Meet Joy Luminieé
Let's begin with your age and where you were born.
I'm seventeen, going on eighteen in November. I was born at Queen's hospital here in Queens, New York.
Do you have any nicknames? If so, who calls you by them?
My mom's best friend calls me Freckles. My mom calls me Jubilee when she's in a good mood. My dad used to call me dearheart. And a bully at school named Trina calls me Troll because I used to have really frizzy hair.
What kind of distinguishing facial features do you have?
I have freckles and a cluster of freckles on my chin that makes a star shape.
Do you have any physical traits that stand out (such as scars, birthmarks, tattoos, etc.)? If you have scars, how did you get them? If you have tattoos, why did you get them and what meaning do they have to you?
I have cuts from when I used to cut myself on my stomach. No one knows that I have them. I love art, but I don't want to get tattoos or piercings.
Do you work? If so, what do you do?
I cook and clean for my old neighbor every other week. I basically do everything that he can't, including food shopping. But I need something more if I'm ever going to save enough money to get out of this town.
Do you have a motto? If so, what is it?
My motto is to worry about myself and take care of the ones I love for as long as I have them. That's how I've had to live for so long. I don't know any other way.
Do you have any annoying habits, quirks, strange mannerisms, or other defining characteristics?
I roll the tip of my tongue along the gap between my two front teeth when I'm thinking really hard.
Who are your parents and where are they from?
My mom's name is Faith Luminieé. She was born in South Jersey. She was the first of her siblings born here in the US. Her parents and two older sisters were born in Brazil.
My father's name is Samuel Luminieé.
He was an artist, born and raised in Barbados. He moved here when he was eight. After his parents died when he was 12, he moved in with his aunt Margot in Brooklyn.
What are your parents like? What is their occupation?
My mom has changed a lot. She used to be fun and sweet to me. "We're all we've got," she used to say. Mom used to be all about our family. She's always been smart, but after my dad fractured her skull and beat her down too many times, I haven't seen that smart, sweet, and fun side of her in a while. Now, she has mental relapses when she doesn't sleep well and when she's stressed. These days, I feel like I can't ever do anything right to please her, so I quit trying.
For work, my mom used to be a cosmetologist. That was before I was born, though. The chemicals she worked with started to make her hands and arms break out, so she had to quit. Now, she's an ultrasound technician.
My dad has bipolar with mixed features. He turned to meth to make him feel better. But when he used, he became abusive and dangerous to live with. It's been four years since I last saw or spoke to him. I try not to think about what he used to be like. It just hurts to remember what I lost.
Dad was…amazing. He stayed home with me during the day while Mom worked before I started school. He taught me how to draw and paint. And I used to be his muse. He'd paint and photograph me eating lunch and making a mess with my food or dress me up for photoshoots before naptime. He used to take me to dance classes and brag on me to the other parents. He was everything anyone could've ever wanted in a father until he became the worst. I don't have a clue who my dad is anymore, so...
After he met my mom, he gave up fighting for money and running the streets with sketchy people, and took on factory work, art commissions, and creative projects around the city. He and my mom are still crazy about each other, even though they're not together. It's my job to keep Mom safe from him. After graduation, though, I'll be done being the barrier between them. I can't wait to quit babysitting my mother and start living my own life.
Where do you live now, and with whom? Describe the place (home and location) and the person/people you live with.
Mom and I just moved from this horrible place called The Glen. They're just old, run-down projects, where drug dealers live and work out front. Every time something broke down or needed repairs, it stayed broke, no matter how many complaints we made. There were only two good things about that place. It was really close to my school for me to walk, and there was plenty of grass to walk my dog, Storm. But...since she was killed, that last one doesn't matter anymore. Now, we're staying with my mom's best friend, Selena, in a nicer part of Queens. That means I have to wake up earlier to catch the bus, and from there, it's a twenty-minute ride with stops to get to school.
How much schooling have you had?
I go to a vocational school for culinary arts. I have one more year till graduation.
Do you enjoy school? If not, why do you struggle?
School is school, as long as I can avoid being noticed. Middle School was miserable. High school was supposed to be a clean slate, but clearly, I can't escape the bullies forever.
Where did you learn most of your skills and other abilities?
My dad taught me the basics of drawing and painting. I learned to cook from anyone who wanted to teach me, and especially YouTube. I learned ballroom dancing from Mrs. Lansing in dance class when I was 5 years old until 11.
Do you have any role models? If so, describe them and why they are your role models.
My only real-life role model is Selena, my mom's best friend. She's got a simple life with one or two overseas adventures a year. The only drama she has is the baggage we bring with us when she puts us up long enough to get on our feet again.
How did you get along with the other members of your family?
I used to get along great with all of my family, the ones I knew anyway. I've never met my cousins on my mom's side, or the family that we still have in Brazil, or my mom's sisters because of some secret rift between them. Dad only has a cousin who lives in Brooklyn with his wife. I used to spend summers with them. So, they're more like an aunt and uncle to me than second cousins.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I'd love to make artisanal chocolates for a living. I also wouldn't mind working in catering or at a resort in some paradise far from here.
What are your favorite activities?
Eating good food and sweets and hanging out with people that make me laugh. (There aren't that many.)
Who were your friends, and what were they like?
Elijah was my best friend up until I had to quit dancing. He was more like a brother to me. We would get on each other's nerves non-stop, but we depended on one another...until he broke my heart.
Tell me about your friends.
I haven't got many friends. Do my mom's friends count? Honestly, the only person my own age that I count as a friend these days is Giovanni Vitali. We go to school together. We're still getting to know one another, but I've got a feeling we're gonna be friends for years to come. He doesn't judge me or make me feel like a charity case, and he really cares about me.
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far, why?
My greatest achievement, aside from my dancing when I was younger, has been the obstacles I've had to overcome with the help of my emotional support dog, Storm. Without her, I would never have gotten out of the suicidal depression I used to be stuck in. I don't think I'll ever get over losing her.
What is the evilest thing you have ever done so far?
I saved my mom from my dad by knocking him unconscious. I still resent her for putting us both in that situation. But she could never stay away from him.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you so far?
The most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me has to be when my dad showed up to school high on meth and hurt me in front of everyone. He's one of the reasons I got bullied in the first place.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I think I'm both. It depends on the situation. If I'm struggling emotionally, it's easy for me to get very pessimistic about everything that's going on. The only thing that keeps me going is trying to change the outcome to something positive. I don't want to be a complainer and not look for a solution to my problems.
What is your greatest fear? Which other person knows about this fear of yours?
My greatest fear is water. I can't swim. When I was nine, I almost drowned trying to learn. And I'm terrified of losing everyone that I love. The only person who knows about both of these fears is Giovanni Vitali. My family and Selena know about my aquaphobia.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My greatest extravagance is always food-related. I live for comfort food and for sweets and chocolate.
What are your religious views?
I believe in God. I believe he's the reason I'm still alive and that he's training me every day to be a stronger person.
In your opinion, what is the evilest thing any human being could do?
Hurt others for selfish pleasure.
What do you measure success in? (Money, career, marriage, children, happiness, etc.)
Inner peace and all of my emotional, physical, and spiritual needs and my family's being met.
How honest are you about your thoughts and feelings in the company of others?
I'm an open book. As long as my thoughts and feelings are appreciated and not trivialized.
Do you have any prejudices? If so, what are they and why do you have those specific prejudices?
I'm prejudiced against superficiality and greed and fakeness and stupidity.
Who or what would you die for, or otherwise go to extremes for?
I would risk it all to keep those I love safe.
On what occasions do you lie?
I lie every day. Every time someone asks me if I'm okay, I lie. Don't we all? If I know someone wants to stop me from doing something, I'll lie and tell them I'm doing something else just to get them off my back.
Do you hope to start a family of your own one day? Why or why not?
Never! The whole idea of being a mom terrifies me. I'd be too afraid of screwing up a kid worse than my parents have already done to me. No kid deserves that. I mean. I might like to get married one day. Then again, the idea of trusting someone that much, to not worry about them getting bored with me or regret choosing me...I don't know if relationships are right for me either.
Who is the person you respect the most, why?
My new friend Giovanni and his mom, Mrs. Vitali. They are the sweetest, most loving people I've ever met. I could bask in their good energy all day, every day.
Want to learn more about Joy? Ask in the comments box below.