In a journey of vulnerability and self-exploration, Numa Perrier, actor-writer-filmmaker, and founder & creative director of House of Numa is debuting her first feature film, Jezebel, a true story which is expected to premiere this fall. Jezebel is a coming-out and coming-of-age tale that uniquely explores sexuality. Starring Tiffany Tenille and Numa Perrier who plays her sister in this film, Jezebel reveals a story about a special bond between siblings. While finding themselves in a predicament, having to support their family, two sisters work as a phone sex operator and internet fetish cam girl. A champion of Perrier’s work is American filmmaker, Ava DuVernay, creator of Selma, 13th and A Wrinkle in Time. In our interview, Perrier discusses how support from the filmmaking queen transpired, why good storytelling entails some level of risk and where feminism and sexual freedom intersect.
Women For Action: Where did the idea of producing Jezebel, (a true story about your life) stem from?
Perrier: I’ve been plucking true stories based on parts of my life the entire time I’ve been creating visual art and films. This specific story was one of those I knew I wanted to add to the volume. It took a long time, 15 years — to gain the emotional distance and the courage to follow through with this particular story. There was a lot of shame associated with not only the work but the poverty that I was in with my family at the time. So far, I am happy that I am sharing it, but I still don’t feel entirely comfortable. I think that’s part of the requirement of this work. I’m way out of the safe zone with this one.
Women For Action: You play your sister in Jezebel and she also helps you with the seed money for the film. This is her story just as much as it is yours. She shares your vulnerability. Why do you think this story is just as important to her to tell?
Perrier: My sister and I have had a roller coaster relationship. It has stabilized and deepened now especially while working on this film together. Playing her in the film caused me to understand and love her beyond description. She has always encouraged me to explore and exploit my sexuality. In her view, we would not be born with something that wasn’t supposed to be of use to us. This story is very much hers as well, but she has let me tell it how I see fit which has been a tremendous vote of trust and confidence towards me. The story is important to both of us because it brought us closer and may do the same for others. We’re both excited about revealing a piece of a lifestyle and a black family in Vegas that just hasn’t been told before.
Women For Action: Not only did the queen, Ava DuVernay donate to your crowdfunding campaign, she made sure her audience caught glimpse of your fundraising initiative for Jezebel. How did she learn about the campaign and how did DuVernay’s support make you feel?
Perrier: I slid in Ava’s direct message’s and let her know that I had just finished filming my first feature. She wasn’t aware that I was even making one and she was so excited for me having got that far and immediately offered to help by contributing and boosting my GoFundMe campaign on her Twitter. It was very generous and more than I had anticipated in reaching out. The second she did that a wave of people donated including other prominent industry players. It wasn’t a blind reach out—I’ve known Ava since 2008 and been a witness to her hard work and courage in making her space very real and very known. It feels pretty great to know that she is proud of me and cheering me on.