hand-painted RV sits quietly in the Walmart parking lot. You can’t
help but stare it it. Old and rusted, it painted all over – with
the words ‘Poor White Trash’ on all sides of it.
It is one of those things that you wonder about. Who does it belong too? What does ‘Poor White Trash’ signify?
And that is when the tall, slender woman of about the age of 50 , dressed in bright colors and flowing dresses or jeans and colorful attire, steps out, stretching and yawning.
Angel Sewell, who is 52, isn’t bothered by the stares that her truck/RV gets. In fact, it is just a normal part of her simple life – almost like the zillions of requests she gets from people asking “Can we take a picture of your truck?” She is fast on her way to become a ‘viral sensation’ through posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by “her people” as she calls the strangers who come up and talk to her wherever she is.
calls herself a “traveling artist.” The
former police officer
paints storefront windows and murals in towns wherever she goes, and
for about six years, she has traveled across the United States doing
just that, and living out of her truck.
“My goal is to paint in every state. I think there are about 10 states I have not been in yet.” Her artwork pays her way – and if you have seen some of her pieces – you would know why. She is good. “I give the customers what they want.”
and raised on the “Georgia/Florida line,” Angel is a mom and a
grandma. For 30 years, she has been painting on windows – a job
she started after working in a t-shirt shop in Florida. “I was
managing the shop, this guy did airbrush and I thought I could learn
how to do what he did.” When she started painting windows, it was a
tough competition. “There were about 13 people doing what I did. I
did find out that they were painting windows just at Thanksgiving and
She asked why not the other holidays? So, she started doing that to provide for herself and her family. It was not easy and she is totally self-taught.
For her, painting on glass is her favorite venue, “I was always worried about painting on something and not being able to get it off.” Her laughter is infectious, and her eyes twinkle as she shares her journeys from her life.
It doesn’t matter if Angel is talking about a window she painted or an encounter she had with a homeless man who went and ‘panhandled’ to help her get her truck fixed or to her son, she remains earnest and passionate.
Her compassion is strong – especially for the stereotypical underdogs in society – which is why she is a self-proclaimed “advocate for the poor and destitute” and believes that “it is important to be helpful to each other.” In fact, Angel said as long as she can help others, no matter what, she will. Her hopes are that her ‘mission’ will go viral on the Internet and through social media so that she can make more connections and help more people.
Though the images on her truck may offer a different ‘persona’ image, Angel plays life as close to the straight and narrow as she can. When she tires of the truck, or it gives her trouble, the gypsy in her comes out. “I just grab up my backpack, throw it on my back, and take my dog and a jug a of water, and go.” In fact, at the time of this interview, Angel just came off a “three-month hike.”
She basically lives a ‘panhandler’s’ life. “I get as close to the ‘fire’ as I can without going all the way back down that hole … I know how it is, and I struggled for a time, but now, I get out there and live the life so I can help others.”
Angel’s heart beats heavy when she sees the way that ‘destitute’ or ‘homeless’ people are treated. “It is not good. I went into this store, to get some coffee, and was going to take it and stand under this tree … I was hiking, and had my backpack and my dog, and my water jug. I paid for everything, and as I was at the cash register, the clerk said, ‘You can’t stay here.’ I questioned the clerk why … And the clerk just kind of paused, ‘It is considered loitering.’ I see that happening all across the United States … homeless people or those who are in some kind of need, traveling like that … they are treated differently because of the way they look.”
want to challenge those perceptions … don’t assume something
about someone just because of the way they look or because of their
socioeconomic class. We shouldn’t judge,” Angel said.
She continued, “When I was younger, I was at this girl’s house. We were going through her closet to find some clothes for me … there was this dress in there that I saw … I thought it was pretty… I said something to the girl, and she put her head down, and she told me her mom said I could have anything I wanted out of her room.”
Angel paused, “I was like, what? Why? And she said her mom said it was because we were poor white trash basically.”
stopped, “I didn’t take it negatively. I realized her mother had
a good heart, and she was really trying to be helpful … so I took
on that as my logo … it is part of my mission statement … I want
to change that perception people have of the lifestyle of the poor,
and I also want to encourage others.”
Angel continued, “When I arrived here in Cochran, Georgia … I slept in my truck and bathed at the laundry mat. I have been at the very bottom … If I can make it, then want them to know they can make it.” The them are who she calls her ‘people’ – those who are homeless or below the poverty line. Angel shared times when she would ‘dumpster dive’ for groceries herself.
She added, “When I first started this, and living out on the streets, the homeless people would be the ones who would help me – they would share the food they got, or like the man at the Walmart parking lot who helped me get a started for my truck. I told him I couldn’t take that from him, and he was like ‘It has to be done.’”
In reflecting on the people she has meet through her journey of living on the road, Angel said, “I have met some of the best people – and some of the worst – but I feel like I have made some good connections – family like.”
When Angel was younger, she remembers hearing people talk about her. “I am tall, and was tall for my age, and at four years of age and six years of age, they would talk about how tall I was, what a big girl I was. I didn’t take it as a negative, I starting thinking about big people I knew – wrestlers, superheroes and I was thinking, they don’t get beat-up, and they are the strong ones.” So, she thought of her height as a good thing.
gets her strength from her experiences. “I am just Angel being
Angel. I create a lot, I daydream a lot, and I really don’t have a
Offering advice for others who might have a need – emotional, physical, financial or spiritual – Angel stopped for a minute. “Voice your need to the universe. Believe in yourself. You are going to get to a place in your life where you are going to be the only who will. Don’t stop believing in yourself.”
She also said that it is important to have hope. “Hope is believe in whatever seems impossible to be possible.”
“Whomever created me, you, the mountains … that person is a mastermind and I love that mastermind,” Angel said.
her own purpose in life, Angel said she is going to continue carrying
the message that it is important to “help each other.”
“There are too many people out there in need. I know when someone comes to us, especially if we have been ‘screwed’ by someone else, we doubt their need. We have to remember this though, that there are plenty of people out there somewhere that we can help … you can tell that lady walking in the door how nice she looks or leave that 50 cent in the gumball machine so that kid can find the joy of having a gumball he or she wouldn’t have got because his or her parents couldn’t afford it or if you see someone’s garbage can turned over, stop and pick it up,” she said.
“Just help each other,” Angel concluded, “and think a positive thought. If you don’t do anything else, think a positive thought … the more positive thoughts you have, they more they build, and can you just imagine what changes that will make?”
As for her future plans, Angel plans on doing her jobs – painting windows in every town she gets through and spreading the idea of helping others – wherever her ‘Poor White Trash’ takes her.
Look for her on Facebook by clicking here.
Angel Sewell – the traveling artist gypsy with a golden heart … now that was a Saturday conversation, well-spent.