To Top

Meet Yunique Essence

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yunique Essence.

Yunique, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Well, honestly I can say my journey began the day I was born back in the 1980s in the month of June and the day was the 16th in Frankfurt, Germany. I came out advocating for life (my mom told me I came out fighting just to be here). I was born prematurely and that should say something because she was told that she would never have children because she has this rare thing where her insides are flipped. She had four children.

So back to my journey so as I was saying the day I was born back in the 80s, I was also born overseas. I wish I could remember Germany but I don’t great that my mom remembers and shared some things with me. She taught me how to say “I love you” in German “ich liebe dich”. She also has told me that she would give me carrot juice to help with our eyesight and our skin glow. My dad was in the Army 82nd airborne. So when he was discharged from the Army we came to America and settled in Providence, Rhode Island. I remember very little about Rhode Island and what I do remember was that there was snow in the winter, I remember riding my big wheel, going around pinching people, and speaking/ singing in some other language or something. Family would laugh and ask what I was singing but I didn’t even know. I also was a thumb sucker when I was younger so my mom tried everything to make me stop but nothing worked and to this day I love hot sauce. I believe it’s because of her putting hot sauce on my thumbs. Fast forward to my mom packing some of our belongings and family which consists of My sister who is five years older than me, me I’m the middle child, and my brother we are nine months apart (we are Irish twins).

So we moved from Rhode Island to get as far away as possible from my dad, we ended up in Arizona for a bit and then ended back in my mom’s hometown of Long Beach, California. Times began to get rough for us and that’s when my mom realized that she couldn’t keep us around so she began asking family for help her and take my brother and I. But no one wanted to. So that’s when she made that call, that would forever change my brother, my mom, my life. It is forever be embedded in my heart, mind, and soul. My brother and I ended up in foster care in 1988. We stayed in two like regular foster homes that were houses. The first home was nice from what I can remember. It was somewhere in L.A. The family was Hispanic family. I remember the foster mom being really nice to me and remember her getting me these really cute pink shoes. I also remember them having a pool. So some folx may know being foster care you are given a social worker who comes checks on you and what not well my brother and I had a cool worker when we first got into foster care. So yeah when the social worker came and removed us from that home and told us we were going to another home we didn’t quite understand because again we were little. My brother was four years old and I was five years.

So the next home we ended up at was with this mean ol’ black woman (I can say that because that’s how me and my brother remember her as). That is the home that would forever change me as lil person and my outlook on life. It was the home where the little girl me would get lost and buried deep. That is also the home where I learnt to hide my truth to cope with life. The foster mom was so freakin mean to me and my brother. She would beat us for no reason like Beat us to the point our butts stung so bad. She would also be hesitant with giving us our packages or mail from our grandma (rest in paradise) on our dad’s side would send us things all the way from Rhode Island. It was like we were a burden to her even though she had other foster care kids living with her. I guess because we were the youngest, that’s why she was horrible to us. She didn’t want to deal with lil children that’s no excuse to mean as hell though right. But anyways she had this son who would pick us up from school and he would tell my brother to go play and then would take me into this dark room. From there he would have me lay on the ground (mind you I’m five until six years old) from there I would go to this safe place in my head because well without going into detail I robbed of my innocents. So that safe place in my head was amazing to be.

From that point, I started losing who I was as a lil girl. I stop talking, and just became depressed and withdrawn not understanding why all of this was happening to me. So time went on and the more my social worker would he noticed a change in me. So the last visit from the worker he said he found this children’s home. So that’s how we ended up at Hollygrove Home for Children. When my brother and I moved into that home it was somewhat familiar we kinda because when we moved from Rhode Island and ended up in Long Beach, Ca my mom and us stayed in this shelter for women and children called Lydias House in Long Beach which provides a safe place and meals to eat along with other resources. So as I was saying we moved to Hollygrove exposed to many things not many children of color get to experience. Not even many adults experience what we experienced there. Well the beautiful thing about Hollygrove was that us kids got to go to regular school (I really didn’t like school I struggled but I got through), I mean well back then it was cool because homes that were facilities like Hollygrove children went to school on grounds not really getting to meet new people. We got to interact with other homes when we had this track and field competition once a year that was pretty awesome though.

We also would go cottage camping in the summer like real camping with tents and everything. We also got to go to the snow and stay in cabins. We also got to make these Christmas wishlist and we would get almost everything we asked for now that doesn’t happen in the real world. It was cool though. We also got these big sisters and big brothers that we called our ‘Special Friends’. My special friend and I still keep in contact with each other. She has been apart of my life since I was six years old we may not see each other IRL (in real life) but it’s amazing see her and her family on social media (I will say that I do like that about social media you get to connect with folx from your past that you may not have been able to if it wasn’t for it). I believe Hollygrove was where I found my purpose/purposes in life (even though it really took me years after to realize that). That’s where I became apart of many activities that saved my life. It’s the place where I began to learn how to maneuver my thoughts. I often thought something was wrong with me (still to this day I think that) and just really started going through an identity crisis. That home really opened my eyes up to some things while also blinding me from the truths of the real world things though but hey that home served its purpose and I am forever grateful. While living at that home I met some amazing friends and had some amazing counselors who to this day I have contact with (via social media). Having my brother with me through the whole foster care chapter in the book of life was a blessing because a lot of times back then and today siblings would get split up. But, real talk having him with me really made things a little easier to get through even though sometimes he would get on my last nerve, but isn’t that the whole point of having a sibling or siblings. Also there learnt about Marilyn Monroe and that she lived there when she was young, and also that her real name was Norma Jean. It was pretty awesome finding that out.

At that home, I met and also ran with Flo Jo (Florence Griffith Joyner continue to rest in paradise) oh my goodness let me tell you that’s truly when I fell in love with running. Her and her husband had amazing souls and just so nice to us. I will always remember that time in life when I got run side by side with her and just talk to her! We also had a water station on the path of the L.A. marathon when it would go down Vine St. We would give the runners water, give the runners Hi-Fives, and just cheer them on (I was going to run the kid part of the marathon but right before you knew I ended up falling down some stairs and spraining my angle pretty bad at Bancroft Middle school the cool part was I got to ride the elevator at school) Luckily I was on the drill team for the middle school and saw them perform I think I tried to perform but my ankle was still trying to heal. Something also cool is that sometimes people that were in the entertainment industry would come hang out with us and sign autographs. Yep pretty neat huh well that was all going to change.

So the year of 1996 would be the year I would be unified with my mom. My mom got herself together and was able to get me back. My brother went home in 1995. So going from Hollygrove where life was complicated but not that complicated to living with my mom was a real like thump to the forehead. We clashed bumped heads and everything (but now that I’m older I realize why we did). But back to what lead me to doing what I am doing now, so when I came to live with my mom I struggled big time (I still do) self-confidence and stuff but I learned how to deal. So for middle school I went to Mary Butler Middle School it was a pretty good school (I will always remember that this one girl got so mad at but she was good at pretending that she wasn’t went to my house while I was at school stole my birthday party money and some other stuff. She ruined my birthday party and the friends I had at that time so wanted to get her but I was like she isn’t worth it. The only reason I knew it was her because she was smart enough to leave her math book in the room. So with that said my mom was like where does this girl live I was like I don’t know but I have this friend that does know where she stays. But she didn’t tell us where she lives. I was so hurt and embarrassed and everything. So my mom and I ended up going to the principle and telling them what happened and showing how we had proof it was her. I really remember what happened to her but life went on. At Mary Butler I fell in love with expressive dance class and with that class I got to go to UCLA. I wanted that to be the University I would go to after I graduated high school. Yep yep so I graduated from Mary Butler Middle school and ended going to Wilson High School for Freshmen year and oh my gosh oh how I despised that high school.

First I thought oh in high school I get to wear normal clothes like all the other kids whelp I was wrong because the incoming freshmen class had to be in uniform uugghh. I had gotten Saturday because my khaki wasn’t khaki enough (and now I see short shorts and what not on students who go to Wilson so yeah). Second that school was way to big for me anxiety over load plus the homework load was just to much I barely got through freshmen year. I was on the gymnastics team for my freshmen year at Wilson it was pretty fun until I fractured my ankle it blew up bad and was so painful some of my teammates helped and carried me to the bus. After that I started getting bullied by some kids because I had told one of my friends that was on the gymnastics team with me that this kid was talking about her, so she went and confronted him and denied it and so from there him and his friends started being hella mean to me. I was called a clown, dumb, and so many other things that hurt but I never told my mom I just took the bullying. That made me not like high school even more so my mom tells my brother and me that we will be moving to Lakewood because at that time she had a boyfriend that wanted to move us to the house that they had picked out together. I was happy about the move mainly because I would not have to go back to Wilson but on the other hand I was sad because I had a few good friends that I would miss.

We move to Lakewood into a very white neighborhood, I mean there were some Hispanic and Latinx families, some Black families, and some Asian families but for the most part it was pretty much white people. A real culture shock. Okay so when we moved to Lakewood I ended up going to Mayfair High it actually was a combination school meaning its a middle and high school that was pretty neat but the best part was it wasn’t so huge I mean I was still nervous, anxious and all that but it was a nice size school. So I spent 10th-12th grade at Mayfair. I was on the track team there I had to keep myself doing something I knew I had to for my sake. I didn’t do my best in high school or on the track team but I did enough to get through. I met some amazing friends at Mayfair some who I keep in touch with but the first person I met there and became friends with is like one of my most realiest friends ever to this day we are still close. She has seen me at my worst and never disappeared on me or tried to take advantage of me. As I am sitting sharing a lil bit of my story with you all I am tearing up because I hid a lot of pain for a very long time and before I was going to start my junior year of high school I wanted to die. I just felt what’s the point to having all this pain and not being able to express in words because well feelings weren’t really talked about and I have always been emotional so I started telling people that I didn’t want to live anymore and I just couldn’t handle life anymore. Well, I felt that no one was listening or hearing me. So one summers night I was sitting in my room with a bottle of some pills and my mom came into my room. My mom opens my door and says “good night” and replied back “good night”. Next thing you know I take a handful of pills but not enough to kill myself (because most people who are suicidal don’t really want to die we just want the pain to go away).

So as I was trying to go to sleep after taking the pills there was banging on the door and next thing I know there are firemen in my room asking me lots of questions, checking my heart, checking my eyes, and then I end up in the ambulance. My mom is like my daughter doesn’t talk to me I don’t know what’s going on. So I end up at Lakewood Regional Medical Center a social worker comes and talks to me and says “you seem like a smart girl so let me ask you do you think you need to go the mental hospital or do you want to go to therapy”, of course I said therapy. So my mom and I had a few therapy sessions together and then it stopped. Senior year of high school I barely got through thank goodness for being on the track team because you had to keep a C grade point average to participate so that’s what I aimed for nothing higher. So I graduated from high school the first in my immediate family so that was big for me and I just wanted my mom to be proud of me. After high school I ended up going to Cerritos College not really understanding and thinking what the heck I did not like school and also saying what am I doing here. It was a huge College to me I felt so out of place but there I joined the track and field team. I did alright but not my best. I was just losing myself, I was so confused. During the first year of college it was an interesting time I allowed myself to just throw everything away just to somewhat not be the outsider. I just went into this dark place.

Jumping into somewhat the present in 2005 I had my first child in May I was so scared, nervous, anxious, depressed, but also just wanting to be the best mom I could be to this healthy baby boy who choose me to be his mom. So I give birth and start thinking I know his father didn’t want to have nothing to do with me or my baby, but then I made the decision to write a letter and leave it at his moms house where he stayed. I just felt that no matter what yes I did decide to have the baby but I also believed the father should know and have a chance to meet him so from there he decided to be present in the child’s life. A big thing because I didn’t grow up with my dad and neither did he. Time passes we move in together with the help of his mom. We ended up getting pregnant I didn’t know at first so I got job at Knott’s Berry Farm to help out with bills because I didn’t believe his mom should have been helping us as much as she did but me working wasn’t enough and I started going through a lot of stuff I wouldn’t wish on anyone and I still went to work smiled did my job and went home to chaos and just trying not to loose my mind. I ended up quitting Knott’s and getting this job in the Buena Park mall called Steve and Barry’s it was this retail store that had real inexpensive clothes but cute. They like shoes that costed 20 dollars, or you could get a sweatshirt of your favorite University for 10 dollars.

So I started working there, when I got hired I did not tell them I was pregnant I just wanted to work because the chaos couldn’t not hurt me. I was kinda wrong but anyhow in December 2006 I started having contractions early it was pretty scary so I was taken to the hospital and was admitted. They had to give me something to stop the contractions because it was to darn early to have the baby. Plus I had lost my Big Mama and I was unable to attend her home going there was just so much happening. So they were able to stop the contractions. 2007 came and with everything that was taking place my second baby boy stayed in my belly, even with another family member passing away right before his birth and that death hit me hard because the family member passed because she choked on gum (for a long time I stopped chewing gum because of that) in February I started having to call out from work and next thing I just stopped going. My second baby boy was born in March of 2007. Now he was quite different because when he was born he was a quite he really only cried when he couldn’t see me or when he was hungry but when his older brother was born he was screaming at the top of his lungs he made his presence known. So here I am with two precious boys trying not to loose my mind for there sake I couldn’t abandon them. I had to be strong so for them I stayed in the chaos that continued and it got worse the storm started coming and I knew I had to get out so 2007 was when I first lift the abuse. I went stayed with my sister I enrolled back in school at Long Beach City College. I was proud of myself I mean I was still lost didn’t have a clue of what I wanted to do but I knew I had to do something I have two children who deserve the world.

So I started fall of 2007 and I as I was entering the spring semester I was told that things changed and the boys dad missed them and wanted to see them more so I went back. Oh my gosh doing that changed me as well I lost myself I didn’t know what to do all I knew was I had to get out or else something horrible would happen. As I was calling numbers reaching out to see what kinda of resources were out there because one thing I did know was that what was happening to me wasn’t right, and my boys shouldn’t be seeing or hearing this. Just because they were little at the time doesn’t mean anything. They went through so much in my belly and to see them now they are some amazing humans. Okay so summer of 2008 I made the decision that would forever change not just my life but everyone involved. I had made this call to the hotline because I didn’t know what else to do I was feeling stuck. So as I was talking the lady who was helping calm down asked so many questions but I answered them and because children were involved she was mandated to call child protective services which I didn’t know. So I was needing some type of intervention because I felt something was going to happen, I get a phone call from my sister asking me to watch her kids for the weekend I was like oh my gosh yes this was the way out I was needing because I was doing a lot of research and things and one thing that kept popping up was not to say you are leaving. So as I packed a suitcase for the boys and I, say we will be back soon don’t worry.

Everything changed I got a call from this organization that helped me with diapers and other essential things for babies. They were located in orange county. So my mom ends up taking me out to the place, and they hand me diapers and then sends me to another place that helps me fill out some papers and while I was doing that they make phone calls to shelters and by the grace of God there was a shelter with an opening for us. The catch was I had to go with what I had and since I didn’t know things would happen so fast. My boys and I ended going just with the clothes on our back and their diaper bag and bag. Thankfully as we rode to the police station my mom was with us and saw us off. I started crying because I knew from that day everything changed. Without ever speaking my truth people only knew one side to the story. I started healing, started educating myself, learning that I have power, I lost so much trust in people but I tried to show that because I just believe that hurting people because I am hurt isn’t the way to healing myself. So when I got to the shelter they welcomed us with open arms. Oh, I didn’t say what was the incident to push me to say enough is enough. So I was holding my oldest who at the time was three years old he puts his hands around my neck and I gasped I knew he didn’t know what he was doing but that is when I said nope we got to go. So at that shelter I learned a lot about myself and I am so thankful and grateful the way everything lined up in our favor. So the boys and were in a shelter from July 2008 until May 2009. I had gotten into classes to help me understand more about getting on my feet and just understand me.

2014-2015 oh my gosh that was the year that would push me (in a good way) to get back to where my journey truly began. So for years there was this parent at my boys public charter school(that is now closed) that would stop every chance she had to ask if I would joining the parent meeting Friday. I would say no I can’t or I gotta go. So with that said I got involved in the boys school. I started going to the meetings and just doing all that I can. We were in the process of advocating for our school that was up for charter renewal in I believe December of 2014 Long Beach Unified School District denied our school only understanding that LBUSD is opposed to charter school because apparently they are taking away from the traditional public schools. 2015 was when I got a taste of what was lining up for not just me but my two amazing sons who push me every day to be my best self. So we were preparing to go into the LACOE board meeting I was asked like a few backs before to speak in front of the board members sharing why I feel the schools charter should be approved.

So fast forward the day comes I so nervous my head is hurting, my stomach is going crazy, my hands go numb. I still get up and stand at the podium and I share my throat starts feeling tight I feel like I am making no sense and I finish. I go back to my seat with my two young boys at the time (they were in 2nd and 4th grade). They started acting out just like all the young kids who were tired and restless. So that was over we go home and continue on advocating for choice because in Long Beach school of choice can be questioned. Understanding that not all students learn the same I was going strong, I along with many parents and community leaders we started lobbying for that right in being able to to choose the learning environment that fits our children’s needs without all that separation that happens in traditional schools especially when it comes to brown and black kids (especially black boys and girls). I was refusing to just settle and cave in to a system that many before had been advocating for. With all the fear, nervousness, the negative self talk, and even the negative from folx who just didn’t understand how this could be so important. So we had another meeting at LACOE and this time some parents and I had been going to counsel members offices of families that lived in their districts because not only was this a school we could choose you also didn’t have to live in Long Beach to attend. So we had many families that traveled to come to public charter school and the bonus was it was a dual immersion school.

I understand I have gotten to be somewhat long-winded but I felt it was important to share the process from the beginning. So summer 2015 we find out our schools charter got denied up in the State Capitol of California. Let me tell my heart dropped and could not believe what just happened. Both my kids were sad. Everyone that traveled up to Sacramento to show support were just so devastated. So a new journey in the education was presented and oh my goodness I am so grateful and honored to have gone on this heck of a roller coaster because now more than ever I feel so empowered to share and be apart of a community (well many communities). So I learnt about home school and that home school has different avenues. There’s home school (independent studies) that can be done through a charter school that doesn’t have a brick and mortar but still follows California State laws when it comes to the education. So families can choose to just home school, home school where they teach and the child learns or combined the learning where there are days that you take you child/ren to a learning space for a couple of days and they play and learn with other students while parents are able to be proactive in their child/ren educational experience. There’s also the unschooling home schooling where you don’t follow any curriculum and you have free will to do whatever it is you want to do with your child/ren. So when I heard about this my mind was so blown because living in the hold going through some traumatic life experiences to knowing that I can be even more active in my boys lives through education. So I didn’t have to be told twice I signed up. So August 2015 came so quick some parents (including me) started planning this co-op where it was parent led with looking to have some teachers from the school that closed hop on board and join us.

As time was ticking away a group of parents were in talks with the independent studies charter school that was willing to support the vision. Also looking for spaces for the educational site. We were tapping into something that was unique (we were a hybrid not a school but kinda looked like one)which to eye wasn’t homeschooling. But that’s they beauty of it all a parent driven educational experience with teachers on site. So yeah it reminded me so much of when I was at the children’s home and staff was on grounds present in our lives and aiming to see us succeed. So for four years, I was part of an organization that I saw build from the ground up metaphorically speaking because we were renting space but you get what I am trying to say I hope so. So 2019 came it something started happening. I started to feel that I was needing to do more even though I had participated in many leadership programs, workshops, and I even MCd this community event called The Peoples State of the City that was huge because I am not a person who is able to talk in front of huge crowds of people. I had made a commitment not just to myself but to the many people who was believing in me when I couldn’t even see what they were seeing.

So leading to what I do and where it began. I took you all on a little journey this was just a look into the process I don’t want to take up to much more of your time. So with wrapping up I took a leap enrolled back in college in pursuing my degree in psychology (hopefully becoming a doctor) I gotta pace myself. I truly feel that healing in helping others heal is my what I meant to do. My journey had to go the way it did to get to the point where I was truly uncomfortable and had to change my mind and just do. If wanting to see change for the betterment of all and not just wanting that good life for myself that means sacrifices are going to have to be in knowing that it’s not just about me. I honestly can’t say I’ve even peaked but I am on the right track and I must remember that things will get a lil chaotic but that I have a choice in the way I react to it. So the journey continues on the quest of helping others may it be kids, teenagers, or adults. May continue working on me while still being able to be ever so present for the two amazing humans that blessed me to be a mother Izzy and Day Day mommy loves so much. I will leave you with this quote by the late great Nipsey Hussle, “If you don’t know your full-throttle history, the whole story of how you came to where you are, it’s kind of hard to put things together.”

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?
It has not been smooth at all. Oh my goodness how I wish it was just even a lil bit. Some of the struggles has been in me lacking in confidence. In understanding that I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I constantly am explaining myself. most of my struggles have been based on past experience which led to a lot of second guessing of self, allowing my self to just give to much of my power away. I allowed myself to get caught up in many things and then beat myself up because I knew I shouldn’t have done that. The mind is so powerful!!!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Well I am a community activist. I am a holistic healer/life coach through sharing of my story and being open to hear others and help them on their road of healing and self-discovery (I am currently working on myself so that I can better be of service), I am a teacher not in the conventional way, I mean I specialize in just being as real as I can be I do not run from my past I have learned to embrace (it’s hard as heck) it but I have to if I am to be free and completely authentically me. Allowing folx to see in my darkness and also see me in my shining light. I feel what sets me aside from others is that even through the harsh realities of my life I have not allowed those circumstances to kill the person I am meant to be even though I have constantly been under attack. Resilience I mean I never knew the bounce back could happen so much. I’m proud to be on this journey plus I tap into many fields when it comes to what I do. I help folx through the art of makeup and understanding that make is just a tool to enhance the internal beauty that is within. I am me!!!!!

What were you like growing up?
I was called eeyore when I was younger, I was quite a downer at times. It’s hard to say I went through a lot growing up but I did my best at trying to see the positive side to things. I loved to write when I was younger some times really dark stuff but expressively. I also ran track and field. I did gymnastics. I read a lot. I just knew that my pain was not in vain and that my life’s journey has a purpose.

Contact Info:

Suggest a story: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in