When Alisha Boe landed the role of Jessica Davis in “13 Reasons Why,” she knew it wasn’t just going to be another acting gig.
“I knew taking on the role of Jessica I would be held responsible or accountable,” Alisha explained, “because I’d be representing all girls that [sexual assault] has happened to.”
While that kind of exposure if enough to make somebody forget who they are, she isn’t about to start taking herself too seriously anytime soon.
We talked to Alisha about slut-shaming, why people have a hard time watching teens deal with tough issues on TV, and who her favorite RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant of all time is.
The Pink Floyd lyric in your Instagram bio, “how can you have any pudding if ya don’t eat ya meat,” is such a throwback. What’s the story behind it?
I think I was driving down the 405 or something, I was listening to the radio, a Pink Floyd song came on, and it then it just reminded me of that. I think that lyric really applies to life. Like you can’t have any pudding until you eat your meat and you can’t really do anything unless you work hard for it. So yeah, that’s the exciting story.
These days people LOVE to stunt on Instagram and make their lives look as glamorous as possible, but your account looks really authentic. Especially for someone with 2 million followers. Is that something you’re conscious of?
Well yeah, I mean I got these followers relatively fast because of “13 Reasons Why.” Before the show came out I only had 5,000 followers or something, and then within a month I had over a million. But I kept my online personality the same as before. Even though now I find myself at more fancy events and red carpets, I’m not the type of person to post all glammed up photos all the time because I’m just a twenty-year-old girl trying to figure out how to be comfortable in my own body, and to do that on the internet is terrifying. So I just like to keep things how they were.
Do you personally think it’s a big deal when people edit their photos?
No, I don’t mind if people edit their photos because that’s what makes them happy so who am I to judge them? And I don’t mind when girls wear a lot of makeup. I think that’s an expression of art and it’s very hard to do.
Has anyone tried to slide into your DMs with a “13 Reasons Why” pickup line?
No, I wish! Honestly I have gotten no guys from the show. I thought they’d be lining up but no! All I get is DMs of group chats and I just stopped checking them because there were no hot guys and I was very upset. So I had to do things the old-fashioned way. But how do you meet anyone the old-fashioned way without using Tinder? Cuz I’m not going to use Tinder, that’s terrifying to me. It’s very frustrating.
Yeah, how do you navigate that?
I don’t. I mean, I’m kind of busy so I don’t really have time for a guy. I’m not actively seeking it, but if it happens, I’ll be more than happy. But it’s kind of hard to navigate through that type of relationship while you’re working all the time.
So I saw that you got your matching semicolon tattoos with Selena Gomez. How did that happen?
So the producers of “13 Reasons Why” got the semicolon tattoos first, and in the TV show Christian [Navarro], who plays Tony, has the semicolon tattoo on his arm. The message behind it is to stand in solidarity with people who are suicidal, who deal with depression or addiction issues, or have gone through those things themselves. So it’s been a project that we were aware of and Tommy [Dorfman, who plays Ryan] and I had been wanting to get it. Oddly enough, we ran into Selena at a store and we told her about it. She wanted to get it too so we all ended up all going.
I know you have girls reaching out to you who have been through similar things that Jessica did. Is that weird for you to be in that position when those aren’t things you’ve necessarily lived through yourself?
Well, it’s not weird. I knew taking on the role of Jessica I would be held responsible or accountable for that because I’d be representing all girls that it has happened to. I have a very close friend that has gone through that herself. It’s just a subject very dear to my heart and I’m more than happy to be that person who they can reach out to. Girls have come up to me saying that it’s their first time being able to admit it or tell their parents or friends about it. That’s like all we really wanted to do with the show. So it’s not weird, I’m just really grateful that I get to be that special.
Yeah. That’s kind of amazing you get so many reminders of the positives that came from the show since there was such an intense backlash about it too.
Yeah, there was definitely some controversy about it, but I think that was inevitable because of the topics we were covering in the show. People don’t like watching shows about teenagers dealing with depression or being sexually assaulted because it’s very tough to watch and hurts people in different ways. And I don’t think it’s been done before as realistically, so I understood that there were going to be opposing opinions. But at least now more than ever people are talking about it. Parents are talking to their children and that’s what we wanted to do with the show.
Yeah, teens go through so much and so often don’t get taken seriously. Can you think of any time where you felt dismissed?
I think I still go through that today. I think that’s just questioning your own opinions and thinking that if you say it out loud it’ll be stupid or no one’s going to believe you. But I find more times than not, if you express what you’re feeling or thinking to people who really care about you, like your friends or family members, they’re going to support and listen to you. For me personally, I kind of keep everything inside. Until this day, I’m very locked up in my feelings and I don’t think anyone wants to hear my problems but when I finally release everything it feels so good. I usually talk to my mom. I’m so grateful that she listens and understands me.
What’s the best advice you got about growing up or being a woman when you were a teenager?
I don’t even know if I can answer that question because I’m definitely not a woman yet. I’m still like a child and figuring it out. But know that your feelings are valid and if you are feeling down it’s important to reach out and always do what you know is right in your heart.
So I found on your Instagram that you have a “Whore” choker that you wear sometimes. Obviously, that necklace is making a statement. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
I had actually lost that choker. So last year for Christian’s birthday — which was in the middle of filming “13 Reasons Why” — we were all going out for karaoke. So me and Miles [Heizer, who plays Alex] went to a store to pick up funny gifts for Christian. I found that choker, Miles found a police costume, and we thought it was hilarious if we wore them out to karaoke. I think the necklace takes off the negative connotation behind the word “whore.” Like it was meant as a joke, it’s meant to be sarcastic.
Moving on to a topic that I know is near and dear to your heart, if you could be a guest on any episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which would it be?
Snatch Game! C’mon! That’s like the most sought after episode.
Haha, I figured that’s what you’d say. Now, this might be difficult, but who’s your favorite queen of all time from the show?
I feel so bad just picking one, but I think the queen I relate to the most and really respect, who kind of surpasses everyone is Adore Delano. I think she really represents the millennial generation and she creates a new style of drag which is really cool. She’s just not afraid to be unique.