On a recent trip back, Reyes ran into a group of teenagers skipping school. The 23-year-old actress and model wanted to scold them but decided against it, figuring she should wait until her words might mean something more. After all, Reyes is hardly a household name, let alone a famous role model kids might look up to.
In a later interview over coffee in Union Square, Reyes said she realized fame shouldn't have to matter.
In fact, most superstars think of giving back only after they've made it big. Reyes is on course to do just the opposite: she hasn't made it big—not yet, anyway—but she's more than ready to give back.
For Reyes community service begins at home. For that reason alone, perhaps nobody is rooting for her harder than her friends and family in North Brooklyn—them and the legions of star-crossed male admirers lucky enough to have glimpsed the lovely Reyes in movies, music videos and on billboards from New York to Paris.
“Sometimes when I go back people say I'm acting Hollywood and I laugh,” said Reyes. “They think you're acting a certain way but it’s just you, growing as a person.”
“I know I still have a lot more hard work to do,” she added, “but I don't want to go backwards. I want to progress and I want the community to progress as a whole, too.”
Reyes, whose parents moved to New York from the Dominican Republic, said she fought with her mother at a young age over career paths. Her mother advocated for schooling, and later for a nine-to-five job with steady pay; Reyes wanted nothing more than a chance to succeed in the entertainment industry.
She landed her first opportunity in her late teenage years, when an agent showed interest in managing her career. After being paid, he promptly disappeared. But later, while Reyes was working her way through college, she set out again on her own with no outside help, and this time it paid off.
In the last several years Reyes—who has an impressive online following—has appeared in music videos for Jay-Z and 50 Cent, as a model for numerous advertisers and was even featured on a billboard in France. She landed a small role in the movie “Notorious” and appears in the upcoming film “Brooklyn's Finest.”
Now the sultry Brooklyn beauty says its time to move away from being typecast as eye candy.
“I don't want to portray a sex object on T.V. I know I'm much more than that,” said Reyes, who lives in midtown Manhattan and hopes to become a successful actress. “You get stereotyped. I'm trying to break away from that.”
Perhaps the surest way to do that is through her work off the screen, not on it. Reyes may not have the money to start a foundation now, but that hasn't stopped her from planning a future course in community-oriented philanthropy. She said she hopes to found an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged children from North Brooklyn.
Growing up, said Reyes, many of her friends became pregnant at an early age, or else ended up using drugs and in jail. More often than not, they did not have support systems to turn to, said Reyes, who remembers having to fend for herself as a youngster.
“Drugs and early pregnancies are big issues now,” said Reyes. “These kids are not being talked to.”
Too often, said Reyes, young people with difficult upbringings give up on their dreams at an early age. They shouldn't have to, she said. When Reyes is ready to speak out and make her case, expect youngsters across Williamsburg and beyond to listen.