this year I’ll be launching my own Home Good’s collection in collaboration with Circular Gallery and one of my really good friends out in Miami. He’s a creative genius. His name is Pablo Delgado.
And I’m really focusing on being in front of the camera more because I’ve been more of a person that’s behind the scenes, but now I realize that my voice is so powerful. So I need to be out there and more in the spotlight of my events. I’m really excited about this year’s Coachella event because I’ll be hosting the Galore Ranch and interviewing Don C. and Melody Ehsani – I’m super stoked for that.
We also have our music label Stop Down Inc. Our artist, Mona Leo, is freaking killing it – if you don’t know her now, you will. This is a really big year for her because she is literally taking off, and not only do I love Leo’s music, but I love how poised she is and what she stands for with mental health awareness. And so we’ll be shining a lot of light on that as well this year.
My business partner and I are about to launch our own creative service and management agency in 2023. So we’ve been working on aligning with some great clients and artists. And I’m super excited about all the young talent that we have coming in.
And yeah, I’m wearing a lot of different hats, it’s really fun and it always keeps me going and looking forward to the next day. I have a really great life and I’m able to juggle and balance a lot of these different dreams and goals that I have for myself.