It's been a busy year for hairstylist and makeup artist Jonathon Levi Powell. The talented Miami local just scored a major role on Lifetime's hit show American Beauty Star, which pits 12 contestants in a series of challenges such as creating high-end magazine editorial looks to the hippest and most current red carpet styles and is hosted by legendary model Adriana Lima.
Not only that, but he is starring in an incredibly emotional and groundbreaking documentary called Latter-Day Glory, which follows him and a fellow ex-gay Mormon missionary as they travel across the United States to confront their past and explore their futures, while discussing with other gay Mormons and ex-Mormons about the rejection, oppression and the reality of a growing number of suicides they face in the LDS community.
Two very different sides of Jonathon in the entertainment medium, but he has a smile on his face at all times and is happy with where his career is going in the fashion world and not. I spoke with Jonathon yesterday about the success of American Beauty Star, the meaning behind Latter-Day Glory, and what is next for this talented guy. Take a look.
Congrats on American Beauty Star! How did you find your way onto the Lifetime program?
I have to give credit to my agent Michelle Leo for telling me about the casting last November. One year ago, wow! I simply sent in a video of me explaining my work and personal life. I was filming my documentary at the time, so I talked about that in my audition video, which told the producers a bit more about me. I was actually cast for the show while laying in a hospital bed recovering from an appendectomy! The news of the opportunity brightened my life, that’s for sure.
What has the experience been like for you and your famous colleagues?
Although my colleagues and I are all in the beauty industry, we come from various backgrounds. The show has opened doors for each of us and it will be exciting to see what paths people will take. Some may continue down the path they were previously on and some may change course. I am personally one for adventure and say yes to any opportunity that comes my way.
Outside of that fab show, I know you are in this amazing documentary called Latter-Day Glory. Can you tell us a little more about it?
I am honored to tell you about Latter-Day Glory. I call this my life’s work. The documentary deals with the topic of growing up Mormon and being LGBTQ. My dear friend Terry Blas and I retrace our steps growing up in the religion and serving missions for the church. We have very real discussions about the negative affects the religious beliefs have on individuals, families, and lives. I remember bringing the idea of making such a film up to director Brandon Deyette. We had no idea then the depth of what we were about to do. I knew however I needed to tell my story as transparently as possible, so that I could in turn help someone who may feel unworthy like I have in the past.
What has been the hardest part about being gay and Mormon throughout your life?
The hardest experience I have had being gay and growing up Mormon was my coming out process. I was on my mission for the church, which is supposed to be two years. I was coming to terms with my sexuality and told the person in charge of my mission field in West Virginia. I was told I would be going home early and had to face my family as a failed missionary for my mental illness of being gay. I had no self-worth and nowhere to turn at the time. Those are the times I struggled the most, the times I questioned my purpose. Thankfully those moments gave me the strength to create Latter-Day Glory and help others like us.
Regarding the documentary, what are your biggest hopes for it when it gets released?
My biggest hope for Latter-Day Glory is that every single young person that is out there looking for support and hope, finds this film and realizes they can turn to us. I hope for no more youth suicides in Utah and worldwide. I also hope that parents, families, and friends of LGBTQ people watch Latter-Day Glory to gain an understanding of what someone goes through when they are dealing with being raised in the church and coming to terms with who they are.
On a side note, is a career in television something you want to pursue, or do you have other goals in mind?
My career now is developing both in fashion imagery and television work behind the scenes. I have always dreamed of having a makeover show type program. I think women deserve to tell their stories and this would be a great way to do so. I would go through all of the persons hair and makeup at home and toss it out, providing them with all the tools they need to recreate the look beyond the show. Hopefully this dream comes true one day.
What can we expect in the future from Jonathon Levi Powell in 2018 and beyond?
Wow! First is the documentary premiere and release. That will change a lot of things about my life I think. I have lived in Miami almost 5 years and may take another adventure up the coast to NYC for a few years to broaden my opportunities but have no specific moving date. Maybe more TV, Maybe. Beyond anything I think what I look forward too are the friendships and memories I am experiencing every day.