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Photo credit: C.Bontsi

[What is Scoliosis? It is a term used to describe any abnormal, sideways curvature of the spine]

Chwayita Bontsi writes…

“Coming from a small township in Kwa-Nobuhle, Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, modelling did not appear like a ‘stable’ career choice. It was hard to get recognition, as opportunities were very little. I appeared as the awkward skinny girl with long legs and arms. People always told me I should try modelling with my unique look.

In 2014, I heard about a model search on Facebook, and I decided to enter the competition. My sister drove me to Port Elizabeth where I met all the scouts and I received call-backs from Boss Models and Scouts fishing school (SFS).
I then did a few shoots with SFS and the manager suggested that I consider moving to Cape Town.

So in 2015, I did just that.

I moved to Cape Town to study Public Relations at Cape Peninsula University of Technology while pursuing my modelling career on the side. I recently signed with one of the top modelling agency in Cape Town, Twenty Model Management.

Growing up has been a journey with many struggles. Around the age of twelve (12), I noticed that my body felt uneven.
I shared this with my family and they didn’t see anything wrong with me.

By the age of fourteen, it was even more visible. My waist came in much more on one side than the other and my spine curved to the right and was also slightly twisted.

I convinced my mother to take me to a doctor, although it was a waste of time and money because they wouldn’t do anything to help me. The doctor told me it was very common among young women, nothing to worry about and I must just forget about my modelling career because I wouldn’t make it into the industry, with the kind of body I have. I felt so confused and demotivated, thinking how awful and mean that doctor was.

The condition was so bad. I became ashamed and embarrassed about my deformity. I then started to wear big clothes to hide the structure of my body. I bought most of my clothes from the men’s department and people used to think I was a tomboy.

In 2009 when I was in Grade ten, we were given a research assignment by our Life Science teacher. As I was doing my research and reading case studies about the human body, I came across a picture of a woman with the right side of her sternum sticking out, more than the left side. All I learnt from that case study was that I had scoliosis and there was nothing I could do about it. Little did I know, that a medical scoliosis brace could have been an option.

By that time I was seventeen (17) and as my body reached puberty, the changes were even more noticeable. My body leaned to my left side and my waist curved on my right side, resulting in an uneven balance. I felt that my body had betrayed me and I would cry every time I looked at my reflection in the mirror. It is important for all people living with scoliosis to know their options. There is information available about all methods and treatments like bracing, surgery, and exercising for Scoliosis.

If I could have an operation to fix it I would, but I cannot afford to do the surgery. I know living with the pain can make you feel very isolated at times, but don’t let it keep you from living your life to the fullest. Before I started going to castings, I was always frightened that I would appear different than the other models on the runway. I got tired of entertaining these insecurities and I knew I had to put myself out there. Eventually, I ended up signing with one of the top modelling agencies in Cape Town. I proved to myself that I could overcome any obstacle with perseverance.

Looking back and reflecting on my own life, Scoliosis made me realise that my health situation made me stronger instead of demotivating me. It made me push boundaries; I wouldn’t have pushed this hard if I didn’t have scoliosis. It made me understand that no matter how big the obstacle is, when one feels passionate about something and is determined, it can be done. I, later on, developed the confidence to speak comfortably about my condition and health.

I think a lot of people with scoliosis hold back, they don’t share their own views or ideas because they’re scared of what other people would think. We need to create a culture in disadvantaged communities where people are given a platform to speak about how to deal with and overcome their difficulties. A platform whereby everyone facing a challenges/health issues, has the opportunity to own their voice and share their stories.”