Born in Cleveland, Elaine “Jae” Jarrell attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio before moving to Chicago. She attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She married artist Wadsworth Jarrell in 1967 and with him helped form what became the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA) in 1968. Jae was a gifted clothing designer and contributed hand-made and adorned garments to AfriCOBRA exhibitions in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
She later took graduate courses at Howard University and the Parsons School of Design in New York. Her original designs of Afro-centric garments were widely exhibited in American museum exhibitions and were featured in magazines including Ebony and the International Review of African American Art. Jae owned a vintage men’s clothing shop in New York for many years before moving to Cleveland in 2009. “You speak through your work. We can all do something. You speak through your medium.”