Post-Katrina Journey Continues For Former Child Icon

It’s now been 10 years following one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States in recent memory. Hurricane Katrina, one of the most harrowing natural disasters to hit the Gulf Coast in years, caused intense misery for thousands for a range of reasons. Death and destruction — not to mention having to be displaced for years while homes were rebuilt — were hallmarks of Katrina. One child, Charles Evans, became the face of Katrina, even being introduced at the 2005 Emmy Awards by Tyler James Williams of Everybody Hates Chris. The now 19-year-old has gone through a journey since Katrina, and is living life as Arianna Evans.

According to the New York Daily News, Charles began living as Arianna just a few months ago, but it was a 9-year-old Charles who told a viewing audience of millions about the conditions in the New Orleans Superdome in the immediate aftermath of Katrina.

“We just need some help out here,” Evans said. “It is just so pitiful. Pitiful and shame…. We have over 3,000 people out here with no home, no shelter. What are they gonna do? What we gonna do? Take a look at all of this. Now what they gonna do if the hurricane come again?”

Little did Charles know that Katrina would send him on a journey to live as her true self. Charles came out as gay as a 15-year-old boy, choosing to dress in drag occasionally. Arianna admits, though, that she always had an inkling about the person she truly was.

“Deep down inside, I knew it wasn’t just drag for me. It was much more than that,” Evans said of her realization of her gender identity.

Arianna Evans has now overcome the sense of being “trapped in the wrong body” and, with the support of loved ones like former investment banker Wanda Felton, she transitioned to the female she is today. Felton heard Evans’ plea for help back in 2005 and has since become a significant part of Arianna’s life.

Katrina was not just about the identity of self-discovery that Arianna went on, though. Two years after the storm hit, her mother, a recovering addict, and a cousin were killed in drug-related murders. Arianna had been raised by her great-grandmother since she was young and still living as Charles. She became a certified nurse’s assistant to care for her now-blind great-grandmother.

With all the turmoil that she lived through, both during Katrina and in the aftermath of the storm, one might think that Arianna Evans was ready to contemplate life beyond New Orleans. That is far from the case, however. She credits what she went through during Hurricane Katrina for making her stronger.

“In life, there are events that can either make you or break you, and Hurricane Katrina definitely did not break me. In so many ways it actually formed me into being the strong individual that I am today,” she said.

(Photo courtesy of NBC News)