THE REAL JACI VELASQUEZ
Jaci's decision to step into Hollywood
and the criticism it has invited.
by Jonathan McKee
May 13, 2003
"Mommy, why are we burning Jaci's poster?"
"Because Jaci's the devil! As soon as we finish, we're going to burn all her albums
just like we did that brood of Jezebel Amy Grant!"
Jaci Velasquez, whom you may know from one of her three platinum albums, six Dove Awards,
16 #1 radio hits, or her recent hit "You're my God" off her "Unspoken
album, is taking as much criticism as the Dixie Chicks after the release of the film
"Chasing Papi." However, Jaci won't be responding by showing up naked on the
cover of Entertainment Weekly. Instead, you'll see her completely dressed, representing
Christ with her music, representing a wholesome family image for Pepsi & Dorito's, and
impacting Hollywood with her lifestyle.
23 year old Jaci has faced criticism before, but all the "hype" really began when
her movie emerged with her playing the role of one of three women who are pursuing a young
man named Papi. Unfortunately the film has been chasing Christians away from the box office
because of "objectionable" material, including a scene that made the trailers where
all three women show up in lingerie or nighties to impress Papi.
I thought it would be cool to hear first hand from Jaci about the situation.
JONATHAN: Jaci, thanks for taking time to talk with me today- I really appreciate you
opening up like this. I think some people would like to hear your heart.
Jonathan, I really appreciate you doing this because, (sigh) you know it's been a hard
road going through a lot of the storms that we went through when it came to the movie.
JONATHAN: I bet it has been, and I want to hear about that . . . but first, congrats on the
Pepsi thing. You're replacing Shakira?
JONATHAN: Did she get caught drinking Coke or what?
I don't know. But they said they wanted a clean family moral image with ethnicity.
JONATHAN: So did you shoot the commercial yet?
We shot the commercial a couple weeks ago and then we shot all the press stuff.
JONATHAN: So, being the Pepsi girl, can you get as much
Pepsi as you want to drink now?
Yeah. Actually I can.
JONATHAN: That would be so cool!
It's pretty bizarre.
JONATHAN: You don't look like you drink a lot of Pepsi. Are you sure you're not . . .
maybe you should be the Pepsi One girl or something like that? La Chica de Pepsi
(laughing) Actually, what they have me doing is walking around holding Doritos
JONATHAN: (laughing) Sounds like my kind of work!
I've been eating Doritos my whole life . . .
JONATHAN: Now do you have to be careful what soft drink
you drink when you're out?
Never can be seen in public drinking Coke. I cannot. I can't even drink
Aquafina or anything.
JONATHAN: Will you drink Diet Pepsi, Pepsi or what?
I drink either diet Pepsi or Sierra Mist or Pepsi Blue, Pepsi One . . . if a
picture came out of me drinking something else, I'd be gone!
JONATHAN: Absolutely! Well, the thing that is so cool is that your career has totally
Yeah, a lot of the opportunities that have come across the table have been
because of this movie. Maybelline, Pepsi, the Jeep Cherokee...
JONATHAN: Do you get a Jeep Cherokee?
No, I wish!
JONATHAN: What? You get Pepsi, but no Jeep?
JONATHAN: Do you get as much Maybelline as you want to
JONATHAN: Ah, the perks. Well, as I researched every interview with you, a lot of
people were critical of you, some downright cruel. But it didn't look like these people
had talked with you?
It's the weirdest thing. If people actually talk to me they usually write
positive articles. But if they're just writing about me, they're usually pulling facts
from who knows where.
JONATHAN: I hear you. Well, when I started reading some of what people were saying,
I had two thoughts: 1) Some of these people are pretty judgmental, even cruel, and 2)
I would like to hear Jaci's side on some of these issues. For you it must be awkward
because you know exactly what's true and what's not. For me and for your fans, we are
trying to determine what to believe and what not to believe.
Well, I know some of those things that you read. And- it's funny- I made a
promise to my family to NOT read what people were saying on the internet because they
(my family) saw things and realized that if I read it I'd be really discouraged. But
I see some of it, like the Focus on Family film review and when that one guy (Kevin
McCullough) insinuated that my mom was money hungry- trying to make her child a
JONATHAN: That article was harsh.
Well, he doesn't know me. And the truth is- my opinion about all of that is-
say what you want about ME. Because I bargained for that. I mean, I knew that when I
came into this and when I chose to do the movie that people were going to say horrible
things about me. Because they don't understand me. But just say it about ME.
JONATHAN: It must be incredibly complex- incredibly difficult as a Christian trying to
decide whether it's worth it getting your foot into Hollywood. Especially knowing that
when you, living your life under a microscope, make that choice there will be
repercussions. How do you handle hearing that criticism all the time?
You know, it's really painful for me. Because you know- I don't hear any
criticism from the world. The world is like, "You're a Christian? Okay- well, do
you want to do the Warren Brady show? Do you want to be our spokesperson? Do you want
JONATHAN: I read all your interviews . . . the Latin world and the secular world out
there all know that you're a Christian. And when they talk to you- you always end up
talking about your faith in God. That's an incredible open door. They think you're an
angel. But a lot of Christian's think you're the devil!
That's so true.
JONATHAN: I'm not sure where the role of the "Christian critic" is. . . but
I figured that if I had questions, I'd ask you myself.
I understand why people have questions. I was in a movie that had nothing to do
with God. It was just a corny romance, a film that was actually really clean.
But I feel like we (Christians) create our own subculture and we don't ever infiltrate
pop culture with the light of the Lord.
JONATHAN: Some of your fans are confused though. Because even though the film is clean
in the world's mind, it might not be the kind of stuff we want our kids watching.
A fan wrote a letter to a friend of mine who does media reviews. And this letter might be
a little hard for you to hear- but I think he asks good questions that might be valuable
as you make choices in the future. He says:
"I hope that Focus on the Family's film review is way off base. . . Jaci's
website justifies her presence in the movie by pointing out what a terrific witness
she has been to the cast and crew. She also says she consulted with her pastor and
family to make sure she was answering her calling. How can a "jiggle" movie be part
of her calling? Roger Ebert says it "looks more like a fashion show by Victoria's
Secret." He also says Jaci and the other stars of the movie are on display, "in a
way that would make your average Maxim reader feel right at home."
How do those questions make you feel? I mean, do you think that in the future, as you
look back, you'd do the Patricia role again? Or do you think you should come out and
explain it before you do it- because I don't think people are satisfied with the answers
they've been hearing on your fan site, etc.
I've got to do damage control with my kids now. I need to explain the time we spent
at a Jaci concert, singing along with "God So Loved the World," and "I Get on My
Knees." I've got to talk to them about the stupid decisions we make, and that even
people we admire make stupid decisions. I've got to re-review the lyrics on Jaci's
albums with them, and talk about how important our words are (and try to minimize
Jaci's actions)." - A Fan-
It was a really hard choice. But you know what? Parents have to decide their
convictions and what the convictions of their families are. I can't be the one to decide
for their convictions. I have to act on my convictions and I have no problem with what
ended up happening in the movie. Because I felt like it ended up being a good story, it
ended up being a story of, "I learned my lesson."
JONATHAN: Everybody who reads this is going to take the one sentence you said about
you "having no problem with what ended up happening in the movie" and they're
going to come back and say, "She came out of a door wearing lingerie! Are you
saying that's okay?"
My opinion is . . . I was playing a role! That wasn't me. I'm a Christian and
I don't date a guy that looks like that. And when I fall in love in my next movie- I'm
not really in love with that guy, I'm in love with my real love in my real life.
I'm able to enter this world as a light and hopefully I can change these people that are
key people in this industry and then . . . hopefully I can be the actress that does the
"Sweet Home Alabama's," the romantic or fun little movies that you want to watch
with your families.
JONATHAN: And right now you're trying to just get your
foot into Hollywood?
Exactly. I have no right to ask them to change everything for me. They'd be
like, "Who are you? We can get someone else to play that role."
Yes, it does hurt my feelings that people have to do damage control because of a choice
I've made, but the truth is, if this is the wrong choice by some standards, why did God
give me a peace about it. I don't question God's will in my life, I just sometimes
question whether it was the easiest way or not.
But see, this is the problem. I have no problem watching films like "Legally
Blonde," and "Sweet Home Alabama." How hypocritical is it of us to say
it's okay to sit down and watch it but we're not allowed to act in it because we're
JONATHAN: So you feel that some people are saying, "How could she play in
'Chasing Papi?' By the way- did you get our tickets to 'Matrix Reloaded?'"
Exactly. But then if a Christian plays that part- it's "OH MY GOSH!"
Yet we have no problems sitting down and watching it. The reason I know this is because
I DO HAVE a problem sitting down watching that "Goldmember" movie or
"American Pie" . . . I didn't even see that movie because I would have a
problem watching that.
JONATHAN: But don't you think that line exists of roles
you would and would not take?
JONATHAN: And that line exists somewhere between Polyanna (Wow, I'm really dating myself)
and "American Pie?"
(Laughing) Yes. Do you remember that film "Just Married" with Ashton
Kutcher and Brittany Murphy?
JONATHAN: I missed that one.
Well, I turned down the role of the girl that leads him away from Brittany Murphy.
This girl meets him at a bar and leads him away . . . I turned down that role because
I felt, you know, I just can't picture myself doing that.
JONATHAN: Well how do you go about deciding what roles to take? Because on one hand
you're saying, "I can't tell Hollywood that," but on the other hand if they
offered you the next role in "American Pie III," you're saying, "I can't
do that!" Where do you draw the line? Where does it become NOT worth getting your
foot into Hollywood?
It becomes not worth it when I'm compromising my personal convictions.
JONATHAN: Well how does this happen, because obviously, hopefully, you wouldn't show up
at your real fiancé's house wearing lingerie, when you're not married yet. So how can
you say- "well that's a role I could play, but yet I can't play a role where I'm
naked or . . ." how do you decide that line?
I think that I have to say, "I'm playing a role- this is pretend."
And what is the end result of this role going to be. And if the end result is me ending
up in bed with somebody, then that's not good. But if I'm playing a role where I'm madly
in love with this person and we end up almost doing something where I would have
regretted it later, but there's redemption in the end, then that's something else.
Because the character is learning a lesson. In "American Pie" you're not
learning lessons. It's just crude humor. I want to be part of films where you learn a
Even if I'm playing the role of a girl who gets pregnant when 16, who later realizes,
"Wow, that was really dumb. I could have ruined my whole life." And then she
becomes someone who ends up working with teenage kids and helps them through the same
problems because of the problems she had to go through to get to that place.
JONATHAN: That sounds like a good film.
Do you know what I mean? I want roles that have redemption.
JONATHAN: So, your saying this role (in "Chasing Papi") wasn't the perfect role
that you would have chosen, but at the same time, you feel it was a foot into Hollywood
and, for you, it wasn't crossing the line.
Exactly. It was a door that got opened. And now I'm getting tons of
opportunities. I've got meetings all week with an incredible studio that is opening
doors. And then you can work your way up to that place where you can say, "I'm
not going to do this! Change this!" But until then I've got to decide, "What
can I feel comfortable going to sleep with at night?" "What can I be
comfortable with my pastor watching with his family?"
JONATHAN: And that's a tough call to make. And I think it's easy for us outside the
situation to look back at the film in 20/20 and say, "I wouldn't have done that!"
and then start shelling you with criticism publically. But we all have our opinions
and we definitely do not all agree. I mean, my oldest daughter is 7 and, you know, I
wouldn't bring her to "Chasing Papi."
And that's your call. The film is PG. That's parental guidance suggested.
JONATHAN: Well, I think we as leaders are called to be above reproach. Does it mean
that you try to please everybody all the time? No, that's not the answer. Because that's
impossible. But does it mean that there are fans, teenagers, kids that are out there
watching me and that's important? Yes.
I can't help to think of something Marshall Shelly from "Christianity Today"
said to me as we were talking about this conversation that you and I were going to have.
He had a theory about this- he wondered if people were confused because what you (and
other cross-over artists) have been giving the public up till now is very different from
what you're trying to sell now. You're trying to mix two incompatible elements. You made
a name as "a worship leader," one who turns audiences' thoughts Godward. You portray
yourself as authentic and transparent in your devotion to God.
Now that you show up as a Christian working in the secular entertainment industry.
That's a noble calling too (despite what Falwell says), but blending the two roles
publicly is like mixing salt and incense. Those are two very different functions.
I can see that.
JONATHAN: One is "sacred" and "holy" and "set apart"--the impression given
is "You can see right through me and all I want you to see is Jesus."
The other role is "acting." "I play a different role in different situations." In
that role you're not transparent anymore, you're just putting on a show. Hopefully
using discernment in the roles you choose, and being good at what you do so you're a
credible voice for Christ.
So when people see you now they might be confused. Which is the real Jaci? Is she the
worshipful singer now, or is that just another acting role she assumes for a while,
like the lingerie-clad Patrica? Do you think it is possible to do "authentic" and
"actress" at the same time? Or do you need to make a switch?
You know what. I'm telling you. It would just be so much easier if I just
stayed in the walls of the church. And even though I get criticism even when I'm just
doing Christian music, at least it would be easier and no one would have any of THESE
questions, right? But I want them to see that we're not weird, we're not condemning,
we're not legalistic. I'm not going to condemn them, I'm not going to be legalistic.
I'm just wanna love them and show them that when they have one of those days of just
wondering and longing and going, "Why do I feel lonely in this world?" that
there's God and that they have hope because there's love and hope in Jesus Christ every
second of the day.
My calling is very simple and very evident. He has called me into two different kinds
of worlds. A world of glamour and spotlights with so much darkness. This world includes
the Latin music world, a world where women almost have to show their body to get any
JONATHAN: It's an unavoidably sexually charged
Definitely. That's just the way it is. And then he's also called me into the
world of singing Christian music. I can't even imagine singing pop music.
JONATHAN: Everyone predicted you would go pop next. The Christian critics are saying,
"She's going to crossover." But then you come out with the album
which is a very Christian, worshipful, very real album where you
are vulnerable and honest about your need for God in your life. The very fact that you
came out with this album says a lot. It shows where your passion still is. And that's
why I personally wondered if you were rethinking the acting thing. Because I think
it's hard to do both. I think it's hard to be the worship leader and then turn around
and say, "Now it's time to play Patricia" or whoever.
I have a couple more roles coming up that I'm trying to decide whether they're
okay. And my whole battle is, I'll be honest with you, I'm not sure I want to act
anymore because I have people like that Kevin McCullough bashing my family. He talked
about my mother like she's some adulteress. People just know what happened when my
parents broke up. She was NOT in the wrong.
JONATHAN: This is the same Kevin McCullough that said "But when the industry's No.
1 icon of all time (Amy Grant) leaves a wake of destruction of two families to justify
her own illicit emotional realities, it's not surprising that rising stars are beginning
to say to themselves, 'hey, I can do what I want and nobody will say boo about it.'"
(newsmax.com, April 24, 2003) Of course Kevin is saying "boo."
You know when I first read this article I thought, "that was unfair." But I
think your fans also felt, "I hope this isn't true." Because some of the
things he said made me wonder. Like for instance. He ripped on your stand for abstinence
saying that it was the "strangest promotion of abstinence I've ever heard."
Was he there to see you that day?
I don't remember meeting him. I don't even know who he is. I can't believe
that he even went on to question my sexuality.
JONATHAN: Well, he said that when you appeared you were asked about abstinence. He
said, "Her answer was strange, convoluted and confusing." Then he quotes
you. "Well, you should save yourself for marriage," she stated, "but
God does forgive you if you mess up."
Then Kevin says, "WHAT? That's the strangest promotion of abstinence I've ever
Jaci, what was your abstinence message that day?
My abstinence message is always the same thing. That I believe in sexual
abstinence because I believe God has called us away from sexual immorality. I mean, it's
not easy in this day and age. Let's face it. I mean, in my relationships I've been in,
it's not easy to NOT have sex. Let's be honest.
JONATHAN: Yeah it's very difficult.
My message is always, "So wait until you're married." And he didn't
finish quoting me because what I always say is, "But if you have messed up know that
God forgives because God is full of Grace. But from this day forward you can save
JONATHAN: He made it sound as if you gave a very watered down message, leaving a way
out for students. Grace is an essential part of an abstinence presentation. Ask Pam
You know, my whole thing with that is, I'm still a virgin. And it's totally by
the grace of God. I've always dated Christians, I've always dated people that know where
I stand as a True Love Waits sex person.
JONATHAN: Your virginity speaks loudly to a lot of young people today. Jaci, thanks so
much for having this conversation.
Thank you Jonathan.
JONATHAN: I know that you're just in a tough, tough situation living your life under a
microscope. And you've got some stuff to think about here. You're a leader, you know
you're being watched and it's not an easy situation. You've got to make this decision
between opportunities to represent God in a dark world, and "where can I walk and
not cross the line." I don't envy your situation. It's a tough one. But I
appreciate you talking with me and sharing your heart with us.
Well thank you. I really appreciate you. You've got a good, good head on your
shoulders and I trust your opinions. You seem very open minded but yet very aware of
God's word. I respect that because it gets very frustrating to be constantly involved
with people that can't see past their own front door.
JONATHAN: I appreciate that. Thank you. Let's both
keep this stuff in prayer.
Thanks Jonathan, I will.
JONATHAN'S FINAL THOUGHTS
Whether we like it or not, Jaci's Hollywood roles, her Pepsi deal, her Maybelline deal,
and her influence in the Latin market are putting her in the presence of more people in
the world. These people are getting to know Jaci and are saying "What's different
about Jaci?" My prayer is that as she rubs shoulders with people around her in the
next few years, people won't see Jaci, people will see God in Jaci. Then they will say,
"Hey that's what I would like to be. Jaci's got something." Her co-stars will
come up to her between takes and say, "What is it that I see in you that's different?
" and she'll be able to live I Peter 3:15 which is, "Always be prepared to give
an answer to anyone who asks the reason for the hope that's within you."
What so many of us forget is, "How is anyone ever going to ask that question of me
if they don't see the hope that's within me?" The encouraging thing I've been
seeing in Jaci is that everywhere, especially in the Latin industry, they're asking,
"What is different about this girl Jaci- there's something there." And they
end up asking about her hope and she has a chance to talk about Jesus. That is what
makes her presence in the world a good thing. It doesn't mean throw out discernment,
but it means it's an open door to good conversation with people in Hollywood and people
in the world that so desperately need Jesus.
Even if we don't agree with every one of her choices, we should continue to pray for her
as she makes these tough situations in her near future.
And we should continue to pray about the decisions WE make daily, the movies we watch,
the stuff we allow into our lives. And most of all, we should pray that people see
"the hope" within us.
Jonathan McKee is the President and founder of "The
Source for Youth Ministry
," a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free
cutting edge resources for youth workers across the world. Jonathan is an
who works hands-on with students while speaking &
training to youth and adults nationally. "The Source for Youth Ministry," trains and
equips thousands of youth workers each month.