Photography by Michelle Gifford Photography
Meet Nancy. She is Beauty Revived.
Growing up in Los Angeles can have its own set of challenges. For Nancy, it wasn’t the people who lived outside her home that she feared the most. Her mom abused her and created a home where was exposed to terrible things.
“Many kids wake up from a nightmare, while I woke up to one,” Nancy said. “My childhood lacked stability and a mother. Often, I cried myself to sleep as the abuse tormented my thoughts.”
At 12, she new that she wanted out of her situation but wasn’t sure where to turn. She found a family in her apartment building that welcomed her to dinners and holidays. She found family, safety and love but she still had to go home at night.
“I knew that I needed to reach out for help,” she said. “So at thirteen, I swallowed my anxieties and decided to speak to a social worker. This would become the first step of my odyssey to gain all that seemed impossible: a life filled with happiness, love and confidence.”
She was removed from her home and eventually placed with the family who had earlier opened their home to her. She has been with them for five years.
A kind family and expert counselors were able to, as she puts it, transform her from, “the girl who gazed uncomfortably at her feet and the moldy carpet to the young woman who now stands confidently with an indomitable spirit.”
Nancy is far from uncomfortable in front of people. She entertains students and their families as a leader in her school’s Improv team. She has received awards for her Model United Nations Debate team. She was just awarded a seat at the Disney Dreamers Academy. She also hosts her school’s morning news show.
The teacher who nominated her said, “Nancy is full of positive energy. From the first day of class, she was a bright ray of sunshine. She sat next to an autistic student and immediately made him feel important, valuable and ‘not invisible’. She has this effect on all her class mates.”
Nancy knows that she has been blessed to have a family to be a part of and searches out opportunities to help others. She volunteers to help at risk teens. She believes that her story and background gives her empathy, compassion and real-life know-how.
“While volunteering at a holiday party for at risk youth,” she said. “I was directed to assist the kids in filling out their surveys. I noticed a girl sitting by herself. I came to the realization that she was unable to read and write on her own. I offered to sneak her an extra cupcake if she allowed me to help her. After sharing my story and cracking a few jokes, I was able to truly develop a strong bond with her. Later that night, the founder of the organization told me that was the first time she saw that young girl smile.”
Nancy dreams of attending USC. She wants to use her education to further help at risk youth.
“The dark times in my own life taught me the importance of maintaining a smile and keeping a positive disposition,” she said. “Whether I am brightening someone’s day, managing the Improv team or entertaining an audience, I strive to stay true to myself and allow my vivacious personality to shine through.”
Nancy is not a victim, but a strong young woman who is determined to use her experience to help others. Her service, her giving heart and her hope for the future makes her a shining example of real beauty.
“I threw away my self-pity and recognized that my childhood was only the foundation for my future success; not what defined me. I no longer considered myself as defenseless and powerless, but resilient, gifted and highly capable of achieving success.”
About the Photographer
Michelle is a Southern California Senior Photographer and the founder of Beauty Revived.