Long before his mug shot turned him into the viral phenomenon known as #PrisonBae and a runway model, Jeremy Meeks was trying to get out of a violent family situation where he witnessed some things that no child should ever see.
In a rare interview on Chelsea Grayson's video series, What's Your Water, Meeks opened up about his heartbreaking childhood, explaining that his troubles began the minute he was born.
"So, my childhood was very, very dark," he began. "Both of my parents were heroin addicts. I was a heroin baby."
The felon-turned-supermodel went on to recall the moment his father fatally stabbed his mother's best friend while trying to find him.
"[My father] was looking for us and she was the only one who knew where we were at," he said, noting that he was only nine months old at the time.
In addition to hiding out from his dad, he explained that, as he grew older, he was forced to take on the role of caretaker. His mother, who was battling her own heroin addiction, dated men who were abusive to him and his siblings.
"Growing up in a heroin household is really hard," he said. "You have to grow up really fast and fend for yourself, and bring something to the table so that everyone can eat."
Meeks remembered that things began to change for the better once his older sister joined the military when she turned 18. When she returned two years later, she legally adopted Meeks and their brother. Meeks, however, struggled with a learning disability and admitted that it had become usual for him "to make bad decisions."
"Next thing you know, I'm fighting and fighting and fighting, and I had to learn really fast about colors, and gangs and neighborhoods, and sets," he said, recounting being forced to become familiar with the gang lifestyle after moving from Washington state to Los Angeles. "At a really young age, I got put on to the 'hood and from there, I moved out of the house at 15 and was in the streets."
Within one year of leaving home, he was admitted to juvenile detention for the first time, was shot five times and was assaulted by gang members with bats.
Once behind bars, where he spent more than 10 years of his young life, he claimed his light-skin complexion only made things worse for him.
"For most light-skinned people, you're not Black enough and you're not white," he said.
His life took an unexpected turn after his mugshot was released following his conviction for grand theft and firearm possession in 2014. Millions swooned over his appearance, and that social media push ushered tons of opportunities into his life, including modeling gigs and his public romance with Topshop heiress Chloe Green. The two welcomed a child in 2018, and reportedly broke up in August 2019.
Take a look at the revealing interview, below:
As for what's next for Meeks, he said he plans on venturing into the music industry with a "positive, but still street" message in his content.
(Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)