Jayne Amelia interviews former foster youth, Venus Manuel, a shining example of how nurture does not always triumph over nature.
From an early childhood rampant with sexual and physical abuse followed by a string of nine foster care homes, the development of another disillusioned dysfunctional youth seemed tragically imminent. However, the strength, passion and individuality inherent in Venus provided her with the abilities to not only rise above her beginnings, but stand as a true pillar of society. After graduating from Palmdale High School in 1996, Venus was emancipated from foster care and rapidly found herself in a state of destitution. Quickly responding to her circumstances, she forged an opportunity with the US Air Force and served an eight-year commitment to her country as a combat photographer. Those eight years were incredibly fruitful. Venus Manuel accomplished what most people would not be able to do with twice the time. The main bulk of her energy was directed towards bettering the lives of transitional foster care youth. As a motivational speaker requested by organizations such as the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, Child Welfare League of America and America Works, Venus has raised over half a million dollars specifically for disenfranchised youth, and continues to fight for the welfare of foster care youth. At the same time, and carrying with her the platform “The Successful Transition of Foster Youth” at age 21, she began competing in and winning high profile beauty pageants. Her titles include Miss High Desert 2000, Miss Central California 2001, Miss Los Angeles County 2002, Miss Black California 2003, and Miss Black United States 2004. Venus has also won the Miss America Interview and Community Service Award, and was chosen as one of Glamour magazine’s “Top Ten College Women in America.” Venus has an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from Antelope Valley College and a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from California State University Dominguez Hills where she graduated in the top 10% of her class and was nominated by her peers as Outstanding Graduate. She has a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a Master’s degree in Counseling Education. She was also invited by the late director Penny Marshall and producer Kenadie Cobbin to be the opening act of their immensely popular Vagina Monologues at the Wilshire Ebell Theater. Venus is married with two children. After the birth of her son she took up pole dancing as a hobby that turned into a 12-year passion of movement exploration, performing, teaching (women, men, and LGBTQ) and competing all over the world in Vertical Theater. She is also an Independent Living Coordinator with the Los Angeles County Probation Department continuing her work with foster youth and says, “I will continue to champion this cause by being a voice for those too afraid to speak and for those who are not being heard.”
Venus Manuel - Pole Theatre USA 2017 Semi-Pro Pole Drama Champion
National Juvenile Justice Network
National Center Youth Law
CA Division of Juvenile Justice
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