Raina Ellison: Hope in an ocean

I stared at Raina, trying to tell her my story while ignoring the tears pouring out of her soft and vibrant hazel eyes. I paused so she could gather herself; I was convinced that my story was too depressing for her to hear. She leaned back in her chair and wiped the last tear from her eye lash and leaned forward again, waiting for me to continue my heartfelt story. She hung off of every word, and as I continued I noticed hope spread among the tears.

Raina Ellison (previously Raina Hein) has a long resume — America’s Next Top Model, actress, and creator of the phrase “ohmylanta,” but I know her as a deeply passionate person and good friend who dedicates her time to her family, the homeless, and other souls in need. I was one of those unfortunate souls who Raina inspired around a decade ago. Her friendship, support, and love has inspired me to never give up hope, to embrace those around me, to love always, and to remain steadfast in the passion that God has given me.


My story began as a 6-year-old child locked in a feces-smeared, 2-bedroom apartment in a dangerous and poor section of North Minneapolis. A typical day was spent rummaging through the neighbors’ garbage cans looking for food or drowning out my pangs of hunger by watching the emergency broadcasting channel. The beeping would hypnotize me until I finally fell asleep.

As I became older, the art of survival never abandoned me; it was my teacher when I needed to understand the world. I was soon placed in abusive foster home after abusive foster home. Never would my foster parents celebrate my birthday, Christmas, or any other holiday. My name — as far as they were concerned — was “nigger,” and that was who I was.

Meeting Raina Ellison reminded me that I was more. She has a beautiful, empowering heart that is filled with love and without her passion, foresight, and support I would likely still be a lonely soul floating in an ocean of loneliness and despair.

I’m writing this to say: thank you Raina for believing in me, and thank you for showing me hope, love, and compassion.

Curtis Albers is a former abused foster care child survivor turned Army Ranger. He enjoys traveling, learning about other cultures, astronomy and generally enjoys interacting with other human beings who are just as optimistic, interesting, creative and passionate as him.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Joni Smith
Joni Smith
2 years ago

We all hope to find people in our lives who can see past our hurt and pain to see and find the real person inside. Raina seems like one of those people. Thanks for sharing such a special person in your life.

2 years ago

I’ve never understood the idea of being a foster parent and then abusing the kid supposedly being “fostered”. Unfortunately I have friends that fell victim to similar abuse. I’m sorry you had to deal with it. The psychological abuse particularly sticks with us. I have a friend that was bull whipped for being late for dinner, not cleaning his plate, and other typical kid behavior. The physical scars for Tommy have healed. The trauma is always with him. But he overcame it to become a lawyer/college professor. Raina sounds like a wonderful person.

2 years ago

Glad you found Raina, and the lifeline she came to represent for you.

2 years ago

Thank you for sharing that with us, Curtis. Raina sounds like a wonderful woman. I am so glad you have your wonderful wife and beautiful daughter in your life now. God bless you.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
%d bloggers like this: