One’s life can go downhill in an instant, despite a college education, their creative talents, a new job...or all three. The true measure of a person is their fortitude, tenacity and willingness to do what they must to climb back. Pathlight HOME is proud to be one of the “musts” in Misty’s ascent.
Misty was born in Jacksonville to a military father and a mother who left when she was only two years old. Close to her dad, she credits his leatherworking talents and involvement with cowboy and pirate reenactments for her skills in costuming. That vocation has won her work at major theme parks, drag queen shows, clubs, festivals and more throughout the years.
Her mother reappeared when she was six, only to “take me back to Oklahoma and dump me on my grandmother.” Not happy, Misty stuck to her sewing machine, improved her skills by making outfits for the dog and cat, and taught herself how to make patterns through her “math brain and geometry.” Free spirit that she was, at just 14 she ran away to New Orleans “with a drag queen to make headdresses.”
“That’s where my worlds collided,” she explains. “I had a skill. Otherwise, I probably would have been like the other girls on the street. My first six years (with her dad) gave me the foundation.”
Along her life journey, Misty earned a GED as well as a college degree in Sociology, and had four children. She left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, returned home to Jacksonville and continued to make costumes for drag queens. “It was meant to be,” she says, though she lived paycheck to paycheck for nine years. When she got an opportunity in 2014 to create costumes for an Orlando theme park, she accepted, arranged for roommates in Orlando and readied her teenage daughter for the move.
Then, the worst happened. The roommate situation fell through, a job orientation was upon her, and she had just $300. Leaving her daughter in Jacksonville, Misty started the job, slept in her car in a police department lot, and looked for a shelter in which to stay until she got paid. She also grabbed her sewing machine and pounded the drag clubs for side work. Though she located a shelter and paid the fees, it was quite far from the job. Working late into night with changing shifts, she stayed in her car most nights instead of spending gas money to go across town.
Earning just $8.03 per hour, Misty researched affordable housing options. She found Maxwell Garden Apartments and, when she got paid, reclaimed her daughter and moved in. The part-time job eventually became full-time; she budgeted scrupulously and made ends meet by sewing costumes for drag clubs.
In 2017, with her daughter in college and her costume job reduced to seasonal, Misty began working for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) as an Economic Self-Sufficiency Specialist. She notes the irony in this job, where she now helps others. “It’s ironic, as I know firsthand…”
Misty was recently promoted to a DCF position in Jacksonville. As she readied to leave her Maxwell Garden unit last week, after almost five years, she mused about what could have happened without the community’s support of our affordable housing, “I would have still been in my car. [When I came], there was no guarantee of more than 24 hours of work per week. I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.”
Not yet at her zenith, Misty’s dream is to buy a houseboat; travel to pirate, Renaissance and Scottish festivals all over the country; and visit national historic and cultural sites. She has established a “houseboat fund” and established an eight year strategy for retirement. “Being retired, setting up costume booths and sailing off to the next place… That’s my plan!”
With the tenacity, budgeting skills, work ethic, and creativity we’ve seen, Pathlight HOME has no doubt she’ll succeed!