Latoya Hawthorne, Founder, Mentor & Domestic Violence Counselor Advocate
Latoya Hawthorne, a native of Jamaica, moved to the United States with her family in 1993. Many know her as Latti; a nickname given to her by her mother as a child. She spent the rest of her childhood growing up in suburban Westchester County, N.Y. However, shortly after arriving in the United States, Hawthorne was diagnosed with severe arthritis and spent much of her early years on crutches. She eventually overcame adversity and learned to live with chronic pain, and taught herself to walk without assistance.
Hawthorne went on to study mass communication and advertising, and after years of building her confidence to an all-time high, she entered the dating scene. It wasn’t too long before she fell madly in love with a man she believed to be her soul mate-or so she thought.
Her former boyfriend wanted to take care of her, but under his rules: He wanted her to be a stay at home wife. However, Hawthorne, on the other hand, wanted to be a runway model. Although deep down, she knew she was created for a greater purpose, she eventually compromised to be accepted by the only person she believed loved her. After a few years of catering to his wishes, she decided she wanted more. But her former flame was none too pleased by her independent streak…
Hawthorne endured years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of a man she believed to be her “rock.” Brick by brick, the self-esteem she worked so hard to build began to crumble. She tried to run away from the pain, but fell into a downward spiral of drug abuse, leaving her hopeless and desperate for a way out.
Eventually Hawthorne escaped her troubles and followed her dreams, moving to California to pursue a career in the arts. She instantly began modeling and started shooting with some of Southern California’s finest fashion photographers. But it was when she began to explore the other side of the lens, working as an assistant photographer, that she found her passion for the craft. Her confidence and self-esteem returned with a vengeance, motivating her to push herself to the next level: creating A Walking Virtue.
A Walking Virtue is a non-profit organization that empowers young women to overcome abuse by using creative expression to better their lives. Hawthorne speaks on violence prevention in schools. She empowers young women to build healthy relationships with one another through the arts. By sharing her skills and experiences, she hopes to inspire young women as others have inspired her. Latoya has completed the 40-Hour Domestic Violence Training and is now an Advocate. Her leisure time is spent volunteering at shelters for women experiencing domestic violence. She still resides in California and is currently writing her memoir on overcoming domestic violence, low self-esteem and drug abuse.
Kerry-Ann Ellington, Co-Founder
Kerry-Ann Ellington is originally from the beautiful island of Jamaica. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communications. She currently resides in Southern CA with her husband, their 3 gorgeous boys, and their family dog.
“I have experienced the devastation domestic abuse can cause not only on the victim but for their families as well. When my sister experienced domestic abuse, I felt helpless and angry that I wasn’t able to do more for her. I know for some women, it has to take a switch in their mindset to get out for good. I’m so happy my sister’s mindset switched before it was too late. As Co-Founder of A Walking Virtue, our organization’s goal is to provide women who are victims of domestic abuse with support and resources to help them get over the abuse and back on their feet.”
While assisting with victims of domestic abuse, you can find Kerry-Ann tackling the joys of mommy hood while pursuing a career in the entertainment industry and giving her time to help others in need.
She is a Chapter Director & the “Books on Bases” Program Manager – Camp Pendleton, for Blue Star Families, an organization whose goal it is to support, connect and empower military families. You can also find some of her blog posts about military life at www.bluestarfam.org.
Along with her writing partner Jacqueline, you can also find her answering their fabulous readers’ questions from their website, “Ask the Milies.” “Ask the Milies” is a site created to help military spouses cope best with and learn more about their military community.
Kerry-Ann also lends a helping hand as a Family Readiness Assistant for her husband’s current unit, 7th ESB located on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
As a board member, she also gives her time to S.T.A.R. Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to provide a foundation of self-respect within girls and young adults through mentoring, educating and promoting the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, which incorporates HIV/AIDS & STD prevention.
In her spare time, Kerry-Ann loves doing fun activities with her family and friends. She enjoy cooking, baking, writing, reading, and a sinful obsession with board games.