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MTV Paints a Picture of Teen Homelessness With Inocente

By Tanisha Love Ramirez

MTV, the network that has the been the voice of generations of young people, their culture, and their struggles is gearing up to add another, often unheard voice to their documentary lineup: the voice of a homeless immigrant teen artist, named Inocente.

Inocente, the subject of a MTV documentary, explains that she likes to paint on things and asks “So, why not on my face?”

The documentary, Inocente, is told entirely in Inocente’s words, following her as she prepares for her first art show, while simultaneously struggling with the difficult decision of emancipating herself from her mother in order to go out on her own or stay under her mother’s care, an option that she finds to be intolerable.

Throughout the documentary we learn that Inocente is courageous, talented, funny and perfectly flawed. In the film, the brightly painted Inocente states, “Just because I’m homeless, doesn’t mean I don’t have a life, because I do have a life. I’m a girl who likes to jump in puddles, and likes flowers”.

The documentary takes us through some of the day-to-day conquests and perils of her life, and in effect, gives us one of the first glimpses into the lives of homeless youth in the United States.

Inocente is both a lot like, and very different from, many young people in the United States today. Inocente spent nine years living in homelessness, after her father was deported for domestic abuse. In a country where the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 50,000 teens sleep on the streets every night, Inocente’s story is far from unique, though it is rarely publicly shared.

In the documentary, she is shown painting a piece that she calls “The Lost Planet.” “The Lost Planet,” she says, represents a place that she imagines that all of her lost dreams go to reside. However, despite her bleak circumstances Inocente continues to dream. She says , “I have a lot of impossible dreams, but I still dream them”. Amongst her dreams, a home of her own, an art show and the freedom to keep creating her art.

Inocente has participated in a series of free screenings of her film hosted by Rooftop Films, culminating with their last screening of the film in the Bronx on August 7th. The film screenings have been accompanied with art workshops for children between the ages of 6-20.

At the end of the last film screening, swarms of children and parents lined up for the opportunity to speak to Inocente. Viewers praised Inocente for her determination, thanked her for sharing her story and asked her about how she’s remained so strong. Her answer: “Every day motivates me. Every day is a new start.”

Today Inocente is an eighteen-year-old young woman, who has begun to retrieve her dreams from the lost planet. She has displayed her work in a New York City art show, supports herself with the money made from her art sales, and rents her own studio apartment in San Diego.

Her artwork, she says, is cleaner, neater, and evolving, just like her. These days Inocente dreams about making more art, going to college, and taking care of the new addition to her life and family, her rabbit, Luna.

Inocente will premier on MTV on August 17th, at 10PM EST. For more information about Inocente’s artwork, or to order prints, visit Arts: A Reason to Survive

Tanisha Love Ramirez is a New York City writer and creator of the smart, witty and fun bi-cultural Latina blog, It is Tanisha’s mission to rewrite pop culture and social commentary from the sharp, sassy point of view of today’s bi-cultural urban Latina! You can follow Tanisha and her Chicas on Twitter @TanishaLove, or like Chica and the City on Facebook.

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