Jessica Payne Tampa

Moms to Know Jessica Payne: Sweatology Studio, Undressed Tans

Every child is truly a treasure, and for most, pregnancy is a gift. However, after navigating a journey through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy to welcome her two children, Lenny (6) and Bowie (3), Jessica Payne could have never predicted the miracle waiting to unfold years later.

As this local mom announces the arrival of her second daughter, we are invited to witness the inexplicable and a testament to the enduring power of faith and the triumph of the human spirit.

Tell us a little bit about the road that eventually led you to Tampa.

Jessica Payne: I was doing makeup for a show on CMT with my friend Jessie Decker, and she randomly was going through her phone to find me a guy – as girls do – and she said “This is it. He is so funny; you have to meet him.” He was her husband’s friend from college, where they played football together, and have stayed in touch since. She was like “Trust me, he is perfect for you, and can’t believe I didn’t think of him sooner.”

Fast forward to us texting and eventually meeting. He was hilarious, and I fell in love with him. After almost two years of long-distance (as I was in Los Angeles), he asked me to move to Tampa. I thought why not, as I was ready for the next chapter and could travel for work.


As someone who has built a very authentic online platform showcasing your creative talents, youve also been completely open about the birth stories of your daughter and son. What were those journeys like?

Jessica Payne: Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve been through abusive relationships, and someone asked me once, “How is IVF harder than abuse?” And while everyone has different feelings, this was harder for me because it was my future.

It was the one thing my husband and I wanted more than anything. Thinking I couldn’t give my husband a family broke my heart. So I put a lot of pressure on myself as I have always wanted to be a mom.

With Lenny I got very sick—preeclampsia with liver and kidney failure—after we did IVF. It was hard and I blamed myself and my body for not giving her what she needed, which was to stay in me. I had her at 27 weeks and three days, and there is nothing harder than hearing the words, “We are going to do the best we can, but we won’t know for 24 hours, and you won’t hear a cry because she is too little.”

We went back to the operating room as both mine and her body were failing going into the emergency C-section. I’ve never been more scared, but then I did hear a squeak! It was the tiniest noise that the doctors said I wouldn’t hear!

It was then that I knew she was a fighter, and she gave me hope to fight too. One hundred days later, we left the hospital with a healthy baby. She is now such a strong and the most kind-hearted 6-year-old girl, and I am so proud of her.

With my son, we had two frozen embryos, and he was second strongest grade 5 BA right under Lenny. The doctors in Nashville and Tampa refused to place him through IVF with me. We saw around seven different physicians, but based on my history, they did not see the possibility of me and a baby both leaving the hospital together.

We cried and mourned our embryos, but my husband never lost faith.

His childhood best friend and his wife, Grace, have four beautiful kids, and they told us they would carry our son for us. Grace gave us the most selfless gift you can ever imagine- the chance for me to be a mom again. Surrogacy is hard. I felt guilty I couldn’t carry him, hated I couldn’t feel him, but thankful that Grace would keep him safe.

When Bowie was born, I was so worried about us bonding, but I was wrong. The second I held him, we instantly bonded. That was my special boy. He just turned 3, and he is the most loving boy.


And now, a little girl is on the way! How would you describe each milestone in your pregnancy with her so far?

Jessica Payne: A blessing. Truly it might be cheesy to say, but doctors at four weeks didn’t think I would make it to eight weeks, twelve weeks, etc. Here I am now, 30 weeks tomorrow (May 10th).


Knowing that the odds of conceiving and carrying another baby were not in your favor, what does this experience mean to you? As a believer, how does it make you feel?

Jessica Payne: We had given up on extending our family. We were content and grateful with our two miracles. We were obviously not trying at the time, but I felt I should take a pregnancy test after some spotting. Never did I think it would be positive.

When I saw the positive result, I instantly cried for so many reasons. I was scared of what doctors told me about a baby never surviving, so it was like a “positive” with a loss within the same minutes.

Logan and I went to the doctor the next day because I’m so high risk, and I remember him telling me, “Babe, this is God. He wouldn’t do this just to take the baby away from us. This is our final miracle.”

At that moment I just started thinking that God had always had plans for us to have three children, and His plans are much stronger than ours. He gave us what we were meant to have.


What is one of your favorite memories/ moments from this pregnancy?

Jessica Payne: Lenny feeling the baby kick for the first, and Bowie kissing my belly. I never thought I would experience those things.


How would you describe yourself as a mother?

Jessica Payne: Overly protective (lol). I feel like I have these miracles, and I think I would have been overprotective in general even if we wouldn’t have had trouble conceiving, but since we did, I feel like I am so protective and want them in a bubble (lol).

I know they need to live and grow, and they do, but I am just terrified of them getting hurt. Other than that, I think my kids would say I’m fun. We dance, laugh, have little inside jokes, and share a special bond.


Celebrity makeup artist, influencer, business owner, clothing designer, mom…you have an impressive record of success and doing what you love. What are you most passionate about personally and professionally, and what will we see next from @jesssouthern?

Jessica Payne: I love doing makeup so much. I feel lucky to have done 95% of what I set my goals out to be at 18 years old for the makeup side. Last year, I designed an entire collection with Dillards which is something that I am still so proud of. Lenny was so excited too, so anything I do I just want them to be proud.

I also own a tanning company with one of my best friends, Bianca Benedetto, called Undressed Tans. We just spent two years rebranding, and everything is perfection.

I’ll probably take some time to be with baby for a while, but just saying if Dillards called again, I would make time for them! (lol) Otherwise, I just get random wild ideas at the last minute, and I’m like- let’s do this!


What is your favorite thing to do with your family in Tampa Bay?

Jessica Payne: We love going to the beach! We like to visit Anna Maria Island with my husband’s huge family. We round up 20-25 people, and the kids have the best time. Seeing them run and play in the sand with cousins making lifetime memories is something I cherish more than anything. All I ever wanted was to see my family happy.

Image credit: Danette Anderson | Originally published in the June 2024 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.