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Jewish Journal

A Conversation with Jennifer Gimenez

by Ilana Angel

January 29, 2012 | 6:17 pm

Jennifer Gimenez

I can remember seeing pictures of Jennifer Gimenez years ago when she was modeling and thinking she was beautiful. I didn’t know anything about her, but I felt a connection.  In some of her early pictures she looked so much like my mom when she was young, that I just loved her.

I knew her name, and if I came across a picture of her in a magazine I would always stop to take a good look.  I actually cut out a couple pictures over the years and sent them to my mother because the resemblance was so strong. I didn’t know Jennifer, but I knew I liked her.

I was surprised when Jennifer showed up on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. She was sober and working in the treatment facility.  I can remember watching those episodes and feeling so happy that she was okay, but feeling bad that I had not keep better tabs on her.

I’m not a fan letter writing kind of person, but I would have kept her in my prayers had I know she was struggling to find her way.  Once I reconnected with this girl who I had always thought was so beautiful, I kept her in my prayers.  There is something lovely about Jennifer.

While watching the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, there was a scene with Brandi Glanville and her friend Jennifer.  I decided I would ask Brandi for an introduction since I had interviewed her. Brandi and I hit it off, I mentioned Jennifer to her, and Ms. Gimenez called me the next day.

Jennifer and I spoke for a very long time.  We talked about our mothers, faith, hope, God and friendship.  We actually talked about everything under the sun and I could have talked to her for hours.  I had a picture of her in my head for years so our talk felt oddly intimate.

Jennifer speaks openly about herself and answers questions with thought.  She would occasionally repeat my question back, as if to organize her thoughts and answer with care.  She is happy, and very aware of how truly lucky she is to not only be alive, but to be living.

Jennifer just marked her 6th year of sobriety.  She credits her mom and Brandi Glanville for getting her into treatment and is not shy about talking about how dark her life was.  If there was ever a person who should write a memoir of her life, if is Jennifer Gimenez.

Jennifer shared amazing stories about the day her mother and Brandi took her life into their hands, and another about an experience she had on a trip in Hawaii, and those stories need to be told.  I’ve decided however they are not my stories to tell.  Jennifer has a lot of stories.

I started to recount her trip to Hawaii and I suddenly felt like my notes were inadequate.  She spoke from a place of great reflection when we talked and I want you all to have the opportunity to hear about the amazing journey this woman has been through, directly from her.

Jennifer has been to hell and back.  I have no experience with addiction, but I know it is dark.  Jennifer had gone from being a supermodel to being in a psych ward, taking rat poison, and trying to end her own life.  Drugs were king and nothing else mattered.

Sobriety was a hard fight for Jennifer.  Not only was she fighting the drugs, but she had a broken spirit and it’s hard for any human being to rise up when their self worth is so shattered.  It’s hard to imagine that the woman I was speaking to had ever been so low.

Jennifer had her first drink at 13, and by 14 was traveling around the world as a model.  By 16 she was a star and by 18 she had appeared on countless covers.  At 18 she used cocaine for the first time.  She can’t remember getting high feeling good as much as making her feel big.

She felt invincible when she was using and that is a hard thing to walk away from.  She was hugely successful, seeing the world, and yet she somehow felt inadequate.  Addiction is a powerful thing and does not care who you are. It will take you and fight hard to never let you go.

Jennifer has an interesting view on life.  She told me that she is the same person now as she was when she was using, only sober.  It’s an interesting statement and one I have seen for myself.  Jennifer was decent and kind before she was an addict, and so she still is.

If you were not a decent human being before you starting using, sobriety only makes you sober, not automatically decent and kind.  Jennifer views her life as a miracle.  She does not need to wait for miracles to happen because she is living a miracle with every breath.

I asked Jennifer how she celebrates now that she is sober and she said being quiet is a celebration.  She can take a deep breath and be quiet without demons telling her to use, or that she is unworthy.  She has found peace, yet knows sobriety is work.

Jennifer has faith and has come to terms with her spirituality.  She relies on faith to get her through and it’s not just about faith in God, or leaning on religion.  Having faith in herself allows her to have faith in something bigger than herself. She is at peace with God and her past.

In terms of a relationship, she says she is currently dating herself, which I loved.  She is enjoying time alone, and is now able to tell the difference between needing a man in her life, and wanting one.  She hopes to get married one day, and have a baby.

She is empowered by strong women and takes great comfort in the support of her fans.  People have watched her soar and plummet so they are happy to see her doing well.  I recently met one of her fans and to hear her speak of Jennifer is really touching.  People really love her.

“Chula”, who is a lovely woman and fan of Jennifer, told me that beyond being beautiful, Jennifer had radiance from within her soul.  It’s very sweet how supportive her fans are and if you follow Jennifer on Twitter you will see she responds with kindness and appreciation to her fans.

Jennifer’s mom is her biggest fan and Brandi is her dearest friend.  She is very close with her brother, who is in the military and served in Iraq.  He is a hero and when she talks about him you can feel how big her smile is through the phone.  Her father passed away, several years ago.

Jennifer let me know she has hit rock bottom both sober and using. She has lived many lives and when given a chance to reflect, life is easier on her soul when she is sober.  In sobriety she sees right from wrong, good from bad, and hope from desperation.  She is now her best person.

I asked Jennifer to tell me three words that best described her and she chose vulnerable, childlike, and feisty.  She also asked if she could have four words, which was really cute, and selected fighter as the extra word.  If I could add a word for Jennifer, it would be goodness.

She is a woman who is trying to do good, be good, and bring good.  She is a celebrity who is sober, not a sober person who happens to be a celebrity.  She wants to be defined by who she is as a human being not her sobriety. She is sober and proud, but that’s not who she is.

She takes sobriety seriously and without it she has no life, so losing it is not an option.  She is a model, actress, daughter, sister, and friend.  When I asked if she thought she was pretty, she said she views herself from the inside out, but appreciates when people say she is.

Jennifer told me that she is always just an arm length away from a drink or a drug and she is aware of it.  She does not know how she was blessed to have found her way out of addiction, but she is grateful.  She tries to not focus on why me, but rather thank God it’s me.

When asked for a message to her fans, Jennifer said they give her courage on days when she has none, and bring light into her journey.  She sometimes feels lonely, or tired, and that people are so supportive lifts her up.  She is a work in progress and all the love is helping to define her.

She is not ashamed that she is sober and in recovery.  She is not a poster child, but if she can give a voice to those who can’t speak, it is her obligation and honor to do so.  She has learned to love herself and knows she must be able to do that in order for others to love her.

Before I spoke with Jennifer I was a little nervous because I wanted to like her and would have been disappointed if what I had thought about her all these years was not the case in real life.  In the end she was exactly what I had envisioned.  She is kind, sweet, caring, and funny.

Jennifer Gimenez has danced with the devil and been comforted by God.  Everything between those two meetings has brought her peace. I wish for her all the things she wishes for herself. Jennifer is beautiful inside and out. I pray she will always be well and keep it real.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Ilana Angel writes two blogs for JewishJournal.com. KEEPING THE FAITH is about her worldview as a single Jewish mother, and KEEPING IT REAL is all about reality television....

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