Veterans

A once-homeless Navy veteran is in the Maxim Cover Girl contest to help vets and at-risk youth

You can help support her mission and two important causes by casting your vote.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

Janae Sergio came into the idea of joining the military a little differently than the rest of us. Homeless since the age of 15, she happened to meet a Navy recruiter through a friend. Being a sailor was not something she ever saw herself doing, but the decision changed her life. Now she's looking to help others avoid similar situations.

For Sergio, it's not just about winning a Maxim cover contest, it's the next step in helping at-risk youth find a better path — and you can help her advance to the next rounds by voting for her on the Maxim Cover Girl contest site.


These days, Janae has a full life, working for the federal government and managing a $5 billion budget for U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet maintenance. She has a husband and two children. Her life sounds a lot like many veterans' lives, and it is. All that changed a little bit when she became Insta-famous, the kind of fame achieved through having many, many followers on Instagram.

Her fame came as a total shock. She was only on the app to make sure it was safe for her daughter. The next thing Janae Sergio knows, she has 30,000-plus followers and is gaining more every day. When she found out about the Maxim Cover Girl contest, it seemed very far from possible.

"Some of these girls, they dedicate their lives to their physical appearance and I haven't had that option," she says. "I've been busy working. So I was like, you know what, let me just put my name in the hat and see what happens... and it's been like this huge whirlwind."

Janae and the Sergio family at their home in Hawai'i.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

Sergio began her adult life at a little bit more of a disadvantage than most of us. Between the ages of 15 and 18, she lived on the streets of Los Angeles. She credits her Christian faith with keeping her from the all-too-common trappings of many women forced to survive the streets. She never fell into drugs or prostitution to survive. She turned to the strict, structured life of homeless shelters.

"At the time, I didn't realize it, but there were a few people on the streets who were homeless as well, who felt kind of protective of me because I was just this tiny little, naive, pretty girl," Sergio says. "You're just trying to live day to day and you don't know what the future holds. You don't know whether the situations you're in are good or bad, you're just trying to survive."

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim's Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

One day, it all changed. Through a friend, she met a Navy recruiter. A few of her friends had joined, but she wasn't really the type of girl, so she thought, to join the Navy. Still, it ended up capturing her attention for the same reasons as many others; a new career, the possibility for travel, and, of course, that reliable paycheck. But she didn't even have a high school diploma yet. When she decided to join, she was able to make her case to the Navy, who accepted her. She could get her diploma later.

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim's Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

Janae Sergio took to the Navy very well. Basic Training life wasn't so bad for her. She was used to a rigid living structure after three years of homeless shelters — only in the Navy, she didn't have to cook for herself. She spent eight years in the Navy, joining in 2000 and sticking around for the post-9/11 era.

She's worked very hard all her life, often doing more than one thing at a time in order to make the best of the situations she's in. While she was in the service, not only did she receive her diploma, she also earned a Bachelor's in Business Management. She got married, had a baby, and lived the life of a sailor, deploying to sea twice in her career.

"I feel like once you have been at the bottom, rock bottom, you know what it's like to be there and you don't ever want to go back there," she says. "You know what I mean?"

Then, one day, she accidentally became an Instagram model.

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim's Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

The thing for Sergio is that she can't just be a visible person with a huge following and not do something responsible with that kind of fame. She now coaches service members who achieve similar Insta-fame and wants to use her popularity to do good things. That's why the Maxim Cover Girl contest is important to her.

"It's not so much about the photo or the magazine," Sergio says. "I'm actually still a little nervous about that. The Maxim contest has this thing called "Warrior Votes," where you vote for a small payment. That donation goes to the Jared Allen Home for Wounded Warriors. I wasn't a homeless veteran but I was homeless and then the Navy changed my life. So I thought, what better thing for me to get involved with so that I could share my story on a grand level and really inspire people in the masses."

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim's Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

The Maxim cover competition also comes with a $25,000 prize which Sergio plans to put to good use as well. First, another issue close to her heart is helping at-risk youth in Hawai'i, giving part of that prize to a local organization called Hale Kipa. Second on her mind is, of course, helping veterans and their families through some of the hardest times of their lives. For that, she wants to donate to the Fisher House Foundation, who provide housing and food to loved ones of military and veterans to stay close to their wounded or sick troop as he or she recovers.

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim's Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

"I always encourage people, if they want to give back to the homeless, to do it in their community. So I found [an organization] that was local," she says. "And the Fisher Houses are a really cool cause that gives families an opportunity to stay together during treatment. And so I love that."

You can vote for Janae while helping homeless veterans find housing through the Jared Allen Home for Wounded Warriors. When she wins, you can feel good about being part of an effort to get young Hawaiian children off the streets and keep a roof over the heads of the families of America's wounded warriors.

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim's Cover Girl Contest.