A recent City Council–funded study found that 3,800 young people are on the streets every night in New York City, a disproportionate number of them lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). But they're not all headed for lives of unpaid voguing! With Gay Pride weekend upon us, it felt right to recap a recent event at which current and former residents of Green Chimneys (which serves LGBT youth) and other, non-LGBT-specific shelters met with top executives at places like MTV and Atlantic Records to learn how to network their way into the entertainment industry.
The meet-up was held by the Reciprocity Foundation, which shepherds such youths into creative-sector jobs. A few of the young networkers talked about where they'd been, where they hoped to go, and the likely difficulty of being an actor with a side job as an M.D.
Aneidy "Love" Merono, Green Chimneys resident
So you just went into the independent-living part of Green Chimneys?
You have your own keys and come in and out as you please, but you have to have a job and go to school. I study hospitality at Globe Institute of Technology.
Describe living at Green Chimneys.
Annoying. Hectic. But structured. I felt safe.
And you were living house to house for five years before that.
Three, four months. Once eight months with a lady from church who said, "Stay in my house and tell them I'm your godmother."
How did you end up going from home to home?
My mom does drugs. I started having anger problems, being violent all the time. Then I opened up to a friend who said, "Stay with me," but there were always mad dudes there. And my room wouldn't be locked. It was stressful.
How are you doing now?
I'm more open and stable than I was before. I have a social worker, and we meet once a week. But sometimes I think, If I were living with my mom, this would never have happened.
Describe your life in five years.
I'll have my associate's degree and my own apartment. I see myself in the arts. I want to act.
Paris Kiria, 16, Green Chimneys resident, high schooler, intern at Hetrick-Martin Institute
How'd you come to Green Chimneys?
I don't really know. I have very good parents.
Did they kick you out?
No. They're very wealthy.
Did you want to leave?
No. I was born in Greece. We moved three years ago to America. They sent me to my grandparents in North Carolina, and I didn't want to be with them.
You lived in Greece up until three years ago?
Crete. I was born there. My dad's Greek.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If I don't become an actor or model, I want to become an M.D.
Couldn't you do all three?
I'd love to. But it'd be weird for an actor to go to a side job at a hospital somewhere.
Jamyrah Brown, 19, Green Chimneys resident, in a GED program
Were you homeless before Green Chimneys?
No, but I was moving from place to place. I refused to stay home because me and my stepfather didn't get along.
What do you want New Yorkers to know about you?
It's not easy being transgendered.
Has it gotten better for transgender people in New York City in recent years?
In my experience, yes.
Where do you want to be in five years?
Have my own place in Manhattan. Be a hip-hop-reggae dancer.
Did Janet Jackson inspire your bangs?
No. I like the hippie look.
Derrick Cobb, 21, works at Brooklyn Industries store
How did you get to Green Chimneys?
My stepdad was very abusive. When I got older, I started to fight back. But my mother wasn't too fond of that, so she kicked me out. I was homeless for a few months.
Where would you stay?
At my friends' house all day. At night, my cousin would sneak me into her bedroom, feed me, and do my laundry. She wants me to move in with her after this. We're really close, but we still give each other that personal space.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
Hopefully I'll have a song on the airwaves, or I'll be in Milan modeling at Fashion Week, or I'll be at the Tribeca Film Festival with some of the hottest actors and entertainers. I love to dance and perform. I'm not the best singer. But who needs to sing with all the technology?
Speaking of that, do you think Madonna's too old to be getting all sexy with Justin Timberlake?
You're as young as you feel. I'm 21, and I feel like I'm 12.