Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jewel has lived a fascinating life. Fascinating in the sense that she has never compromised who she is and what she set out to be. So what has happened with the ‘90s music superstar turned actress? Where has she been and is she continuing to make music?
While Jewel Kilcher was born in Utah, it was shortly after her birth that her family relocated to Anchorage, Alaska on the family’s 770-acre homestead. It was a tough life, one that included a home with no running water and no heat. They lived with a coal stove and a simple outhouse. The food her family had came via what they could either kill or can.
Jewel offers no complaints about her upbringing. “We lived far from town. We had to walk 2 miles (3.2 km) just to get to the saddle barn I was raised in… No running water, no heat—we had a coal stove and an outhouse and we mainly lived off of what we could kill or can. We picked berries and made jam. We caught fish to freeze and had gardens and cattle to live on. I rode horses every day in the summer beneath the Alaskan midnight sun. I loved it there.”
Ultimately though, at the time, it wasn’t the life for her. She began singing early on so when a studio instructor referred her to the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, that is where she went to follow her dream. This is where Jewel received classical training and where she also learned how to play guitar.
FROM MEGASTAR TO THE SIMPLE LIFE
Jewel’s jump from homeless wanderer to megastar was a fairly quick one. She was discovered and signed in 1993 and worked on her first album, Pieces of You, which was released in 1995 when Jewel was a young 21-year old. She immediately shot to stardom as the album remained on Billboard’s Top 200 for two years, eventually selling over 12 million copies in the United States alone. This was just the beginning. Jewel followed up her first album with Spirit and then the first of two holiday albums, Joy: A Holiday Collection. She would return to that genre in 2013 with Let It Snow: A Holiday Collection.
In between those two holiday pieces, Jewel would continue her rise with albums such as This Way, 0304, Goodbye Alice in Wonderland, Perfectly Clear, Sweet and Wild, and Picking Up the Pieces. Jewel also released a pair of children’s albums, Lullaby and The Merry Goes ‘Round.
Life on the road and fame and fortune were not what Jewel was all about. She avoided the trappings many artists succumb to by not introducing herself to drugs or drink. She took her foot off the gas pedal when things began to move to fast with her career. “Fame happens sometimes at a pace that causes a lot of psychological problems,” she continues. “So my mission, number one, was to be a happy, whole human, and number two was to be a musician. And that’s what I’ve been doing my whole career, and that’s where I am today,” she told the Washington Post in a 2018 interview.
This explains the two years she took off after Spirit was released. “I didn’t like that level of fame,” she says. “That’s a strange thing to say, maybe, but I slowed it down. And I realized I had the power to do that; I never had to give up my authenticity.”
And amazingly enough, her career is not all about music.
JEWEL OUTSIDE OF MUSIC
Jewel has found herself, from time to time, in a movie or TV show. Not many, mind you, but enough to be noticed. She was seen on Discovery Channel’s Alaska: The Last Frontier where her family was featured about life in the Alaskan wilderness.
She’s been in movies such as Ride with the Devil, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and Ring of Fire (where she played June Carter Cash). She also has been featured in a trio of Hallmark Channel movies, A Fixer Upper Mystery series that include Framed for Murder, Concrete Evidence, and Deadly Deed.
But her talents don’t stop there. Jewel has also published poetry with A Night Without Armor and Chasing Down the Dawn. She also published her memoirs in 2015 with Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story.
JEWEL WAS SEXUALLY HARRASSED
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Jewel revealed that she was sexually harassed throughout her life, starting with inappropriate behavior toward her from men at the age of eight. She says, “I’ve had men hitting on me, sadly, since I was really young. At 8, I had men putting dimes in my hands saying, ‘Call me. It’d be so great to f— when you’re older.’ And just horrible stuff.”
It only got worse when she got older. Before she got her record deal Jewel says that one of her bosses at the coffee shop where she sang fired her for refusing to sleep with him.
She says it was even more of a problem when she was homeless. As she tells it, “I’ve never been more propositioned by businessmen in my life. It was almost like they were sharks that could smell blood, like of vulnerability… I’d go back to my car, writing songs, and men would literally come up and proposition me. They would be like, ‘Hey, do you need rent money?’ you know and things like that. It was pretty wild. I never took anybody up on it, but it was interesting to see this side of men that basically would prey on somebody vulnerable.”
However, Jewel says having to deal with that for so long helped prepare her for the harassment she would face in the music industry. She explains, “In the music business, it ended up serving me very well. I learned to keep my energy to myself, where there’s nothing about me that seemed approachable. And as men did approach me, I got very good at handling men in a way that sort of didn’t anger them. … And at the same time using wit and usually humor to defuse the situation and to inform them, ‘P.S. Not available that way.’ “
Now 46-years-old, Jewel’s website is an amazing collection of art and love and inspiration. It tells her entire story with all the things she offers. Having launched in 2017, she offers inspiring messages which include “Whole Human”, training resources for school districts and companies. She also has JewelNeverBroken.com which is her nonprofit website that advertises as an “emotional fitness destination.”
If Jewel has her way, this is how life shall remain for her. She now lives with her son as a single mom in Nashville while continuing to perform, write, offer friendly advice, and live her simple life. Can’t complain about that.