Navy veteran and former pin-up model opens up about ‘trauma’ of living on the streets for two years after fleeing her abusive home at 16 – as she reveals how joining military saved her from life of drugs and sex trafficking predators

  • Janae Sergio, now 40, from California, was raised by a single mom who would ‘beat’ her so hard that she said she sometimes thought she was going to ‘die’
  • At age 16, after she was sexually assaulted, she was sent to a homeless shelter – which she described as ‘almost equally traumatizing and fearful’
  • She then began to live on the streets, where she faced ‘multiple attempts’ from men to ‘lure her into sex trafficking’ 
  • She was homeless for two full years before she decided to joined the military when she was 18, which ultimately saved her life 
  • Now, in a powerful interview with Fox News , the vet has opened up about how she overcame her abusive childhood and turned her life around
  • She went on to become a bestselling author, a model for Pin-Ups for Vets, and a successful businesswoman – with the help of the U.S. Navy

A Navy veteran and former pin-up model who lived on the streets for two years after escaping her abusive household at age 16 has revealed how joining the military saved her from homelessness.

Janae Sergio, now 40, from California, was raised by a single mom who would ‘beat’ her so hard that she said she sometimes thought she was going to ‘die’ if she didn’t stop.

At age 16, after she was sexually assaulted by one of her mother’s ‘various male companions,’ she was sent to a homeless shelter – which she described as ‘almost equally traumatizing and fearful.’

She then began to live on the streets, where she faced ‘multiple attempts’ from men to ‘lure her into sex trafficking.’

She was homeless for two full years before she decided to joined the military when she was 18, which ultimately saved her life.

Now, in a powerful interview with Fox News, the vet has opened up about how she overcame her abusive childhood and turned her life around – going on to become a bestselling author, a model for Pin-Ups for Vets, and a successful businesswoman – with the help of the U.S. Navy. 

A Navy veteran who lived on the streets for two years after escaping her abusive household at age 16 has revealed how joining the military saved her from homelessness


Janae Sergio, now 40, began to live on the streets when she was 16, where men tried to ‘lure her into sex trafficking.’ She was homeless for two years before she joined the military at 18

Now, in a powerful interview with Fox News, the vet has opened up about how she overcame her abusive childhood and turned her life around with the help of the U.S. Navy

In 2019, she was asked to model for Pin-Ups for Vets calendar as Miss April (pictured), which was a full circle moment for her

Janae told the outlet that she was ‘physically and verbally abused’ by her mom her whole childhood, but thought it was ‘normal’ until she started attending church at age 13 and saw ‘other people who had loving families.’

‘That’s when I started to speak up against the abuse I was enduring,’ she explained.

She also went on to become a bestselling author and a successful businesswoman

After speaking out, Jenae was then sent to live with her aunt, who was a veteran. But when her mom tried to take her back and brought the police with her – who insisted that she be returned to her mother since she was her legal guardian – her aunt told her to run.

‘I just remember being 14, running down a hill barefooted, running from the police, running from my mom, afraid of the consequences,’ she recalled.

‘It was very late at night. It was pitch black outside. I found a shopping center and hid behind one of those large potted plants. I stayed there shivering.’

However, the police eventually found her and she was ‘returned home,’ where she ‘endured more abuse.’  

As time went on, Janae said her mom became ‘more enraged in her beatings’ and that she sometimes thought she was going to ‘die’ if she didn’t stop. 

At age 16, Jenae said she was sexually assaulted by one of her mother’s partners. After she told her mom about it, she was dropped off at a homeless shelter in Hollywood because she said her mom ‘didn’t want to deal with the situation.’ 

Although the vet believes that leaving home helped ‘save her life,’ it wasn’t easy. Janae soon began living on the street, where she had to fend for herself and fight for her life.

‘I wanted to escape the abuse. I wanted to escape to a safe place. I wanted to be in a loving home,’ she said.

‘There were moments when I wished my mom would come back and get me because I loved her and I wanted her to love me. 

‘I hadn’t accepted the fact that she didn’t want me. There were several instances where I reached out to her and tried to get her to come get me… As a kid, you just want your mom.’

The author explained that she befriended other homeless people who ‘took her under their wing.’ She also met with counselors at various outreach programs who helped her survive. 

She recalled meeting one girl, who was her age and was heavily addicted to heroine. The teen told her to ‘stay away from drugs,’ and to do whatever she could to ‘get out of that life.’

‘I kept that at the forefront of my mind the entire time,’ she added.

Janae (seen in the Navy) joined the military in 2000, at age 18, after spending two years being homeless

She served for eight years of active duty. After leaving the military, she became the Chief of Air Force Lodging. She now manages a series of Air Force Inns

Janae – who is a proud wife and mom to two daughters – is happy to share her story in the hopes of helping others overcome their struggles

After a friend joined the Navy, she decided to meet with a recruiter who convinced her to give it a try – promising an opportunity to travel the world and stay by the ocean.

She recently released a book about her journey, entitled Perfectly Flawed – A Veteran’s Journey from Homeless to Hero

‘These were things that I had never envisioned for myself. I had never been on a plane before,’ she said.

‘I had nothing else going for me. So I was going to give this a try. There was nothing to lose here. And it was honestly one of the best decisions of my life.’

She joined the Navy in 2000, at age 18, after spending two years being homeless. She served for eight years of active duty.

After leaving the military, she became the Chief of Air Force Lodging. She now manages a series of Air Force Inns, and launched her own online clothing boutique. 

Janae – who is also a proud wife and mom to two daughters – is happy to share her story in the hopes of helping others overcome their struggles. 

She recently released a book about her journey, entitled Perfectly Flawed – A Veteran’s Journey from Homeless to Hero.

She told Fox: ‘We’re all going to go through hardships in our lives. In my book, I talk a lot about being your own hero.

‘And it’s not that others won’t help you. But they may not be capable of helping you. So you can’t sit around and wait for someone to come rescue you… 

‘You may never get out. You can be your own hero… I want to be an inspiration to others. I believe we heal through helping others. And I do believe you can change your own story.’

Janae also launched her own clothing boutique and was featured in Pin-Up for Vets 2020 calendar as Miss April


‘I joined the military as a homeless teenager. Here I was coming back as a model getting my hair done, my makeup done, just feeling valued and admired,’ she said of the shoot

She added: ‘I remember feeling so helpless [when I was homeless]. Like I was nobody. Here I was, walking on those same streets now as an accomplished woman, here for this photoshoot’

In 2019, she was asked to model for Pin-Ups for Vets calendar as Miss April, which was an important moment for her. 

‘I joined the military as a homeless teenager,’ she shared. ‘Here I was coming back as a model getting my hair done, my makeup done, just feeling valued and admired.

‘It was almost an out-of-body experience… I remember feeling so helpless [when I was homeless]. Like I was nobody. 

‘Here I was, walking on those same streets now as an accomplished woman, here for this photoshoot. I just felt like I made it somehow.’

The nonprofit organization Pin-Ups for Vets was started in 2006 by Gina Elis, and each year it releases a calendar featuring veterans as models. Since its launch, it has donated over $100,000 to hospitals housing deployed troops. 

Janae said that when she first saw the photos she took for the calendar, it took her breath away.

‘When I saw my photos for the first time, I thought, “Who is she? She’s so pretty,” she gushed.

‘I was so grateful for the opportunity because the foundation provides a helping hand to those in need. 

‘But what Gina does for every woman in that calendar is inexplicable. You feel empowered to tell your story. I’m forever grateful for her.’

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