Labor of Love: Jennuine, Genuinely Fearless
mamabare.co has had the incredible fortune of connecting with some powerhouse mamas, women like you and me who are busy busting away at parenting and life! Recently, Brandon Stanton, writer and photographer behind iconic photo exposé Humans of New York, featured Jennuine, a singing busker from the Bronx. Struck by her desire to daringly pursue passion and parenting, we chatted with the young singer about her hopes for connecting people through music – and her most important role – motherhood.
Thanks, Jennuine, for being so authentic and for lighting fires with your words! Welcome!
Humans of New York Profile
As she tells it, the Humans of NY writer/photographer noticed Jennuine performing on a subway platform last Thanksgiving. She wanted to sing and share some love with people feeling particularly lonely on a holiday. An avid follower of Brandon’s site and a fan of journalism in general, she describes their encounter as “a manifested dream.”
On January 2, 2019, the 23-year-old’s portrait and quote gained a coveted spot on Humans of NY and, just like that, her life seemed to change overnight. After chatting with the passionate artist and mother, we think she’s been unknowingly gearing up for this moment her entire life.
Inspiration & Motivation
Jennuine met Mr. Williams, who ran a “karaoke-style” choir class at her high school, when she was 16. Not believing she had vocal chops, she was incredibly motivated by her teacher’s passion and interest in giving his students artistic freedom. “He believed in me before I believed in myself,” she says. Jennuine kept in touch with Mr. Williams once she left high school, working for him on various projects, among others his actual karaoke business, Lion’s Roar Karaoke Lounge.
Jennuine went on to start beauty school, landed a good job, and was making good money when she found out she was pregnant at 19. Her pregnancy was anything but easy. Suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition during pregnancy resulting in excessive vomiting, nausea, weight loss, and critical dehydration, Jennuine ended up needing to stay mostly indoors, in the dark, for 3 straight months. She would venture out every few days, only for required hospital visits. During that time, she was unable to listen to music and wore sunglasses even inside, anything else leading to aggravated medical conditions.
The pregnant mama lost significant weight and barely had muscle covering her fractured ribs. Jennuine expresses immense gratitude towards her daughter throughout those early days:
“She wouldn’t move until I gave her permission. She showed me so much care and empathy, even before being born! She has inspired me just by being inside of me.”
Becoming a Mom
After months of illness and discomfort, Jennuine’s sweet baby girl was born, weighing in at 9 pounds 5 ounces, a challenging birth for the 5’2” mother.
“Becoming a mom made me want to be a fearless example for my child.”
Funny and Fearless at 3
Now, Jennuine’s daughter is a funny, fearless 3-year-old whose favorite word is “no.” Known for always being on the front line, a “warrior” (as her mom describes it), the toddler is whip-smart, active, and athletic. Jennuine laughed when asked what her daring daughter would like to be when she grows up, saying, “If she were here, she’d tell you herself.”
Jennuine boldly put herself in ballet classes when she was only 7 without her parents’ permission and successfully went on to tour in dance from 9-13 years old. Her daughter, naturally, wants to follow in those graceful footsteps to become a ballerina herself.
Despite incredible support from her own family and her daughter’s father, Jennuine shares, “Momming is hard. You have to check yourself all the time. I’m still growing myself. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Connecting and Motivating Others
Most recently, pre-Humans of NY fame, Jennuine had been working at an after-school program, inspired by former teachers such as Mr. Williams who taught kids to creatively explore their passions. Known for offering her students a platform for being themselves, the young mom developed strong relationships, bringing customized snacks for each kid in her group every Friday and challenging older students to rap battle her through writing. Aware that her motivation to sing had come from the freedom she had been offered to openly express herself and learn without boundaries, Jennuine tried to provide this to her students as well. She aspired to offer a creative setting, motivating kids to want to learn.
She was proud when her little after-school group grew from three students to 25 in just one month.
“Through patience and humor, you can motivate kids and those around you.”
One of her fondest memories at her neighborhood’s after-school center is of a student who had never spoken a word out loud in front of anyone besides his family members. Instead, he relied on his siblings to engage on his behalf. Jennuine didn’t treat this child any differently from other students, respectfully asking him questions even without receiving answers and connecting with his siblings in a meaningful way. She felt she empowered this young boy. On her last day of work at the program, he spoke to her for the first time, with a quiet “Thank you.”
Being the Example
Struck by the fact that she was telling her students to live fearlessly and follow their dream, all while not yet doing that herself, Jennuine left her job with one goal in mind: “I’m going to go out and BE the example.”
Jennuine didn’t start singing in public until last year. She was deeply inspired to do so by a talented busker she heard performing one early morning. “His spirit moved me back into that [creative] realm. I needed to feel it again.”
Inspiring and Igniting Others
She approached Mr. Williams for support. He gave her a microphone, an amp, and sent her on her way, encouragingly adding, “Tell me how it goes!”
“I had never really heard myself sing like that before.” She started singing at 125th Street on Harlem’s East Side and now sings often enough to support herself and her young daughter.
“I go out when I feel something and I need other people to feel something too. I’m here to inspire and ignite others. I’m here to clear myself.” She never really knows her effect on commuters, as everyone’s often rushing for the next shuttle train or bustling to early morning meetings. But people now expect to see her and hear her sing, a staple of their commute. Comments from daily travelers, like “You made me realize something I never knew I needed,” inspire her to keep showing up.
“It is humbling to affect people as they’re working through their own life.”
"My Labor of Love"
Jennuine aspires to connect people from different parts of the world through her singing, so we all feel a little less alone. She’s also challenged and inspired daily by her journey through motherhood:
“My labor of love is to be a fearless example for my daughter.”