Today we’d like to introduce you to Chyenne (“Chy”) Roan-Santini.
Chyenne (“Chy”), can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am a fashion model, foster youth advocate, and I am currently building my outreach experience by volunteering with various nonprofits in LA. I am on a mission to eradicate homelessness and to find resources to combat mental illness.
I was born and raised here in LA, often moving around different parts. My sister and I were taken from my mother in 2004 and put into foster care. I was raised by a “village” of people in my mother’s absence. Though the experience of being taken from my mother was traumatic for us, the lessons I learned from this experience and the choices I made would ultimately alter my life’s path in positive and remarkable ways. I believe that this experience alone has had an enormous impact on my purpose and destiny as an individual so far, and has shifted my perspective on life.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road to healing has been a long one due to the trauma I faced early in my childhood. My mother suffers from mental illness and has a history of substance abuse stemming from traumas of her own. She has been homeless on and off for over 15 years, her current state being the most devastating I’ve seen it. I can even remember prior to being taken from my mother that we experienced periods of homelessness along with her after losing our apartment. Nonetheless, she did what she had to do to feed us with all that she was up against, mental illness and all. After being taken from her, I felt a huge emptiness in my heart and often, I felt different from my classmates in school. I felt embarrassment and shame because I was in the system.
My older sister (who initially was placed in the same home as me) was separated from me and put into a different foster home because of bad behavior. This was another huge blow for me to lose my sibling after losing my mom and I felt even more alone and scared in the foster home. Little did I know that there would be many moments of light at the end of this dark time I was facing as a child. After adjusting to life without my mother and sister, I was blessed with a loving foster mother, Mrs. Barbara Keelen who affectionately became known as my granny. My granny gave me everything I needed in order to thrive and she loved me like her own… but I still struggled to cope with the pain of missing my mom and I always held on to the hope that she would come back for me. I still struggle with this pain as an adult but I’ve done my best to channel the pain into helping my community, which has become a form of healing for me.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
With my mother’s current situation in mind as well as my past in foster care, I felt urged to help the homeless in my community, as well as former foster youth who are aging out of the system. So far, I’ve volunteered with amazing organizations here in LA including Bright Path Center, a nonprofit that provides support, services, and housing to homeless/at-risk individuals, and LA food bank. I’ve also paid it forward to an incredible organization that has had a profound impact on my life—A sense of Home. I am a former recipient of this program which furnishes the apartments of aged out foster youth at no cost.
The founders of ASOH were also instrumental in jump-starting my modeling career. I had been building my modeling book for about a year before they introduced me to my modeling agency with whom I’ve been signed to for over a year now. So far, I’ve modeled for brands such as Apple, Audi, DSW, Vans, HP, Uber Eats, Capital One and Smashbox Cosmetics. Though I work in fashion as a model and I enjoy what I do, ultimately I’d like for my legacy to be of community outreach and genuine love. I want people to remember me as someone in my community who cared to see change happen through hands-on service and through giving back. I want foster children like me to know that their pain does not have to be in vain. I want to be remembered as a former foster child who beat the odds.
What were you like growing up?
As a child, I was free-spirited, artistic and a dreamer. I loved creating—whether it meant painting, writing, singing, dancing, ceramics, or poetry. In the most challenging times I faced being without my mom, I still dreamed and lived with the image in my head that I’d turn out to be a successful person, whatever that would mean for my life. I had dreams of going to an HBCU, dreams of being a famous painter, dreams of being an A&R at a record company, dreams of being a fashion model, but most of all I had dreams of simply being happy after the trauma I’d gone through. I’m thankful to be living out my dream of having a happy and blessed life more than anything. I believe that my willingness to let go and allow my destiny to guide me is what sets me apart.
- Phone: 3106145537
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @chy_mellow
Solo modeling image (B&W): Shot by Matt Kallish, Group Photo (with Christine Devine): Shot by Nogen Beck