Jewel opens up about being homeless as a teen and turning her life around

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Singer Jewel did not have a charmed life before becoming a folk icon in the 90s. Jewel is opening up in this week’s People about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father which drove her to leave home at the age of 15. Jewel found herself living in her own cabin in Alaska for a few years before moving to San Diego to be with her mom. Jewel said she spent time living in her car after losing her job because she wouldn’t sleep with her boss. The car was eventually stolen which forced Jewel into homelessness for a year. She’s talked about this before but it’s new to me. Jewel said she would have panic attacks. So, she developed mindfulness practices that has sustained her since she was 15 and throughout adulthood. Jewel is now working on a project where she shares her mindfulness practices with at risk youth through her Inspiring Children Foundation. Below is more on the story from People:

“My mom [Lenedra Carroll] left when I was 8 years old, and my dad took over raising me and my brothers at that age,” Jewel says. “My dad had really bad PTSD [from serving in the Vietnam war], but those words weren’t really known at the time. He tried to drink to handle the anxiety, and he became abusive.”

She later learned that it was a cycle her father repeated from his own abusive upbringing.

“As much as we have a genetic inheritance, we have an emotional inheritance,” she says. “My dad was also raised in a wildly abusive home. I had a way better go of it than he did when he was young, but it still wasn’t good.”

Jewel credits the meditation and mindfulness practices — which she first started developing at age 18 while spending a year homeless after moving to San Diego to be with her mom — for helping her break the cycle.

“I ended up homeless because I wouldn’t have sex with a boss,” she says. “I started living in my car because my boss wouldn’t give me my paycheck. Then my car got stolen.”

With nowhere to turn but the streets, she shoplifted to get by.

“One day, I was shoving this dress down my baggy Levi 501 jeans and thought, ‘I’m going to end up in jail or dead,’” she says. “Then I remembered this quote by Buddha: ‘Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think.’ I thought, maybe I could turn my life around one thought at a time.”

[From People]

Jewel opening up about her life and struggle is the balm I needed. It’s reassuring to know we are not alone in our struggles and that despite them we can still succeed. As an asana and meditation advocate and instructor, it is exciting for me to see celebrities really embrace the practices. The other thing I love is that Jewel is sharing her practices with young people who may be in similar situations as she was as a teenager. Talk about paying it forward.

“As much as we have a genetic inheritance, we have an emotional inheritance.” This is such a profound statement and something that I have found to be true. Not only do we have to work out the trauma we have personally experienced but our inherited trauma too. Sadly, most people do neither and it takes those who are resilient to break generational cycles. It is sad that the Jewel was abused by a father who had not worked out his PTSD and familial trauma.

As stated before, I am someone who suffers from PTSD, depression and anxiety because of a rough childhood and time in the military. I have also dealt with shelter and financial insecurity. Practicing yoga and meditation have been major life savers for me. At some point I also hope to share the practice with inner city youth, refugees, and veterans. With that being said, I will read up on Jewel’s foundation. I hope it is successful and will help many young people who may desperately need an outlet.

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16 Responses to “Jewel opens up about being homeless as a teen and turning her life around”

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  1. Darla says:

    Wow I didn’t know about any of this.

    • Red Dog says:

      Remember hearing about this as a kid in the 90s and it has stuck with me (as have those songs which are still on high rotation). I love that she is sharing what she took from that period (and survived it with) in such a beautiful way.

  2. Bros says:

    Her dad was our music teacher growing up in AK, and I can confirm he was a real piece of work who should have never been working around kids.

  3. Athyrmose says:

    Your posts are always a balm to me, Oya. Thank you so much.

  4. TQ says:

    Her dad Atz Kilcher is on that show Alaska: The Last Frontier. I mostly know him from the show and didn’t realize about all the abuse. He apparently has come clean about it and been in therapy, AA etc. (

    Good for her persevering amidst such difficult circumstances.

  5. souperkay says:

    Oya, I also have had to process a lot of generational, childhood, and military sexual trauma. I have done cognitive therapy and one therapist was really working with me to help me with mindfulness and meditation because I am not good at it. I don’t like to not be present and in control so to speak. I also resist yoga because the first yoga class I went to when I was in corpse pose I started crying, like a lot, and I was really embarrassed.

    I did try yoga again by going to an 8 week introduction to yoga class which I did like and I wasn’t crying in corpse pose but then I ran out of money and now I moved.

    Logically, I know meditation and yoga can help me, it’s just hard to practice alone, I have no follow through and I practice avoidance bc I’m afraid of that untapped well of emotion that it brings out in me. Now, of course, the pandemic is keeping me inside away from classes.

    I am glad Jewel shared her story in more detail and is promoting meditation through her foundation. Pieces of Me was probably my most listened to album in middle school. I have always had a soft spot for her.

    • Also Ali says:

      It’s not just the mindfulness, but the physical act of stretching your body, that makes yoga so good for mood stabilization. If the mindfulness and tapping into emotions are too much for you to start with on your own, a simple stretching routine every morning is likely to feel good to you both physically and emotionally.

      (I am not a physician, therapist or yoga expert, just someone who struggles with past and current trauma and has found both “yoga practice” and “stretching” to be beneficial at different times depending on what else I had going on.)

      Take care.

    • Oya says:

      Don’t feel bad. When I was studying last year at the ashram to get my certification, I would have panic attacks in corpse pose. It is because we fear letting go. The emotions that are released are exactly what you need. Don’t fear them, embrace and allow them. Since you are stuck at home, why not attend my free community classes on Saturdays. Anyone who wishes to come can sign up here –

  6. Ariel says:

    It’s a great article and I’m going to be the shallow b***h.
    Fillers. I wish beautiful women wouldn’t mess with their faces. Natural aging is not so bad.
    Lines are okay, we’ve earned them.
    I mean, her face, her life, her choice.
    But I hate what society has taught us about striving for eternal youth.
    Can’t have it. And that’s okay.

  7. Regina Falangie says:

    I grew up in San Diego and saw several Jewel shows when she was first blowing up in the 90s. She’s a tiny little thing, sweet and lovely. I was lucky enough to talk with her after a show once. She kind and welcoming. I’ve always had a soft spot for her. I’m glad she’s sharing her story and helping people. ❤️

  8. ravynrobyn says:

    @ OYA-many thanks for this article! A few years ago I read about Jewel & how much meditation helped her heal. I was deeply moved yet in the hustle and bustle within my brain chaos it slipped away. I’m grateful for reminder 💕💕💕

  9. Cg2495 says:

    I feel for her. I am in therapy , have been for a while due to health related anxiety but soon discovered all the emotional drama and baggage that I been dragging my whole life and it’s been a work in progress. I been opening myself to the process, meditating and have taken a few mindfulness courses online to help me. I also been listening to Claire Weeks, her voice is so soothing and has a calming effect.
    She is right, we inherit our parents emotional baggage and until we deal with it, we will be broken. I can’t wait to read more about Jewel foundation and get involved somehow.