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Janae Sergio’s jaw dropped when she first noticed herself remodeled right into a ‘40s pinup – it had been a protracted journey for the previous homeless teen who discovered her house within the U.S. Navy.
“I had left Hollywood as a homeless teenager, and I joined the navy as a homeless teenager,” the now-40-year-old instructed Fox Information Digital. “Right here I used to be coming again as a mannequin getting my hair carried out, my make-up carried out, simply feeling valued and admired.”
“It was nearly an out-of-body expertise,” she continued. “I keep in mind working in a shoe retailer and any individual had stolen my backpack. While you’re a homeless particular person, that’s all you’ve. I keep in mind feeling so helpless. Like I used to be no one. Right here I used to be, strolling on those self same streets now as an achieved lady, right here for this photoshoot. I simply felt like I made it someway.”
The Southern California native was Miss April 2020 for the annual Pin-Ups for Vets calendar. The award-winning nonprofit, based in 2006 by California resident Gina Elise, raises funding to help hospitalized and deployed troops. It famously produces WWII-inspired bombshell calendars that includes veterans as fashions.
Since its launch, Pin-Ups for Vets has donated over $80,000 to assist hospitals buy new rehabilitation tools and to supply monetary help for veterans’ well being care program growth throughout the nation. Throughout the pandemic, Pin-Ups for Vets has been delivery out care packages enclosed with items of appreciation to hospitalized veterans. It continues to mail morale-boosting care packages to deployed U.S. troops across the globe.
“After I noticed my photographs for the primary time, I believed, ‘Who’s she?’” Sergio chuckled. “’She’s so fairly.’ I used to be so grateful for the chance as a result of the muse supplies a serving to hand to these in want. However what Gina does for each lady in that calendar is inexplicable. You’re feeling empowered to inform your story. I’m ceaselessly grateful for her.”
“This is among the most empowering veteran organizations I’ve ever labored with,” Sergio continued. “It raises consciousness on our vets. All of us volunteer to be on the calendar. It additionally brings collectively an unbelievable group of inspiring feminine veterans who’re hardworking and achieved. I’ve met so many unbelievable individuals by the group, and it’s really an honor to proceed supporting it.”
Immediately, Sergio is telling her story. Not too long ago she wrote a memoir titled “Completely Flawed – A Veteran’s Journey from Homeless to Hero,” which particulars how she went from being a 16-year-old on the streets to becoming a member of the Navy and making her mark as a profitable businesswoman.
“I believed the life I used to be dwelling was regular,” she mirrored on her childhood. “It was across the age of 13-14 once we began going to church. I began to get to know different individuals who had loving households and regular households. That’s once I began to talk up in opposition to the abuse I used to be enduring. Nevertheless it solely acquired worse. It got here to a degree the place my mother despatched me to dwell along with her sister, who was a veteran. My aunt wished to maintain me away from that setting, however finally, my mother confirmed up with the police. My aunt begged them to please not ship me again. However the police instructed her that my mother was my guardian.”
“That’s when my aunt went inside and instructed me to run,” stated Sergio.
Rising up, Sergio by no means met her father. Her mom was a single dad or mum by age 17. Sergio, who stated she got here from “two very lengthy strains of household dysfunction,” described enduring alleged bodily and verbal abuse from her mother and “her numerous male companions.”
“I simply keep in mind being 14, working down a hill barefooted, working from the police, working from my mother, afraid of the results,” Sergio defined. “It was very late at evening. It was pitch black outdoors. I discovered a shopping mall and hid behind a kind of massive potted vegetation. I stayed there shivering… I believe the police understood the scenario… However I used to be returned house and entered extra abuse.”
Sergio stated that by the point she turned 16, she was sexually assaulted. She alleged that mom didn’t wish to take care of the scenario. Consequently, she was dropped off at a homeless shelter in Hollywood, a two-and-a-half-hour drive away from house. Sergio alleged that after dropping her off, the matriarch had the costs in opposition to the one that assaulted her dropped.
“I wished to flee the abuse,” stated Sergio. “I wished to flee to a secure place. I wished to be in a loving house. On one hand, I believed this saved my life as a result of the abuse was attending to be extra aggressive. She was changing into extra enraged in her beatings. In some cases, I genuinely thought I used to be going to die if she didn’t cease. So I used to be relieved to be out of that scenario. However the expertise of surviving on the road is sort of equally traumatizing and fearful.”
“I had homeless males chase me down the road,” she continued. “There have been a number of makes an attempt to lure me into intercourse trafficking. There have been moments once I wished my mother would come again and get me as a result of I liked her and I wished her to like me… I hadn’t accepted the truth that she didn’t need me. There have been a number of cases the place I reached out to her and tried to get her to come back get me… As a child, you simply need your mother.”
Sergio stated she went into “survival mode.” She befriended those that have been on their very own for much longer than she was, they usually took her beneath their wing. She reached out to applications for at-risk youth in Los Angeles the place she sought steerage and met with counselors keen to assist.
“I keep in mind in my first week, I met a lady my age,” stated Sergio. “Her physique was utterly degraded. She had craters, she was extraordinarily skinny. She appeared unhealthy. She had already been roped into the intercourse trafficking commerce, and he or she was addicted closely to heroin. I simply keep in mind she instructed me, ‘You don’t need this for your self. No matter you do, steer clear of medicine. Keep out of this life. Simply get out of right here.’ I saved that on the forefront of my thoughts your entire time.”
In response to Sergio, one in every of her buddies had joined the Navy. The pal’s recruiter, who realized about Sergio, invited the homeless teen out for lunch. A proposal was made that Sergio couldn’t refuse.
“The recruiter satisfied me that I’ll at all times be by the ocean, and I’ll get to journey the world,” stated Sergio. “These have been issues that I had by no means envisioned for myself. I had by no means been on a airplane earlier than. I had nothing else going for me. So I used to be going to offer this a attempt. There was nothing to lose right here. And it was truthfully among the best selections of my life.”
Sergio joined the Navy in 2000 at age 18. She could be among the many first service members to be forward-deployed aboard the usJohn C Stennis one month after the 9/11 assaults to kick off Operation Enduring Freedom. Her Navy achievements embrace twin warfare certifications and 4 Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals (NAMs).
“That is the trail that God [was] was going to take me on, and I used to be going to be OK as a result of I had already survived a lot,” stated Sergio. “… I used to be scared. I used to be nervous. Nevertheless it was proper after 9/11. So our pleasure in our nation and our patriotism have been extraordinarily excessive. I felt like I used to be being referred to as for my objective to serve this nation.”
Sergio served eight years of lively responsibility and has served as a civilian ever since. At the moment, she is Chief of Air Pressure Lodging, the place she manages a portfolio of 88 Air Pressure Inns. She additionally launched a web-based boutique impressed by her love of trend.
“After I joined the Navy, I used to be working at a clothes retailer on Melrose Boulevard,” she stated. “My dream was to proceed within the area… I liked serving within the navy, however I by no means actually acquired to comply with my ardour. In 2019, I gained slightly little bit of a social media following. I believed I had the affect to start out a enterprise. And I wished to assist different ladies discover what works for his or her our bodies… I wished to point out individuals you can be within the navy, however nonetheless have a love of trend and embrace that. You don’t must separate the 2. I’ve been doing that for 3 years now. It’s been fantastic.”
The proud spouse and mother of two daughters hopes that her story will encourage others to by no means hand over, it doesn’t matter what circumstances they’re in.
“We’re all going to undergo hardships in our lives,” she stated. “In my e-book, I speak rather a lot about being your personal hero. And it’s not that others received’t enable you to. However they is probably not able to serving to you. So you possibly can’t sit round and wait for somebody to come back rescue you… You might by no means get out. You could be your personal hero… I wish to be an inspiration to others. I consider we heal by serving to others. And I do consider you possibly can change your personal story.”