We had the good fortune of connecting with Janelle Hamilton and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Janelle, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk taking has played a major part in my life this past year. I grew up in Cleveland, OH and went to college to pursue a fashion career. I knew for a while that I wanted to move to LA so after graduating in May 2018 I told myself that I would move by the end of summer. End of summer turned into end of the year. I started turning to family and friends for advice and expressing my desires and goals. So many people told me that California is too expensive…. I need to save more or I need to look into other places to go because I’ll end up just moving back home. I let their fears get into my head and at some point let the thought go. I felt like maybe they were right. There’s no way I’d make it in LA without an exact plan or 10k saved. Working in Cleveland to save 10k felt impossible. I bounced around from job to job trying to find something that would allow me to save a sufficient amount, pay bills, and still have money to live. I never made more than about $12 an hour. If you do the math you’ll know that working full time at that amount is barely $800 every two weeks. I couldn’t wait that long to save 10k.

It wasn’t until November of 2019 that I knew for a fact that I had to make the move. I visited for 4 days with some friends and something in my spirit told me that this is exactly where I needed to be for my career. Fast forward to 2020 and I again set goals for when I’d move. First it was May of 2020 but then Covid hit, putting a halt to those plans. I used the majority of 2020 to try to gather whatever funds I could. I told myself that NO MATTER WHAT. By the end of the year I WILL be leaving Ohio. I was more than willing to take the risk for my life and career. Aside from obtaining my degree in Fashion my goal is to pursue a career in modeling, and dance. For the past 3 years I felt stagnant being in Cleveland. I couldn’t be AS creative as I wanted to be. I had to make a move. I couldn’t let my fear and other’s fear get in the way of the success that I saw for myself. I started taking extra steps such as applying for jobs, and looking for apartments. Fast forward closer to December I still hadn’t found a job but I told myself that I still wasn’t going to let that stop me. In my mind I felt like if I didn’t go now, I would never leave. I would keep finding reasons not to go.

I finally made the move to LA in January 2021 with no job and about $600 in my bank account. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the months ahead but I didn’t dwell on it too much. I stayed strong on faith because I knew that I would figure out a way to survive regardless. One of many things I’ve realized so far is that LA will really force you to think outside of the box on how to survive. It forces me to think beyond what I’m used to in Cleveland. Honestly it has been the hardest 6 months of my life but I have no regrets. I wake up grateful everyday to be where I am because a year ago I was only dreaming of being here and now I’m actually living it. When times get hard or unsure I just keep reminding myself how blessed I am and how far I’ve come and somehow things always work out. I just have to be patient and trust the process as cliché as it is.
All in all, taking the risk to come out here with no job and no money is by far my proudest accomplishment despite the pressures I felt because I know that In the future when I really make it, I’ll look back on these moments and see where I first started and how far I made it.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Dance and modeling are my two forms of art. Coming from a Caribbean background dance has always been apart of my life in some aspect but it wasn’t until college when I started pursuing it. I Joined an afrobeats/Caribbean dance team my freshman year at Kent State University. My love for dance grew during those four years. Each year I, along with my team improved and developed as dancers individually and as a unit. I always knew how to dance but being apart of a team and challenging myself to create choreography for myself as well as a group of people really helped me to learn and develop along the way. I realized after graduating that I didn’t want my journey to end. I could see myself dancing on stage or in music videos for major dancehall or afrobeats artists.

As far as modeling, for as long as I can remember I’ve always been told that I should try modeling. I never really had much interest mainly because I was always shy growing up and in high school. I didn’t really have as much confidence in myself as people had in me. Back in 2019 there was a photographer that I followed on IG named Tosin (@tosin.p) and I was so drawn to his work. I knew that I really wanted to work with him but I couldn’t really afford to pay him either! One day I saw that he was doing a special and I contemplated for a while it should take a chance but something kept telling me to just go for it. It was such a fun experience and he was so great to work with. For my first time modeling I got a lot of great feedback. That photo shoot marked the beginning of my modeling career. That day I met another photographer whom I ended up working with a couple weeks later. From there I just started working with locals in my area who’d reach out to shoot. I was really proud of myself and this is another story of risk! I was nervous because I’d never been in front of camera like that and also almost let lack of funds get in the way but I just knocked all those thoughts aside. I put my pride aside and asked to borrow money to help pay for that shoot knowing that it would probably pay off in the end. I’ve learned that life really is all about risks. We really have to take them if we want to elevate further than where we are. I think fear is one of the biggest things that sets us back in life. It’s all easier said than done honestly but you really just have to sit down and give yourself pep talks. I literally do it everyday lol. I envision my life and what I want to accomplish and try to ignore any negative thoughts. I definitely don’t have it all together honestly and probably have more days of negative thoughts and doubts than positive ones, but I’m improving each day and that’s the important thing.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Honestly I’ve been in LA for 6 months and still haven’t really explored many places! Ive been to the beach of course, went hiking at Runyon Canyon a few times. But I’d be the worst person to get an itinerary from because I need one myself. Understanding that I moved here during a pandemic when things were shut down, it isn’t too surprising but I would like to get out more. And for the love of God find some good food because it has been a STRUGGLE trying to find good food with flavor out here lol! Whoever sees this I hope can give me a list of places to go and good places to eat 😉

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are a few people that have really encouraged me along this journey. Firstly my dear friends Janine and Charlie. They’ve been there every single step of the way through my tears and worries and are always there to uplift me and remind me that I’m doing the right thing. My additional support system Krystal, Marquita, and Imani who have also been encouraging and supportive of my journey. We have weekly Group FaceTime calls every week that we call “Happy Hour” which started at the beginning of Covid since we were all on lockdown. Being able to talk to them every week to catch up and laugh and just forget about all of the worries has been a great help. Last but not least, I have to especially thank my husband Tyrell. I really don’t know how I would be surviving here without him. Despite our long distance he has been nothing short of supportive and wanting the best for me. Having him by my side (virtually) everyday has brought me so much peace and security. Words can’t even express the joy I feel having him there to encourage me everyday to keep being strong and keep moving forward. I’m extremely blessed to have these people in my life!

Instagram: @nellebae

Linkedin: Janelle Hamilton

Facebook: Janelle Akiya

Image Credits
@pejamane @mjay_photo @whatsupimjustin @danicacarver @peck.jpg @eslanoc @sbsstudiosla

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