We sit criss-cross on my couch, sharing a bowl of peanut butter M&M's, her favorite. I know her well. She's known me her whole life. This is going to be fun.
Emily: What is your full name?
Josie: Josie August Pratt.
E: Tell us about you.
J: I have pink hair!
She says this matter-of-factly, with a hint of sass, then giggles at the obvious.
J: I love music. I love photography...and animals.
E: Why do you love music?
J: Because it's the best way I know how to express myself.
Her eyes are honest, her words blunt. This description of music sounds perfectly fitting: it's more than just a nice addition to her life.
J: When I find a song that expresses just how I'm feeling it's the best. Then when I can show people that song when I don't have the words to say, it's just–mmm, it's really great.
Her sincerity is fluorescent.
E: Are you a musician?
J: Kind of. I mean, I can sing. I like to sing.
E: Do you write any of your own music?
J: So far, no.
E: Do you have plans or hopes to?
Her lips curve into a bashful smile and she looks at me with hopeful eyes.
E: Why do you love photography?
J: I like capturing moments that can't be relived. And cameras are amazing because they can do so many things. I love photographing people. It's also just a really great hobby. When I have nothing to do I can go out and take pictures. I take a lot of walks with my dog and when we go I like to take my camera and get new pictures of things on our adventures. This one time I went for a walk and found a swinging rope attached to one of the trees. It was a super gloomy day and I don't know why I just thought it was so pretty.
E: You love animals, too. Why do you love them?
J: We've always had animals in our house. If it wasn't a dog, or a cat, it was a hamster, or a lizard...or just something that wasn't human! Animals are so innocent. Most of them have feelings like us, but they can't feel all the same things as us.
E: Right. They typically can't betray and are completely loyal.
J: Yeah! Especially with dogs and cats. And they're always so cuddly and they're so happy. Even when you have a crazy dog like mine! She's still adorable.
Talking about this particular love of hers, she becomes so excited and animated.
J: And she likes to cuddle!
E: What are your passions?
J: Music is definitely a passion. Photography is becoming more of a passion as I get into it more. I've been thinking about it a lot and I really like dying hair. A lot of people have been asking me to dye their hair, like my friend and his sister. I just really like doing that! That's kind of a recent thing that I think I could get into.
We reach in for more M&M's and take a short break to munch.
E: Could you ever see yourself getting into makeup and hairstyling?
J: Probably hairstyling, but with makeup it has to be perfect even when I do it on myself and my hands always get shaky when I have to do my eyeliner, but yeah hair probably.
E: Who are the most important people in your life?
J: My best friend, Rachel.
She pauses and looks away, like she's thinking through something.
J: And I know this is going to sound totally weird and fan-girly, but the band members that I look up to. And...you.
She giggles and smiles as if she just told a secret.
J: For real, though. With Rachel it's because I've always been in her life, we've always been best friends, and we can always just open up to each other and that's been really great. The band members, basically because they write such inspiring music, and the lives they live. And, you. I've known you forever and I've always looked up to you and I've always loved you.
We giggle quietly and look at one another, cousins for years, and this comes out. I hold back tears and listen as she continues a little shaky.
J: I'm trying to put it all into words. You've always just been huge inspiration. Like, Emily has this great faith in God and she's so loving and her little family that she's started is so amazing. Your business, Verity Vareé, that you've started, your music, everything.
I can't quite tell if she's tearing up, but that could be because my vision is blurred by tears of my own. We laugh and hug, then talk about family times and funny things we did to one another as cousins. (Because, as dear Josie knows, even inspiring cousins can be not so nice and inspiring when they're 10 years old.) It's a testament to authentic, loyal relationships that we are sitting here together now. From a long family of forgivers, all the way down to Josie's kind-hearted outlook on who we were and are as cousins, I can see maturity in her beyond her years. Forgiveness seems to come naturally to her, not as something that is sometimes convenient, but as a necessary convention.
E: Tell us about your family.
J: I have two younger brothers, an older sister, mom and dad, and dog and a cat. My brother Justin is eleven and Jacob is thirteen. They're pretty normal boys. I learned pretty recently that Jacob really looks up to me, which was pretty weird because I don't really see anyone ever looking up to me!
She smiles at the thought and giggles a little.
J: It's just like, it's weird! My sister, Darcy, is eighteen years old and she's a normal eighteen year old.
A short pause makes her cheeks turn pink and she bursts into a nervous laugh.
J: I don't know what to say about her!
It would seem she's being very careful to say the right things about her family. They matter, and she doesn't want to get anything wrong. She proceeds cautiously.
J: My mom and dad are mom and dad. They're great. My dog, Sweetie, is a Labra-Bull, so a black lab and a pit bull mix. So, the two craziest kinds of dogs you could have! So, she's crazy energetic. She's only ten months old. I hang out with her all day. I go on runs with her, I go on adventures with her. She's becoming one of my best friends! And then, there's our cat, Leo. My dog and cat do not get along. Only because Leo's so timid about everything. Even if someone comes in the door Leo runs downstairs. I feel bad because he's so scared of Sweetie that we have to keep him downstairs. But, at least he has the downstairs to himself.
E: That's so funny. You had the most to say about your dog and your cat!
We both laugh and she looks a little indignant, then continues.
J: Justin is a sassy eleven year old. He plays football, soccer, and basketball. He doesn't really have an attitude, but he is sassy! He's pretty fun most of the time, unless he has an attitude! It's just because he's really competitive. And, of course, Justin and Jacob wrestle and get into trouble. Darcy can drive and she has a job at a pet hotel, which I'm super jealous about. I tried–well, didn't try, but Darcy talked to her boss about me getting a job and just said, "I have this sister and she really likes animals, so she was wondering if she could apply." They were asking questions about me to find out more about who I am and then they found out I had pink hair and they were like, "That's a problem." I could work at Hot Topic way easier! Oh, and Darcy got into Liberty University! So, that's really cool. She's going off to college next year. But, I'll get my own room!
E: Have you ever had your own room?
She sounds like someone just handed her a $100 bill.
J: So, that's really exciting just because I get to put as many band posters up as I want and get really cozy with it! I can get furniture. I kind of want a desk and a vanity. I've pretty much measured out the boys room. This is what I do when no one's home! I planned out on paper what would go where. I love planning. It's like my favorite thing to do, one of my favorite things to do.
We take a beat, eat M&M's, and proceed.
.J: My mom is currently working at a preschool and actually writing a book! She has been a youth leader and a worship leader. My dad's job is kind of complicated, but he works in Maryland. He really likes soccer and classic rock music!
Her eyes are serious and kind, as if these are precious things she uses to identify her parents.
J: Dad actually used to coach soccer for Justin's soccer team. He used to coach on Darcy's soccer team. I never played soccer, but then when I played lacrosse he assistant coached with that.
She seems to be really enjoying herself, all of the tension gone, and her answers are sounding more fluid.
E: How old are you?
J: I'm fifteen.
E: What are your hopes and plans for your life?
J: Well, I don't plan on going to college and people are always like, "That's crazy! You have to go to college!" My hope is to do something artistic. So, music, photography, hair styling, something like that.
E: Can you paint us a picture of what you'd like your life to be like after high school?
J: My friend, Rachel, and I want to get an apartment together, so I could see us doing that and just kind of doing our own things. After that I kind of picture myself...I think music is the clearest picture I see constantly. I just plan on doing music. I really want to tour! I want to have the experience of living on a tour bus for three months, or less, or more. Yeah! Just kind of having a rockstar life.
Her giggle shows that she knows it's crazy, but she seems determined, and excited.
J: I want a husband at some point. I love kids, but I don't know if I'm comfortable enough to raise them on my own. After a certain age they just get, ehhh. Like, after six they just get mehh. I love babies! I love two year olds! But, yeah. And I want a house just full of animals! Dogs, cats, a baby goat, horses!
E: So, would you like to live in the country?
J: Yeah, but I love the city! Maybe I'll just own a farm, but not live there. Or I'd live in Southern California! I like cities because there's always stuff going on. It never stops, and you can't really get bored. I love big cities like New York and LA.
E: What is a day in the life of Josie?
J: I take care of Sweetie, get my journal and books and things I need for the day, usually start work, work out, do dishes, then I'll work out again, and sometimes my mom has me make dinner, so I'll do that, but if I'm not making dinner I'll go work out again, or do journaling, or art, or something. And then when everyone's home I'll go on a run with my dog.
E: Oh my goodness, you work out a lot!
J: Yeah! It only just started this month! Yeah, but I'll run with Sweetie for about two hours. But, that's not consistent. It's like I'll run until I feel like I'm going to throw up, then I find a place to sit, then go again. So, I'll usually run in the woods past the creek, up to this really steep hill. It's a pretty long run. It tires Sweetie out and it tires me out. Then, I'll get home and just do whatever. Sometimes I'll run with Rachel if she's up for it.
E: She sounds like an awesome friend. One of those really good friends you only read about, or see in cute TV shows. Do you hang out a lot?
J: Yeah! We usually see each other on the weekend and we'll have a sleepover, or go to the mall, or go see a movie, and watch Netflix. Actually, she got me into One Tree Hill, so I'm actually stuck with that on the seventh season. So, we'll watch that if we're not watching...well, she loves High School Musical! It's so funny!
Her eyes fill with delight in her friend as she describes Rachel's love for HSM.
J: She has all the movies, and the special editions! It's so cute! We'll watch that a lot. She loves Breakfast At Tiffany's, she pretty much adores Audrey Hepburn. She loves the classics, like 80's movies, Audrey Hepburn movies, High School Musical. She's definitely a romantic.
Her descriptions are easy, kind, and tender. This friendship is dear to her heart, which she makes so clear in her eagerness to describe Rachel in the most positive light.
J: She loves romantic movies! And drama. I could go on and on about Rachel!
We take a few minutes to talk more about Rachel, which leads us to a conversation about other friends and a time in her life that was an overall negative experience. She describes the typical "bad crowd" she was a part of and some of the dangerous things she learned while chasing a lifestyle that she says "Just wasn't good." However, even as she describes this time in her life she speaks of the people in the crowd with kindness and compassion, even those who wronged her. The lessons she learned from this chapter were, indeed, valuable, but what's remarkable is her grace towards the people involved. Not once did she mention any malice, or anger, merely hopes that they would change, and gratefulness that she was able to learn and move on. Her wisdom is something indescribable, not that of the average fifteen year old. She's seen things, but she's reconciled these experiences and laid them down, refusing their power to burden her now joyful life.
J: But, Rachel is pretty much my sister. My sister that I get along with!
E: Do you and Darcy go at it a lot?
J: Sort of, but I think it's because we're so similar. Like, not in how we are, but our attitudes are so similar. But, if you just look at us you can't even tell we're sisters! It's funny. We get along on certain levels, though, like we both like Sherlock, we both like 5 Seconds of Summer, I enjoy One Direction to a certain extent, and we both find certain things funny! We actually both really like Vine, so we'll watch funny videos and if I find one that makes me think of her I'll show her. Rachel and I do that a lot! Like, in the summer we'll just sit on her bed and both be totally quiet with our head phones in, then burst out laughing and go, "Oh, what are you watching?!" But, me and Darcy mainly bond over fan girl stuff.
E: What messages have you observed (good and bad) from our culture relating to beauty?
J: Because of the people I follow on social media, the people I look up to, the main thing is be yourself and that's exactly what I do. It's mainly be yourself, be different, and even if you have a look that's popular, you're still different because whatever you're doing you're doing it because you like it. So, being different and not letting other people bring you down, or make you feel bad about yourself. But, on the bad side it's just, "skinny, pretty, tall, long hair, fit!" Basically, this is what you "have to be." But, then they'll go and say, "But, be yourself" and "do you." It's funny because it's like, which one are you saying? It's just confusing. Society is two-faced, because they say, "This is the definition of pretty and beautiful! But, be yourself." It's just extremely stupid.
E: What would you say to women your age who are hearing these same messages?
J: Other people's opinions of you don't matter. Dance when you want to dance! That's something the leader of All Time Low does before one of my favorite songs he plays called, "Therapy." He just gives this speech about being yourself and at concerts everyone's trying to look cool, but I get this really huge adrenaline rush and just jump all over! But, just be yourself.
She has a confidence few people her age, or even older, have come to. She's moved past the apathetic, "too cool for this" stage that many of her peers will be in for quite some time, and moved on to an appreciation and loud joy of life. Her enthusiasm and unabashed delight is shining.
E: What inspired the styled portion of your Reveal?
J: I really like a darker tone. I like to be punky, funky, and a little weird. In the bakery I was writing because I just love to write! I love making lists, so if you ever look at one of my journals it will basically be all lists. I write out playlists, bed time playlists, this is what Josie's going to wear tomorrow, this is what Josie's room is gonna look like! And often you'll just see me venting about something that's gone on in the day and usually by the next day it's fine, or I've just gotten over it. That's actually what I love about sleep. You can go to bed one day and just feel horrible, then the next day you wake up and you're like, "I love today!" Oh, and then there were the pops of color. I think that's because if you first meet me I kind of seem dark, like at first I'm shy and I kind of having a resting angry face, but if you get to know me I'm like, "Hi! I love this! I'm glad we're friends!" I feel like people don't see that enough in me. I wish I wasn't so shy and introverted. Because I like people for the most part! But, I get nervous meeting new people. So, there's the darker then this pop of color that shows my happiness! So, that was basically the styled shoot. The natural one, well I love music, so that's why there were records. Oh, and the styled one had photography, because I love photography! And with the natural one, there was coffee, and I liked how there were two Doctor Who things, the mug, and then the backpack! Basically in both of them I just incorporated a lot of me, so music and journaling, photography, and pops of color!
We talk a few minutes about her Reveal, about who she is, and who she is becoming. Everything we've touched on comes back to a heart of care, patience, and passion. From babies, to animals, to a surprisingly strong work ethic, she demonstrates herself as one who not only cares deeply, but will work diligently for the things and people she believes in. Her joy is tangible, breathtaking. It's been a giggly, joyous experience
Introducing a joyful, patient, passionate punk angel, complete with cotton candy hair, Josie August Pratt.