A Babe Behind The Babe: An Interview With Jessica Tom

What we liked most about Jessica was her indulgence. Within a few seconds of spotting Jessica glide through Frances Stark’s My Best Thing exhibition at the MoMA PS1, her sniper-like focus on the exhibited words and full disregard for anyone around her completely fascinated us. Without breaking her concentration too much, we asked to take her photo and then off she went. The memory lingers in a way that’s more vivid than other babe encounters at the museum.

We managed to track Jessica down and ask her some things about herself that we didn’t get a chance to delve into during our initial 15-second interaction back in January. We interviewed Jessica about what artists excite her senses the most, the exciting madness of Yayoi Kusama’s Fireflies exhibit, and how museums could loosen rules a tad bit more to make visits more relaxing. 

BATM: We met once but super briefly, so remind me again who you are and what keeps you busy.

Hey! I’m Jess. I live in Brooklyn. During the day, I’m the Community Director at HowAboutWe, and in the minutes between other life, I’m an aspiring novelist.


What brought you to the museum that day?

PS1 was a random choice. I hadn’t been there in awhile, and it was one of those days when I thought, “I have a whole afternoon free and I’m in New York City. What treasures await me now?”


Sounds like you were treating yourself. Any reason in particular?

I had just sent my agent the latest version of my young adult novel, Don’t Believe Everything You Eat. It’s about a 17-year old girl who secretly writes the New York Times restaurant review because the real critic has lost his sense of taste. When I have edits and the ball is in my court, I do nothing but eat, drink (Campari, green tea), go to work, and write. I had just passed the baton back to my agent and went to PS1 to decompress and creatively re-charge.


We’re not really into trends but was drew us to you was a seeming lack of calculated effort in your simplistic demeanor. Can you talk to use about what you were wearing?

I was just coming from the gym and I was in typical weekend winter wear: an oversized sweater and leggings. So, zero style points. What saved me that day were these cloth oxfords in Renoir-ish colors, and I suppose my haircut, which has a pink peek-a-boo panel, and was cut by the legendary Tim Hartley, who was Vidal Sassoon’s right-hand man for many years and treats hair like sculpture. Good hair and shoes can go a very long way.


What exhibition were you most excited about seeing this Summer?

I was rather excited about Yayoi Kusuma’s Fireflies on the Water exhibitionWhy? 1) You never see fireflies in the city, and I’m looking forward to finally having that quintessential summer experience. 2) The idea of “exploring the infinite” appeals to the mystical physicist side of me. The Higgs boson has put me in a contemplative mood. 3) Bad installations are terrible. But at their very best, they can energize all your senses. I hope Fireflies can do that.