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Jaslene Gonzalez comes from a model home

Jaslene Gonzalez's Journeys

Jaslene Gonzalez's Journeys

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Updated: July 8, 2012 8:16AM

After winning “America’s Next Top Model,” I began living the exciting life I had always dreamed about. I moved to New York, was signed by a reputable agency and started booking covers and campaigns. I’ve even been featured on four billboards in Times Square! Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, international travel became a big part of my career.

I started jetting off to Asia, Honduras, Mexico or, most recently, India, for months at a time. My travels were rewarding, exciting and eye-opening, but I needed a home base. To me, there was only one choice: my family house in Bolingbrook. Yes, I’m a 25-year-old well-known model who still lives at home with her parents.

Instead of five to 10 fellow models — the usual number of tenants in a models’ apartment — my current roommates are my parents; my 24-year-old brother, Javier; my 12-year-old brother, Steven; my 6-year-old sister, Amaris, and my Yorkie, Twix. We might be a big family, but we rarely have conflict, unlike every models’ apartment I’ve lived in, which quickly becomes a battleground!

Some of the apartments I’ve lived in have involved sharing bathrooms and bunk beds and fighting for the right to sleep. But at my parents’ five-bedroom house, I sleep like a baby in what I call my marshmallow bed. My mattress is so soft and big that I don’t even need pillows.

I spend 80 percent of my life on the road, and most of that time has been a blessing, giving me a new perspective on beauty, fashion, culture and my own life. But I’ve also seen poverty, human trafficking and drug abuse. While some of those experiences have been tough, I’m grateful for them because they taught me to appreciate my home and family. 

When I’m home, I try to take it easy, heading to my grandma’s house to eat her famous steak and onions with white rice and cabbage salad (it’s delicious!) and lying around, watching TV and laughing with my family on our huge sectional sofa. I also head to Humboldt Park to support the Puerto Rican community with my wise Latina friends, stop by DMK for a veggie burger and fried pickles, and dance the night away with my brother at Y Bar.

Living at home with my family is a choice. I want to be the tickle monster for my little brother and sister. I want to laugh so hard at my dad’s jokes that I’m almost crying. I want to enjoy the beautiful home my mom, an interior decorator, has created. I spend so much of my life on the road, and I often feel so far away from everyone I love. All I want when I come home is my family. My home is truly where my heart is.

Jaslene Gonzalez donated her $1,000 fee for writing this piece to Women in Need Growing Stronger,

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