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An Interview With Period Powerhouse: Jalena Keane-Lee
Jalena Keane-Lee (she/her)
|
6.1.2021

Introduce yourself! Who are you?

My name is Jalena Keane-Lee and I’m a filmmaker and co-founder of Breaktide Productions, a production company dedicated to intersectional solidarity, owned and operated by women of color. I’m from the Bay Area and live in Brooklyn. I love making films and being in community with other creators.

What do you do?

I make movies! Non-fiction and fiction, passion projects, and mission aligned commercial campaigns. I’ve been fortunate to work with incredible women like Nadya Okamoto, Pua Case, and Hāwane Rios. I’m interested in how film can be used as a tool for healing throughout the filmmaking process and in the final product.

I co-founded Breaktide Productions (@breaktide), a media production company owned and operated by women of color, rooted in intersectional solidarity. Breaktide uses ethical and equitable production practices to produce high-quality content that elevates underrepresented voices behind the scenes and in front of the camera. My @breaktide partners Alex (@alexjbledsoe) & Reaa (@reaapuri), as well as my other creative collaborators and film family are what keep me inspired and creating surrounded by love.

How did you find your passion and purpose?

My mom taught me that the personal is political and that there is nothing more political than how you raise your children. As the daughter of an activist mother and descendant of a lineage of Chinese American activists, I’m drawn to telling stories about intergenerational trauma and healing that complicate and give depth to women leaders. I make films about the struggle for liberation, retaining cultural practices, about movements, and the women who make the world move. I explore the relationship between state violence and interpersonal violence, and the nuances of visibility for women of color.

I’ve always been interested in art and storytelling but it was in college that I switched from being on camera to behind the scenes. I love being a director and producer, but see myself as a multi-disciplinary artist and am excited to see how my art practice evolves and unfolds in the next few years.

I love storytelling because stories build empathy and understanding. I hope my films can be toolkits for future generations, lay roadmaps on how to build movements, and amplify that liberation work is being done and has always been done. I think storytelling can enhance our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, and that storytelling is what keeps culture alive.

How does menstruation exist in your life?

During the pandemic I stopped taking my pill birth control which had made me get my period once every three months. I wanted to stop because I had been on it since I was in high school and was working on a lot of personal healing. I was working on being present, sitting with, and really feeling my emotions. I wanted to get back in tune with my natural cycle and rhythm. It has definitely been an adjustment, but it’s been seven months now and I know I made the right choice for me.

Do you have a funny period story?

My first time using a menstrual cup, I was so worried about putting it in. I realized after a few hours of it being in that I had no idea how to get it out. This was in college and I had actually gotten the menstrual cup after filming an ad for Lunette Cup with Nadya Okamoto in our first year or so of knowing each other. I was in this new building my college had just built and not many people had used it yet. I remember they had this brand new, big private bathroom. I was sitting on the toilet and could barely even touch my cup plus it was so slick I couldn’t get a good grip on it. I eventually looked up a Youtube tutorial but it still took me, I’m not sure exactly how long, but it felt like forever.

This whas the first, but not the last, time I had a struggle getting it out. It’s a learning curve but once you find a cup that fits you right--it’s such a game changer. I compare it to learning how to put contacts in/take them out. The menstrual cup is the contacts of the vagina.

What advice would you give to younger menstruators out there?

We have cycles for a reason. We’re not meant to have the energy and ability to do everything all the time. There’s so much beauty in rest. There’s so much beauty in creation. Each relies on the other.

And also talk to your friends about your period! If you’re in a lot of pain every time it’s worth getting it checked out.

What’s your favorite August product? Or how does August resonate with you?

I am a Nadya Okamoto stan and day 1 supporter! I believe in her vision to end period poverty and the stigma around menstruation. I haven’t tried any of the August period products yet but I’m obsessed with the lavender “On My Period” sweatshirt. It's my new favorite clothing item.

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