The entertainment industry is notorious for being competitive. But since COVID-19 hit, it has become even harder for entertainers to find work. Some have decided to take matters into their own hands.
K. Renatus is a Rogers Park actor who started a web series, “Video Diary of a Foster Kid,” inspired by their time in the foster care system. Renatus plays Alani, a teenager in foster care, who’s experiencing life in real time.
In early January 2021, Renatus, who uses they/them pronouns, auditioned for a web series, and although they didn’t get the part, it gave them an idea.
“I thought, ‘I’m just going to make my own,’” the 25-year-old said.
So far, the three episodes on YouTube discuss the complicated feelings around the holidays, the relationship with their family and the loneliness they experience — all things Renatus said are universal among foster kids.
Renatus said they hope the web series will reach people in similar situations. There are approximately 400,000 kids in the United States foster care system, according to the Administration for Children and Families. This means about one of every 200 kids are in foster care at any given time.
“Foster kids and ex-foster kids don’t see themselves in the media, so we have to figure things out ourselves,” they said. “All foster kids know how that feels, but you don’t feel united in that when you’re in it.”
Renatus has struggled to find work during the pandemic, having done about a dozen online auditions. Despite this, their web series has allowed them to take control of their career and find joy in working independently.
“Working by yourself gives you the opportunity to find your voice,” they said. “It feels good.”
Renatus’ experience with the foster care system started when they were 14 years old in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Their experience in theater began in middle school when they convinced one of their teachers to let them try out in the school play, setting their career path in motion.
“I was really shy, and I didn’t know how to make friends,” Renatus said. “But I’m glad I did it because I never went back.”
They continued to work on the stage through high school and into college, eventually leaving the University of Northern Iowa to pursue acting at 21 years old.
Over the next few years, Renatus moved from city to city until they landed in Rogers Park. Renatus said the neighborhood was a perfect mix of affordability and opportunity — in addition to bringing them back to the Midwest, which they had missed while they were away.
Looking forward, Renatus is planning for the web series to continue loosely following their life until after college.
“I want to show how foster care doesn’t just end after you leave,” Renatus said. “But you can deal with those feelings, and learn to be okay.”
All episodes of “Video Diary of a Foster Kid” are available on YouTube under “K. Renatus.”