Glamour, Glitter, and JemCon: The Truly Outrageous Fans of Jem and the Holograms Part 1

The year was 1985 and cartoons had never been better. An entire lineup of animated awesomeness was available for young boys and girls to enjoy. There was a little something for everyone. All kinds of stories could be told on Saturday morning and eventually in weekday syndication. There was one show though that came along with all the glamour and glitter, fashion and fame that kids weren’t even aware they needed in their life.

Jem and the Holograms came out at a time when music videos and high fashion were being given a lot of exposure. Hasbro, Marvel Productions, and Sunbow Productions collaborated for a show that took people on a color infused world that introduced us to the singer Jem and her band mates the Holograms along with her rivals the Misfits. Of course, there was a toy line attached to the animated series. Some would argue that the cartoon was made to sell the dolls. That doesn’t really matter though because both the toy line and show fed off each other. An imaginative world was created that blended many aspects of why the 80’s was truly, truly outrageous. Whether you watched the cartoon or sought to recreate your own stories with the dolls, Jem and the Holograms had a cultural impact on people.

Though the show lasted only a few years, there has been a sense of spirit that has lived on for fans of the show and toy line. Many fans still watch and celebrate the legacy of Jem. Luckily for us some of those fans have decided to be interviewed for NERDSociety in a series of interviews that will honor and celebrate Jem and the Holograms.

Here we go with the first interview in this series! I’m really glad I got the chance to talk with this person, so I’m going to stop rambling and get to the good stuff!

NERDSocety: Hello! I am so excited to be interviewing you. First off, tell us your name or what you prefer to go by.

Milky Mixer: Hi. My name is T.J. Schuessler. I’m also known by my artist alter-ego Milky Mixer.

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NS: Knowing you as a fan of Jem and the Holograms already, share with us exactly what makes Jem so special to you.

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Milky Mixer with his own art of the Misfits


MM: Where do I start? The music, the mystery, the vibrant colors, the adventurous stories! Jem has it all. There’s just a very unique, imaginative quality to Jem that hasn’t really been recaptured in anything since. Essentially she’s like a superhero with her dual identity – a record executive and philanthropist masquerading as a rock star who goes on all of these exciting and glamorous adventures across the world – saving presidents and princesses, racing the Indy 500, singing in the streets of Venice and China, and almost always accomplishing something heroic while battling to stay number one on the music charts. Who wouldn’t love to do all of that? She has her own Lois Lane in the form of Rio, the band’s manager. And her jealous arch enemies who do all of these wild things to try to destroy her!

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One of Jem’s enemies, Pizzazz! (As painted by Milky Mixer)

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Another illustration of Jem by MM.


MM: I’ve been a Jem fan since the beginning. I can remember Hasbro airing the cartoon’s opening sequence as a commercial for the toy line (“coming soon!”) and thinking “Wow! Who is this?” She had that mask-like makeup, and the neon sign raining down around her, and this cool-colored backing band. Kimber spraying selzter water at the camera! It was amazing! I didn’t know what Jem was about, just that I wanted to know more. And then came the Super Sunday episodes and the dolls with light up earrings and the MTV-style music videos. It was all really remarkable and impressive. I can honestly say Jem has inspired me more than any other television series, comic book, or movie. Jem said it best – “No one else is the same!”

NS: Who is your favorite character?

MM: Kimber is my favorite. Stormer is a close second. I think everyone kind of loves her for being the good bad girl, and she has all that great curly blue hair.

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Milky Mixer giving us Stormer/Belinda Carlisle realness!


And of course I love Jem herself. But Kimber is the character I relate to the most. She’s so fun. She’s got that artistic temperament – upbeat, spunky, snarky, sensitive, lovelorn, selfish, generous, impulsive, eager. She’s full of so much passion. She’s searching for her own confidence in the shadow of her older sibling. Her emotions sometimes get the best of her – that’s totally me – but sometimes you just have to have your fiery “bad Kimber” moments and then come back bolder than before. She still manages to stay pretty optimistic and have the most fun!

NS: Has your perception of Jem evolved through the years?

MM: I’m sure it has in some ways. I mean, it’s been 30 years or something since Jem first hit the scene. Obviously I’m not the same 10 or 11 year old boy I was when I encountered Jem (though if you ask my mother she might dispute that! Ha!). But I think the core elements that make Jem so magical to me have never changed. She’s beautiful and mysterious and dynamic. She’s over-the-top and truly outrageous! She’s just so cool. Like your favorite ice cream flavor, she never gets old. Sometimes you like sampling other flavors, but there’s always that one taste you enjoy the most!

One thing I have noticed – over the years I’ve switched alliances. Man, I remember as a kid thinking the Misfits had the best colors, the wildest makeup, the wickedest songs, and such edgy style. Then somewhere along the way, maybe in the last 10 years or so, I noticed the Holograms were really the most captivating group for me. They’re just so cool and jazzy. They’re as fresh now as they were in the 80s. I love their comradery and the sweetness of those girls. And Britta Phillips’ singing as Jem – Ridiculous! Sensational! Unmatched! As an adult I can truly appreciate her voice in a way I never did as a child. Take the song “Jazz Has” for example. She’s freakin’ scatting in that song! It’s awesome! I hear that as an adult and I think “This woman can sing anything!” High notes that give you chills until your head explodes.

NS: The music really did have a lot of appeal. So much so that people are brought together by that music. Describe for us what JemCon is, what does it aim to do?

MM: Ok, so JemCon is an annual convention that celebrates all things Jem – the cartoon, the toys, the music, and the talent behind these things. The convention is held in a different location each year with the hope that fans who aren’t able to travel will eventually have an opportunity to attend a JemCon in a region closer to them. We’ve been everywhere from L.A. to St. Louis to Maine to Holland. This year we’ll be in Toronto, Canada. I know a lot of Canadian fans have been waiting for this. And we have diehard fans who come from all over the world for this one outrageous weekend.

Throughout the year, we hold various contests to keep fans involved. We have a fanfiction contest ending this month and an album art contest coming up.

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MM’s rockin’ take on the Stingers


We also hold an auction each year and donate the proceeds to a local charity – JemCon’s way of following the example set by Jem who always put charity and goodwill ahead of awards and monetary gain.

The attendees are always laid back and fun. I’ve met some of my dearest friends through JemCon. It’s such a great time!

NS: It sounds like a really great time. I hope to make it one year. After looking at some pictures and with so much cosplay occurring at JemCon, do you (or have you) ever participated in any Jem cosplay?

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Milky Mixer with Roxy and Stormer


MM: Ha! Not really! I like to be casual when I’m at cons. That being said, last year we had a facepainter at the con so I had my face done up like the Misfits’ devious cohort Clash. But we always have oodles of cosplay at JemCon. One of the great things about Jem is the rockin’ shockin’ looks of the characters. So it’s lots of fun to see everyone dress up and celebrate their favorites!

And never say never… You just may see me in a costume!

NS: Do you have a favorite JemCon memory?

MM: I have quite a few great JemCon memories. The guests are always great. Last year we had Sharon Knettell as one of our special guests. She’s the artist who did most of the original box artwork for the original Hasbro toys. As a kid, I used to spend hours just laying on the floor studying all of her art. I never could have dreamed I would one day get to meet her and hear her stories firsthand about how that artwork came to be. She was delightful! It was also really cool to meet Will Meugniot, who directed the opening sequence of the Jem cartoon. That, in my opinion, is one of the greatest bits of animation EVER!

I remember in 2012 we had Louise Dorsey as a special guest. She voiced the British Misfit Jetta on the cartoon. As I recall, she was unsure about coming and we didn’t know if she would even make it until the last minute. Then she decided to come, so we were sneaking her into the hotel at midnight the night before the con. The next day, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the vendor room, she made a surprise reveal in character. Everyone was cheering. It was awesome. Later she talked about how she was having such a great time. So it was really sweet and cool to see her take all of us in and see how much her performance from 25 years ago meant to so many people.

And also just the folks attending the con. Everyone is happy, smiling…

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Milky Mixer at his booth during JemCon


NS: That is so cool. I love your experience of JemCon. Of course, congratulations are certainly in order for your winning fashion design for this year’s offcial JemCon fashion contest! Share with us your process for the design and what this has meant to you.

MM: Thanks Miss M! Another cool thing about JemCon – every year we hold a fashion contest and the winning design gets made into a souvenir fashion (for the Jem dolls) that fans can purchase with their attendance package or as part of a supporting package through the JemCon website. The con chair chooses a theme and then all of us would-be designers get to work conjuring up something creative and glamorous. This year’s theme was “Ready For The Show Girl” so we were designing showgirl fashions. I hadn’t planned to enter, but then someone suggested I model the fashion on Astral, who is Jem’s magician friend that was introduced in the final episodes of the series. I’m a big Astral fan, and since she’s a magician it made sense to me that she might have some “showgirl” type of costumes. So I started researching showgirl costumes online and was inspired by everything from Carnival in Brazil to Madonna. Some of the photos I looked at had showgirls wearing big disks on their backs, which then put Castaspella in my mind. I know you’re a huge She-Ra fan, so you’re familiar with the original toy and her magical hypnotic disk. It just seemed like a natural progression to design something for Astral that was a “spin” on Castaspella too. I really didn’t expect to win, as there were other designs that blew me away! I was really surprised – but it’s been really cool to see something I doodled take life in 3-d. I’m very excited and I hope people will really enjoy the finished product.

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The winning design for JemCon2014


NS: Such a cool design. I love it. Since your design won for 2014, what will happen next?

MM: Well, a lot of stuff has already been happening behind-the-scenes. The fashions are all made by hand – we don’t have a factory to produce them for us, just a dedicated fan named Tivia who is getting ready to sew her fingers off. She’s awesome! We’ve been sourcing materials to make sure that the final product is as close as possible to the original vision of the design. I’m proud of the collaboration that is taking place though. We had some custom material designed especially for us. And there will be some hand beading involved, too. And wow, wait until you see the disk! It’s going to be truly outrageous!

NS: I look forward to seeing the finished product! (On a side note, this series of interviews will be following the process of the completion of the fashion design. Now back to the interview!- Miss M) Jem has been in the news recently for having her own movie in the works. What are your thoughts, hopes, or even concerns with a new movie?

MM: I’m staying positive about it. Obviously they’re going to update it. So much about the world and the music industry is different now. Maybe it’s time for a new approach to Jem, an updated Jem for a new generation. But that doesn’t mean it’s instantly going to be terrible. Some of the negativity I’ve read online has been kind of obnoxious. I want to pass out star-shaped chill pills and tell people to relax. I think as long as they keep the essentials consistent – the character names, elements of their signature looks and personalities and motivations – that’s most important to me. It would be cool if they could incorporate the original songs or update them somehow since some of them are quintessential Jem. Yeah, I think it could be really cool. I’m intrigued. And if we get a new toyline and merchandise out of it – rock on!

NS: I know. I’m very curious to see new Jem product in stores. Jem fans have obviously felt the legacy of the cartoon and doll line already, but what about future generations? What do you hope they can capture from this small slice of pop culture perfection that has managed to stick around with so many fans?

MM: I tried to get my niece and nephew interested in Jem, but I don’t think they took to it that much. Maybe it was their ages at the time, or the fact that they’d already seen and known Hannah Montana. I think my niece was intrigued by the character designs, the music aspect, the fashion aspect. Yes, maybe cassettes have given way to iPods and MTV has given way to YouTube, but these are still the same things that kids care about and are interested in – music, fashion, what’s cool and cutting edge and contemporary. What 10 or 12 year old hasn’t put on their headphones and danced around their room wishing they were a rock star? Jem is that wish come true. And I think through the more material elements of Jem’s world – music and clothes and gadgets and glamour – Jem squeezed in messages about kindness and responsibility and friendship and compassion and said “It’s ok to care about people, not just yourself.” These are all timeless things, too. So if there is to be a new Jem, I hope that she has that same message snuck in somewhere between her pimped up Roadster and her limited edition Beats headphones.

NS: One of your many talents involves art. Your Jem art for me is like a great love letter to the entire series. Tell us about your work.

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Another lovely piece by MM.


MM: Wow, I love that. “A great love letter to the entire series…” Thanks, Miss M.

As I said before, Jem has always been a major inspiration to me – and I will always credit my friend David with getting me involved in JemCon. I’ve had a good run with them for the last couple of years, making artwork for the convention and doing my own thing too. I’ve been working off and on on a comic book called “Sour Grapes” for a few years now that one day I hope will see the light of publication when I finish.

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Sugar Plum Blues


I’m inspired by color and over-the-top fashion and a bit of bohemian flair. I like working with traditional mediums like paints and watercolors. I hope when people see my work they find it magical and charming.

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Another inspiring piece

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Don’t Get Mad

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Sunglasses At Night


NS: Aside from your art, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?

MM: Music, movies, manga, mayhem… the usual. I’m a big geek. I collect toys and memorabilia, mostly from the 80s. I love to travel, and a cocktail or a cup of coffee with a good friend is also tons of fun too.

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MM’s Jem collection

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More of MM’s Jem collection


NS: Where can people find you if they want to learn more about your art or just want to chat about Jem or other great 80’s topics?

MM: Anyone who wants to see more can visit my online gallery – – where I have most of my Jem art and other pieces to view.

I have an Etsy store as well –

You can look me up on Facebook as Milky Mixer, and that’s also my ID over on the JemCon message boards.

And of course I’ll be at JemCon in Toronto in September!!

NS: Awesome! I look forward to hearing about this year’s JemCon. I know it will be a total blast. I also thank you very much for agreeing to be a part of this interview. It was a lovely chance to learn more about your passion for Jem and the Holograms and all that goes into JemCon. Take care and we’ll be catching up with you soon!

That’s it for this first interview. In the coming weeks there will be even more to learn from other fans of Jem and the Holograms and JemCon. This series of interviews can only be found on NERDSociety so be sure to like us on FaceBook and to constantly be up to date on new interviews. Also, if you are interested in attending the 2014 JemCon, be sure to head over to to learn more about ticket prices. Take care everyone!

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