As the Edinburgh Festival approaches I reflect on the career of Jordan Gray. Jordan performed at Edinburgh last year to five-star reviews and has been nominated for an award at the festival. She had a meteoric rise to fame after considerable hard work and is a personal friend from many years back when we met accidentally at an open mic jam session.
“Is It A Bird? deserves all the acclaim coming to it, a romp and a riot of an hour.” The Scotsman ★★★★★
On the fringes of acceptability
Jordan’s performance at the festival was a masterclass of comic devices such as contrast, contradiction, exaggeration and extended metaphors. She skillfully observed that human beings are happy to confer human status to domestic animals whilst vilifying transgender people:
“Say what you like about bigots, but they love dogs.”
Jordan also now integrates her songwriting skills and musicality with her razor-sharp lyrical dexterity. Take a look at this snippet of her Edinburgh performance here:
Finding your niche
Many people think that success is something that happens over a weekend via an appearance on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ or something similar. The truth is often far less glamorous. Jordan is living proof that thousands of hours of hard work go into most people’s successes, having started out in clubs and pubs in Essex and Kent, gradually working her way up and building on her networks and talents.
I first encountered her at an open mic jam session in a club in Kent. Jordan started out performing music but in a dramatic change decided she wished to be a stand-up comedian and completely stop performing music. I must confess, initially, I was somewhat doubtful about her decision to effectively throw away her talent as a musician. However, she worked at her stand-up act just as much as she did in music, carving out a hard-to-copy niche as a transgender comic with attitude. Jordan’s determination has shone through in her success. She has now recombined music into her act, to many people’s delight.
“The UK’s hottest comedian takes on babies, boobies, bigots and Batman; it’s big, silly, witty, sexy, and fun” – Review
To get a measure of Jordan’s musical talent, check out her intimate performance of “Way Back When” which she played for me 1:1 in London’s Pizza Express jazz club alongside an interview. The song speaks of her journey as a trans woman.
After an early break on The Voice, ITV, Jordan’s dreams were shattered by absolute disappointment. She did not win the contest, having been considered to be ‘too different’ by the prevailing crowd. She was undeterred, continued to learn her trade and work towards her goal as a unique artist. Resilience is vital if you want to reach the top of your profession.
Jordan’s bold step to move to stand-up comedy coincided with her decision to transition. She has a way with words and imagery, and coined a number of phrases that have marked her out from the crowd, such as ‘transplaining’, ‘is it a bird?’ and more. Of course, controversy is met by society’s usual bipolar reactions. I’m fully aware of the problems of being different, having taken a punishment beating from some squaddies in the early 1980s whilst being chased down the road with my best friend from school, who was openly gay. I could not run as fast as my friend – sadly, he had acquired much more practice as a homosexual at that time! Jordan has had her unfair share of hate from narrow-minded people.
“A handful of death threats is a lot for a week. Spread ‘em out!” – Jordan Gray
At that time, Jordan was a singer-songwriter, musician and performer all rolled into one, without any formal training in any of these disciplines. The interviews offer transferable insights for anyone seeking to carve out their career as an entrepreneur in any field of endeavour. Jordan talks candidly about her life, learning her craft, managing fame, creativity, staying true to yourself and looking after her brand as a self-made musician and musicpreneur.
Jordan’s UK tour begins in September 2023.