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More like “home” than my actual home.

By Cj Nagle, Class of 2025

I grew up in a typical small-town fantasy: 13,000 people, small public high school, and most importantly, everyone knew everyone. To most people, it was the perfect depiction of a true “home”. It was a tight knit community with family ties lasting generations; if you were born in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, you died in Hermitage, Pennsylvania.

I started modeling when I was 15. I gained confidence, became more creative, and met people from all over the world. Yet, what I saw as the perfect opportunity to discover my identity, my community viewed as an act of rebellion– to them, modeling was too feminine, too risky, and too untraditional.

I didn’t belong.

Photo shoot of Cj modeling

As time went on, I began to develop two different versions of myself. The home life: the place where I loved sports and would paint my body in red every Friday night for football games. The modeling life: the big cities, where using the subway became subconscious, and I could wear whatever I wanted without eyes watching my every move.

When I came to Duke, I was reluctant of my own identity. Did I want to go to college? Was I pushing my dreams aside to make my family happy? Any sense of belonging was nonexistent. I had perfected two different versions of myself in high school and was finally ready to be me.

I’ve made it my mission to be able to fulfill my wide array of interests. I can be a part of club volleyball and The Standard Magazine. I can be on Duke Student Government and work for @DukeStudents. I can be an intellectual and still model freelance. I’ve realized that I was never two different people while modeling and while in high school, rather, I just never had the space or support to combine them. At Duke, I have both.

Reflecting on my first semester, I can finally admit, I am happy: I’m happy to walk without fear of judgment or predetermined expectations– happy to be surrounded by a community of acceptance and support.

I’m happy to finally be home.

Cj and friends at a Duke Basketball watch party



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