Jesse Lee Denning - All American Nightmare

Published: 22 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 195, February, 2011

In the trade, it’s what they call a bonanza! One of your all time favourite tattooed vixens – that would be Jesse Lee Denning - running the whole show in one of your favourite bands video clips. Not just any old video clip either – Hinder’s All American Nightmare clip is old school – it has a story, kicks like a mule and is altogether just a little bit cool. Opportunities like this don’t come along every day for tattooed models – so who better to tell the story than Jesse herself… who said being a tattooed model was an easy life?

"After a very successful time signing and promoting my 2011 calendar at the London Tattoo convention, and then taking a few extra post convention days in one of my favorite cities (London), I flew back home to New York City.  No sooner had I stepped off the plane than I had the bombshell dropped on me that I was to pretty much turn around and fly to LA to film a music video for Hinder’s brand new single, 'All American Nightmare'.

The idea of the video was that I go to bed appearing to be a 'good girl' without tattoos and, having fallen asleep with my ipod on, have a nightmare triggered by the song which turns me into a 'bad girl' covered in tattoos - and then wake to realize it
was just a nightmare...or was it? It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down and a very flattering offer! (I also ended up shooting their album packaging at a later date).

So, I kept my adrenaline going with some caffeine and not so healthy treats, (there’s that bad girl kicking in already - Ed) packed and repacked and set off back to the airport.  It was then that I was told I had to learn the song word for word as I would be lip-syncing the entire song and I was also to be the only one in the video – no band, no one except me! Yikes!  For the way the clip was going to be filmed, I was given the song to learn at different speeds – some were painfully slow and others so fast you couldn’t even understand the words.  It wasn’t easy but I spent the plane ride learning every single lyric anyway and practicing getting the words out at the different speeds. Needless to say my neighbour on the plane thought I was a bit odd.

On my arrival that night, John Gilchrist (one of the video’s directors) picked me up and took me to my hotel.  It so happened I was staying at The Standard which at night turns into a nightclub. Great. All I wanted to do was sleep as I had an 8am call time the next day for rehearsals and was totally jet lagged.  Anyway, after some dinner and being lulled asleep by the distant sound of screaming partygoers and the thump of bass thundering through the building, I finally fell asleep – I think!

The next day, I arrived at The Stables (at The Paramour) studios - which is gorgeous - and was introduced to the incredibly talented and wonderful crew – directors, producer, lighting crew, label rep, MUA, hair, wardrobe and last but not least my choreographers! Yes, choreographers. After figuring out my wardrobe changes, I spent most of the day with the choreographers, going over “dances” and movement to give the nightmare-ish feel that the video has with all of the speed changes (that jerky, creepy, somewhat spastic feel). After a long day of rehearsals I excitedly went back to my hotel, met a friend for dinner and was asleep before midnight as this time I had a 6:30a call time and a 15 hour intensive day to look forward to!!

The day of the shoot was a bit of a blur. While it was a long day – lots of footage got shot that wasn’t used in the final video, lighting changes, make-up changes all take a long time – it was an amazing experience. It was a total rush but I was 110% into my character as the good girl gone bad - possessed by Austin (Hinder’s vocalist) in a nightmare/dream. I was instructed to pretty much channel him and not rock out like a 'girl' but really get into a more aggressive ‘macho’ state of mind.

By the time it was over, I had rug burns on my knees, bumps, bruises and scratches, not to mention being so jet lagged at this point that I was running on fumes. I realized how much goes into a video, it’s amazing - and the speed changes in the music (that are then sped up or slowed down to real time for the final video) were grueling to nail lyrically and combine with the choreographed movements.

So everyone who thinks this was an easy video to make is dead wrong. Most of it was shot either really fast or reeeeeeaaaaaally sloooooooow! By the end of the shoot I didn’t know my head from my elbow, I was completely drained, but I am really happy with the end result, it was an experience of a lifetime!”


Jesse's Tattoos By:

Jason Kundell,
Shinji Horizakura,
Timothy Hoyer,
Andre Malcolm,
Troy Denning,
Marco Serio,
Regino Gonzales,
Julie Becker.



Hinder didn’t so much sneak onto the US rock scene as explode onto it – years of hard work culminated in what appeared to be overnight success. Like so many bands of this “arena” ilk before them, their success has been met with equal amounts of vitriol for being too big and too dumb, but they can consider themselves in good company with Nickelback and Daughtry when it comes to that – several gazillion sales globally can’t be wrong.

Their third album – All American Nightmare – and the release of the self titled single/video clip, should see them add just a few more numbers to their already impressive sales figures. For those looking for the full Jesse experience, the video clip is widely available on YouTube.


The Director's Cut

All American Nightmare was directed by John Ales and Trevor Gilchrist of The Ales/Gilchrist Machine and were more than happy to throw their points of view into the grinder on a day in the life of this Vixen:

“We were shooting in L.A and Jesse lives in New York, so that threw a spanner in the works from the start! The shoot was prepped in four days and the truth of the matter is - we were petrified!

Jesse was given to us on a silver platter. She had come to the band’s attention by the mention of the head of A & R at Universal Republic. The band fell quickly in love and when we got the job, we were told to find a way to make her the band’s voice on All American Nightmare as they weren’t even able to be there! Until she arrived in Los Angeles (her first time ever in the city), we were totally unaware of her capacity as a dancer and we were making a dance story of a girl who becomes possessed by the Hinder song. Scary.

No one could produce anything but photos - and obviously she could carry a shot as long as you could keep it on her - but could she move? We pitched without her. Choreographed without her. Tested without her. Prepped without her.

All along, we prayed for her to show up and take control.

Eventually, I (John) met her at the airport and became thoroughly charmed. The next morning, she showed up at our location - the old stables at The Paramour in Silver Lake and she was quiet, confident, tiny and so sweet!

She worked a few minutes with Becca Sweitzer, our choreographer, wrapping her head around the task. We’d be playing all sorts of tempos and in essence, we needed for her to get tossed around by this song. Super slow, maniacally fast and go, go, go!
The women worked with the three separately excruciating tempos... and before you knew it, Kim Garner - the most incredibly cool woman from the label - was there with us to watch this girl command the set. With only an hour and a half of rehearsal, J Lee D proved she was ready to kill this video!

We could absolutely not have done this without her. She murdered it and look how hot she comes off. Jesse can fit in your pocket but look at her - you can just tell if you caught her on a bad moment, she’d kick your ass. And that’s all we needed. Nearly a million views and these fans love her!”


Text: Sion Smith & Jesse Lee Denning; Photography: Dale May & Jammi Yotk