Young artist Inocente, 15, has been through a lot: domestic abuse (which caused her dad to be deported back to Mexico), family issues and homelessness, plus the ongoing threat of deportation. But that hasn't stopped her from creating bright, imaginative works of art. Her story is chronicled in the new Shine Global documentary Inocente, which will premiere on MTV at 10 pm EST.
The documentary, narrated and told entirely through Inocente's own words, has already won "Best Documentary Short" at the 2012 San Antonio Film Festival. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are 1.7 million homeless youth under the age of 18 in the United States. MTV is hoping that the film sheds light on the issues of immigration and homelessness.
We chatted with the young star to get her take on the documentary and what's up next. Check out the interview below:
What's the biggest misconception about being homeless?
"People think that it's mostly guys. When they think about (homeless) women it's a single woman in the streets. But that's not true. It's families, it's kids. It's not just in the streets, but in one-bedroom apartments, with kids sleeping on the living room floor, not knowing where they're sleeping next. It's not what people really think -- it's harder to imagine."
Why did you decide to do this documentary? What do you want to show?
"Well, the documentary, for me, it's just my life. it's about time put a face to (homelessness). I said yes so it could show what it really is like. Hopefully it inspires. I want people to see the reality."
You state in the documentary that students would make fun of you if they found out you are homeless – why do you think that? What's been happening now that more people are finding out?
"I thought that because the school is full of richer kids. But I really don't know if that's (the case) because I moved from that school and I'm not in touch with any kids from there. I went to a charter school for awhile and got my GED."
How has being undocumented impacted your chance at escaping homelessness?
"(Being undocumented) was always an issue for my mom. She couldn't get a job, and she was afraid ofbeing deported. When I was younger, I didn't realize what it all meant. Then later, I started understanding what it meant through the news and everyone talking about it. It's much harder to (work) when you're not documented, and it's much harder to (escape) homelessness. Now, I have a visa and I'm here legally. I got it almost two years ago."
Your dad was deported back to Mexico -- how did that make you feel?
"I was fairly young so I was take notice, I mean he wasn't the nicest person, so it didn't make me feel anything about (immigration). My mom didn't talk about it, I sort of found out through little things."
What's your relationship like with your mom now?
"In the documentary we have really rough relationship, but it's gotten better now since we dont live together. We have that space. We live five blocks from each other, so I can see her a lot."
Where does the inspiration come from for your art?
"I like to see kids artwork. I like the idea of when you're young, and you make a mistake, it's fine. You roll with it. So children are my inspiration, both for making (art) and how I create."
You said you have "so many dreams" – what’s the newest one?
"I want to join the circus, do trapeze. I've done it once, but it wasn't as hard as I thought. But that probably won't happen for a few more years. Right now, I'm adopting an (albino) bunny. I've named it Luna."
What's next for you?
"Right now, we're just going around with the documentary. But yeah, joining the circus is what I want to do. I also hope to go to college to learn sign language."
Why sign language?
"I went to a concert and it was interesting to see this interpreter signing the songs, that people... they couldnt hear but they could still enjoy the music. I just think it's another form of art."
Watch the trailer below and be sure to check out Inocente on MTV, Friday August 17 at 10 pm EST.