Singer-songwriter and folk icon, Jewel, performed to a capacity audience at the Palazzo Theatre in Las Vegas Friday night as part of the first annual INSPIRE gala, which benefits the Marty Hennessy Inspiring Children Foundation. The foundation focuses on helping at-risk youth develop tools for success in all aspects of their lives, from academics to athletics, to positive social lives and mindsets. ICF is the first foundation to be named part of the Sands Cares Accelerator Program, which provides funding and resources to assist in expansion of worthy causes.
“I was raised in Alaska. I think most people know that,” Jewel began, after starting her set with a moving acapella rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” “My real name is Jewel, everybody asks that. That’s my real name. These are my real teeth, nobody ever asks that, but just thought I would throw it out there. Keeping the snaggle real,” she joked, just before kicking her high heels off.
Jewel keeps it real, period. She’s honest to a point where, in the age of false presentations and self-branding, your first inclination might be to worry about how much she reveals. Are you sure you want people to know all of this? But that’s where she connects. That’s what she brings to the table. That’s why a folk singer from the Last Frontier ended up charting in the middle of an era ruled by grunge bands and sold millions of records – honesty, and a certain strength that only comes from letting people witness your vulnerability, cuts through all the noise, and Jewel has been doing that now for over two decades. Now through her involvement with ICF and the launch of her website, www.jewelneverbroken.com, she’s helping people cut through a different kind of noise – their inner noise.
Throughout the night, Jewel shared stories of her youth that are also detailed in her 2015 memoir, “Never Broken.” She shared her fear of becoming a statistic as a kid from an unstable and sometimes abusive background. She shared the moment she realized – as she stood in front of a dressing room mirror, tucking a dress she intended to steal into a pair of baggy jeans – that she was a statistic. And then she ventured into her personal journey of reversing and beating that statistic all over again – a journey that began with the question: “If you didn’t receive good nurture, could you change that with good nature?”
Before picking up her guitar and strumming the intro to “Hands,” the singer-songwriter discussed how she used writing as an outlet to combat negativity and anxiety. Jewel revealed that she began to keep a log of everything her hands did throughout the day, which she found lessened her anxious state. “Fear is a thief that takes the past and projects it on the future,” she said, and “Mindfulness is absorbing thought and creating a gap before acting on that thought.” “If I could perceive I was sad,” she continued, “then I was something other than sad; I was the observer of sad.”
If you’ve ever seen Jewel live, you’re probably aware that her shows are refreshingly unscripted and unplanned. Instead, she vibes off her audience, letting them lead her – letting them tell her what they need, in a way. Audience members shouted out song titles from Jewel’s extensive catalog – titles that ranged from more recent tunes like “Father’s Daughter” to songs dating back to the beginning such as, “Who Will Save Your Soul” and “You Were Meant for Me.”
Jewel is an artist who shares her truths in a way that the intent is to lead her audience to their own truths. Her stories are a reminder that happiness is something to be practiced every day. You’re not a victim of circumstance. And as the songstress puts it, “No one owes you anything. But you owe yourself a lot.” There was a spiritual element to the evening that was evident. Kids from the foundation shared personal stories with a level of reflection and articulation well beyond their teenage years.
The night ended with Jewel welcoming award-winning songwriter Siedah Garret to the stage to perform “Man in the Mirror,” which she co-wrote with the late Michael Jackson. Children who are currently in the foundation joined the two singers on stage for a heartfelt finale. The gala brought in over $800,000 for the foundation through a silent and live auction, as well as donations.