Jethro Jafta used his insecurities of being bullied as a child to shape him into an international model.
Being criticised for his colour and thin frame, Jethro says he was always the kid to be picked on. Whether at school, in the bus, at extra murals or at home, he was always bullied. He became a very insecure child a shied away from friends and family.
The 22-year-old grew up in Bridgetown with his parents and sister. He attended Blossom Street Primary School and Bridgetown High School.
According to Jethro, the bullying started in primary school and followed him all the way to high school leaving him too shy and afraid to confide in an adult, so he kept the abuse to himself.
But when he reached high school the name-calling reached a new level. Here, children brought knives to school and dogs to attack pupils after school. He realised he had to man up or he would be the next victim.
“I matriculated, and then I worked at a surf shop where a photographer walked in and asked me to help him with his school project – he was still studying. He took a few shots of me, and I was very pleased with the end result, and that’s when it hit me that I should pursue a career in modelling,” he says.
Jethro now belongs to My Friend Ned, a modelling agency in Kloof Street, Cape Town.
Asked what a typical day in the life of a model looks like, he says: “I wake up and get ready for work. I find out what the brief is for the casting, and I go to where I need to be. I am either a match or I get criticised and I have to look for another shoot.”
Jethro says he has learnt not to associate the constructive criticism that comes with the modelling career with bullying as it is the nature of the industry.
Modelling, he says, has taught him to be happy with who he is and that there is nothing wrong with him.
“When I speak to people about the bullying now they can’t believe it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I’m sure my mom always knew what was going on, but as a teenager you want to keep things to yourself.
“My mom tried her best to protect me but there was only so much she could do.”
On difficult days when he feels low, he reminds himself of the work he has done internationally and his other achievements.
“Modelling has helped me not only as a source of income but has allowed me to be myself and understand that people appreciate me. They love who I am behind the camera, it has helped me to accept who I am and no one can make me feel any different.”
His advice to those who are being bullied is to speak out and get help.
“Keep doing the great things that you do. Bullies only bully because they are jealous and insecure,” he says.
Jethro is now studying engineering through Unisa.