Q&A with The Checkout Girl

We at RVANews know and love The Checkout Girl. But few know the real woman behind the Interwebs. Looking forward to her upcoming solo show about becoming an adult entertainer, we spoke to The Checkout Girl about her rise to Internet glory and what we can expect from her new show, Loosely Based on a Real Girl.

The name Jennifer Lemons likely means very little–if anything–to you. Her online identity, however, is a different matter. For the past several years, The Checkout Girl has been tweeting, writing her weekly “Off the Clock” column on RVANews, and maintaining the blog Fuck Yeah, Motherhood. Later this week, Lemons will premiere her one-woman show, Loosely Based on a Real Girl, about who becomes involved in adult entertainment.

We spoke to Lemons about her Checkout Girl persona, her new theater show, her past, and how her children respond to her creative ventures.

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Q When did you adopt the persona of The Checkout Girl, and how did it come about?

AIn late 2008, I read a story of a French woman who was blogging what translates as “Tribulations of a Cashier”. The blog was wildly successful and optioned for a movie, a musical, a book, and a comic book. I thought to myself “I tribulate as a cashier, every day. I WANT A COMIC BOOK!” and started the blog “The Checkout Girl”. I had never written before, outside of things I had to do in school but, for some reason I was convinced I could do it. It was so successful that it caught the eye of one of my coworkers and had to be hidden. That’s when I started focusing heavily on Twitter and writing for other people. And by “other people,” I mean “money.”

QWhy do you think your Twitter account is so popular and well-regarded?

AThere’s something about the combination of dirty jokes and real talk that seems to charm people. Everything that I tweet is actually happening to me or has, at one time. Knowing that makes it fun to follow my misadventures. When I tweet that I had to cut my size 16 skinny jeans off with scissors, people are like “Here she goes again”. I really miss those jeans.

QThere are those who may think that what you say on your Twitter account is controversial. Has anyone ever called you out on something that you’ve said?

AIn the four years that I have been tweeting, it’s only happened twice that I can think of, and those times were because I tweeted something snarky about someone else, which isn’t my style. I like to say I’d make fun of myself for a sandwich, but I wouldn’t make fun of someone else for a hundred sandwiches–the caveat to that is it really depends on what type of sandwich. Anyway, it’s hard to make people mad when you are poking fun at yourself. What’s to argue with (other than my horrifyingly off-color language and overabundance of personal information)?

I count myself lucky to be loved so well by the Twitter community. I really do.

QYou’ve written about several very personal, very moving subjects in your RVANews columns. Do you find it difficult to address subjects that many people prefer not to think about?

AI don’t. One thing I have learned from writing is that no one is unique. Sounds sad, but it’s really wonderful. You can absolutely count on the fact that if you are going through something so are other people, and there are other people who have already come out the other side of it. But you can’t benefit from the brotherhood of experience, unless you start telling your story.

QDo you write for your readers or for yourself?

AI write selfishly. I write because I need to get it out. Totally going to gross you out here, but it’s like feeling better after you vomit. I might not be cured, but I can at least sleep for a while until the next time. Making room in me for more stories while getting to share with the world is the definition of bliss for me.

QHow many children do you have? Are they aware of their mother’s “Checkout Girl” persona yet?

AI have two kids. So much of what I have been through, they have too, but the stories are theirs to tell. I try to be careful that, even when I talk about them, I’m telling my own story.

They are 16 and 18 now, and they do know about ‘The Checkout Girl’. I read them the stories that I think they need to hear. I recently wrote about my father’s struggle with alcoholism and my daughter cried, saying “I didn’t know”. She knew her grandpa was a recovering alcoholic, but she didn’t know how it had affected me. My writing has helped us bond. It’s not easy for me to randomly sit your daughter down and say “I was sexually assaulted” but it’s a piece of cake to say “Hey, can I read you this thing that I wrote?”

They are happy that I am happy, but they are also happy that they have a different last name than I do.

QHow long have you had the idea for your one-woman show?

AWell, the story of how I sort of slipped sideways into the adult industry (which I now see is the norm for that thing) has been with me for ten years (since it happened), but I’ve been kicking around the idea of turning it into a book or a show since the beginning of the year.

QFor how long have you been planning/writing the show?

AI had a disastrous show in February, and that’s when I decided to go ahead and write this one. I’m okay with performing in other people’s shows, but I wanted a stand-alone, where everything is on my terms. That’s what I got with Loosely Based.

QWhat did you want to accomplish with Loosely Based on a Real Girl? What do you hope your audiences will take away from it?

AIt gets tedious to hear, this idea that women who get into pornography are all drug addicts or were molested as children or somehow damaged. We are all damaged in some way, you don’t get to adulthood without scars, but I don’t think I am any more screwed up than the average person. The women I met while working these jobs were generally emotionally healthy. Does the opposite exist? Of course, but there are teachers who are drug addicts and doctors who were molested as children. Pornography is not the only place to find the broken.

QDo you have any stage/acting experience?

AI was a drama geek in high school but have no talent for acting, so I ended up on the crew or in the chorus. I can only act like myself and, let’s face it, there’s not a big call for people to act like themselves for money, so I gave it up. I love, love, love musical theater, though, and signed up to try out for Up With People when I was young, but got too scared to follow through.

I’ve always had, in the back of my mind, a picture in my head of me on stage, entertaining. So, last year, when Richmond Comedy Coalition asked me to kick off their “Richmond Famous” series, and tell a few stories onstage, I said yes right away.

QHow do you think drama and comedy are intertwined?

AI think it was Carol Burnett that said “Comedy is tragedy plus time” (Lenny Bruce said “Satire is tragedy plus time”, but she spruced up the Bruce), and it’s absolutely true in my case. The things that I write about are generally behind me, and I have enough space to see both the bitter and the sweet in them. I rarely write about things as they happen. I need the filter of time.

I think you need one to see the other. How would you know if something were funny, if you never knew the opposite? The same can be said about drama.

QDo you have any future projects planned?

AWell, a part two to this show, probably. An hour is only long enough to tell the first half of the story. You will definitely leave wanting to hear more. Maybe not more of my singing, though. Did I mention there is music? I taught myself to play the ukulele, using only youtube videos, and, damnit, people are going to listen.

I’ve also been contacted about writing a book, but we’ll see. I’ve never seen that as my path. Then again, I’ve never seen any of this as my path, either.

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