LYNDHURST, N.J.– All that Diana Shinnick of Lyndhurst had during a tumultuous first eight years of her life were her twin brother -- and her connection to the spiritual world.
Their birth parents abused drugs and alcohol, and the siblings – born with cavities and other ailments – bounced from one relative's home to another before being adopted.
"We pretty much could only count on each other because so many things were changing around us," said Shinnick, 19, whose great aunt and uncle took custody of her and her brother, Joe.
Soon after, she said, she began speaking to her biological grandmother, Helen, who died before the twins were born.
She talked about Helen to her adoptive parents -- and heard a song that she instantly knew was her grandma's favorite.
"They were a little freaked out in the beginning," said Shinnick, who is studying nutrition at Montclair State University. "But because I was right [about things], they started to believe me."
It wasn't until her sophomore year at Lyndhurst High School that the teen "felt a need [to] give people messages."
She gave a reading to one of her teachers, Rich Tuero, in which they discussed his childhood friend, Jimmy Guirland.
"And the next day everyone knew me," Shinnick said.
Without a website or social media page, Shinnick has built a client base through word of mouth. Now, she says, she's booked through next April.
Shinnick tries to retrieve information and details that only that person would know.
"I don't do it for people to believe in me -- like 'Oh, she talks to the dead'," she said. Rather, it's "always interesting to hear the validations," so people know "they aren't alone."
Shinnick gives three 30-minute private readings a day and provides weekend group readings – "like little parties up to 13 people" – during which each customer receives a 10-minute individual session.
"I always try to provide validation and 'soul messages' to help the client by providing peace," she said. "Spirits come through with crazy, crazy things.
"You can't be a medium if you don't have faith. You always have to trust spirits."