Today we’d like to introduce you to China Kelly.
Thanks for sharing your story with us China. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My name is China Kelly and I am from Kāneʻohe on the island of O’ahu, Hawaiʻi. Growing up in paradise was anything but easy for me as a child. I think people from the mainland have this assumption that everyone in Hawaiʻi is well off, but it is the exact opposite for many families. I grew up poor with my father, and majority of my childhood was moving around the island. We were in and out of homelessness because we never really had a stable place to live. Some nights we wouldn’t have food to eat, and some days I would have to bring leftovers from my free school lunch just so my dad could eat. From a young age, I always knew I was destined for greatness. I had to be because I knew my father, my future, and myself deserved more. My father taught me many things in his lifetime and one of which was to ALWAYS BE FEARLESS. I’ve always loved the arts. I remember telling my dad how much I wanted to be an actress. He’d come to all my school plays, dances, acting classes and reassure me that I was meant for the life I oh so wanted. My father was also into the arts… he acted, played music, sang, and was very creative in his younger years. Despite growing up in the struggle, I have always had the same dream.
My father always encouraged me to model, and even at 13, I persisted on only acting because modeling seemed shallow to me at the time. I didn’t want to be judged for my looks. I kinda was the ugly duckling in school so acting made me feel comfortable, more confident, it wasn’t entirely based on looks.
When my father started getting sick, I decided to give modeling a try. I wanted to make my father proud. I had my very first audition on the island and it was two other potential models. Whichever model had the best photos from the audition would have their picture in the window of the store. I spoke to the universe during my audition and said: “If I am meant to continue modeling, I will win this, and my picture will be in the window for everyone to see.” I ended up winning and took that as a sign that I was on the right path in my career. When I tell you my dad was happy, I mean he was almost in tears. I also got published in local newspaper from the same company and my dad would carry it around with him everywhere in the hospital he was at, showing all the workers. My best friend. My biggest fan.
When I was 14, my father passed away. This created a huge shift in my life, mentally, emotionally, physically. I had just lost the only sense of family, stability, and love I had ever known. I was immediately placed in the foster care system. Foster care is no joke. It is hard, it is draining, it can really change a person. I didn’t feel like a normal kid. I felt more alone than ever before. I moved around from an emergency foster home to group homes, to friends homes, and the one thing that stayed the same was my voice. My dad made me into a warrior that always advocates for herself. Through it all, I still had the same dream.
I couldn’t model much under the liability of my social worker, etc., but I still did. (well-behaved women rarely make history, so yes, I had to rebel a bit). I was shooting for a variety of different companies, products, and photographers. I had to learn how to build myself in such a hectic and toxic time in my life, how to carry myself as a model, and how to stay focused on my dreams. At this point, all that kept me sane kept me driven, kept me motivated, was my dream for something more, something great, something huge, something that would change lives one day.
I got adopted at 17 by an amazing family that I love dearly. They then helped nurture me into taking the further steps to conquer everything I’ve ever wanted. A good family, a good home, can really MAKE a person. It can change a child’s life.
Moving to LA, alone, at 19 has been an amazing journey so far. I have grown so much. I know that these dreams I have ask for great courage and leaps of faith. And it feels like that is what I embody 24/7 in LA working as a paid model, actress, and using my platform for greatness. Since being in LA, I’ve been able to use my platform to give back to foster youth, and homelessness so far…. that is only the beginning. I’ve been able to share my story with foster youth from the islands of Hawaiʻi, host & fund events to give back in LA, and use my voice to speak up about the injustices happening to African American people/Indigenous people/women in the US.
I want to be a supermodel traveling the world, walking in fashion shows, taking photos, modeling for all different types of brands, be on talk shows, my dreams go on. But I also want to give back. And the more I get, I will give. This is a promise. I will continue to use my platform for greatness.
I want people to know that their past, their battles don’t define you, but instead, make you unique. I want people to know that their wildest dreams are possible. I want people to know that caring for others, inspiring others is the highest act as a human.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road but I am so grateful for this road.
One struggle along the way may have been to grow thick skin. Not everyone is going to want to work with you, be your friend, or even like you. It is all about knowing your worth.
One struggle along the way may have been getting able to push myself by myself. I had to learn to become my biggest fan and that means to put in the work for the dreams I have.
One struggle along the way may have been wondering if I am on the right path, I think the lifestyle of the islands and where I’m from, and the LA city life are two completely different. I learned that I could be myself and did not need to conform to societies ideas of what a “model” or entertainer looked like, or acted like.
One struggle I deal with is the weight of my family and their well beings, their living situations on my shoulder. I want to be able to provide for them and take the stress off their backs.
Another struggle which is HUGE is… I have to sacrifice not being with my family, not seeing my friends, etc, in hopes that what comes from me chasing my dreams is greater than, so I can give back to all loved ones & more.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with your work– tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I am a fashion model based in Los Angeles. I love modeling high fashion and walking in fashion shows. It’s interesting because I can’t just choose ONE profession. I’m basically a model/actress/podcast host/ public speaker/inspirer/ student/ healer/ ETC. I am most proud of how I far I’ve got from where I started. Never would have thought me, a girl from an island, would be in LA booking modeling gigs, making connections, and getting my name out there. I am most proud at how many people reach out to me, and how many youths reach out to let me know I inspire them and because of me, they are chasing their dreams as well. It is the greatest purpose.
One of my favorite jobs so far was acting in a music video for a singer/friend. I had to kiss the singer so many times for certain scenes, I was proud of myself for making it so realistic… like I actually liked him! Haha.
What sets me apart from others is my commitment to better myself and my commitment to the people. This life isn’t just for me, it is for everyone looking at me, it is for everyone who doesn’t have a voice, it is for everyone who doesn’t have the confidence, it is for everyone who needs motivation, it is for everyone who needs proof, it is for everyone who needs someone like them to show them it is possible and they are worthy of great things.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love LA. I love how fast-paced it is. I love how everyone is here to be something. Everyone has a goal or a dream.
What I least like about LA is the air pollution and the street trash.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/chinakellyy
- Twitter: twitter.com/chinakellyy
- Other: anchor.fm/chinakellyy
(NO PARTICULAR ORDER) @shotbyashton, @yupmynamescherry, @sereiswim