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Get to know Author of When The Filter Fades, Janine Jellars

Author of The When Filter Fades and The Big South African hair book, Janine Jellars uses her voice to elevate the conversation around women empowerment. Here, she shares insights into her latest offering.

We featured Janine Jellars’ book, When The Filter Fades at our Glamour Book Club Joburg Edition. Set in Johannesburg, the book explores the social dynamics of “influencer culture.” Letting us in on her inspiration, Janine says it was definitely pop/celebrity culture, the curated chaos of Joburg, and her experiences working in the worlds of traditional media (magazines) and digital media.

“My book tells the story of three women: Lin, an upcoming fashion influencer, Lebo, a former child star who has fallen on hard times, and Mbali, a gossip blogger. I think South Africa is fascinating and I think South African women are endlessly fascinating, so this novel was a great place for me to collect all the observations and thoughts I’ve squirrelled away in my mind.”

Glamour: What themes or messages do you hope readers take away from your book?

Janine: From a thematic perspective, I wanted to investigate how women mediate our lives through social media; what we’re willing to show, what we hide, the facades we put up. I also find the ‘battles’ that women ‘wage’ with one another interesting, the mind games, the backstabbing, and I wanted to interrogate those battles a bit more – what happens when we compete for status, when egos are activated. Then there’s a focus on mental health issues, unresolved trauma and grief, and how those issues can affect us even when we think we have it all under control.

Glamour: The characters in your book seem very real and relatable. Are they inspired by people you know or experiences you’ve had?

Janine: I think there are definitely snippets of experiences I’ve had peppered into the story, and some experiences that could be familiar to readers who have a keen eye for pop culture. In terms of the main characters, Lebo, Lin and Mbali, I worked hard on crafting their personalities to be reflections of their life experiences, I wanted them to feel real, and I wanted their decision-making to feel real. We all know these types of women: ambitious, a little messy, perfectionist, haunted by the past, funny, slightly bitchy. I infused them with traits that I feel we can all, as readers, relate to.

Glamour: How did you approach balancing the serious themes with moments of lightness or humor?

Janine: I think this is such a South African way of looking at the world – even when we are down bad, there’s always a moment to laugh. Sometimes it’s not ‘appropriate’, but it helps us cope with the issues we face. Life is tragic, but life is also funny at times, and if I wanted this story to feel real, I had to bring both elements together.

Glamour: The title, "When The Filter Fades", is quite intriguing. Could you share the significance behind it?

Janine: I felt it reflects the theme of mediation through social media so well – for my main characters, Lin, Lebo and Mbali, it’s a question about their own ideas of perfection and what they’re willing to show to the world, their readers and the audience. Who are they ‘when the (social media/ IG/ TikTok) filter fades?’ Will they still be loved, respected, revered, and seen in the same light when their audiences and fans get to know the ‘real’ them – the person behind the social media filter? I think it’s a question that is so relevant in our image-obsessed world.

Glamour: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book, and how did you overcome it?

Janine: Writing is such a lonely craft, and it takes commitment, focus and stamina. It almost feels like you just have to keep going until the story is told – my head was very noisy through the whole process. The most challenging part was committing to it, pushing through, even if no one ever gets to read it, even if it’s just for yourself. I kept going and pushed through because it’s a story I felt needed to be told, and a story I felt only I could write.

Glamour: Your book explores the complexities of human relationships. Can you discuss how you developed these relationships and their dynamics throughout the story?

Janine: I knew I wanted to create stakes between the characters and I wanted to explore the idea of a rising star (an influencer) and a fading star (a former child star) who are thrown together and see it as competing with one another. The catalyst character (a gossip blogger) was part of creating tension and instigating drama.

Glamour: Did you encounter any surprising or unexpected information during your research process?

Janine: When researching Lebo – the former child star – I read and watched many interviews of former child stars and the thing they all spoke about was the isolation of achieving fame at a young age. Whether they worked as actors, or singers, as children they spent a lot of their time around adults and rarely spent time with their age mates. So when they grew up, they had a hard time relating to their age mates and this is something I incorporated into Lebo’s character.

Glamour: What do you hope readers will remember most about "When The Filter Fades" after they finish reading it?

Janine: Firstly, I hope they enjoy it! I don’t want to prescribe that there are any ‘lessons’ they should take from the book, but it does make one think about their role in these social media ecosystems.

Glamour: What are some of the conversations that have emanated from your book?

Janine: I’ve had so many incredible conversations since this book’s release. Everything from colourism, to the relationship between Coloured and Black women, the role of the male characters in the book, and the state of the Influencer Economy. It’s always interesting which elements stand out to different readers – and also to see which characters most resonate with them.

Glamour: How would you describe your Glamour Book Club experience?

Janine: Overwhelming! But, in the best possible way. The entire experience was so incredible, my fellow speakers were such powerhouses, and I have to say the readers/ attendees were phenomenal. The Glamour team created a safe space where we could all feel free to share and talk, and laugh and cry together. It was definitely one of the highlights of my year.

Glamour: What's your message to our community?

Janine: We all have our own stories to tell – and I just want to encourage everyone to write their own stories, own their narratives and represent themselves authentically in the world.

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