Woman bullied over lopsided legs has last laugh – by becoming successful model

A woman who was mocked over her "lopsided" legs at boarding school has proven her critics wrong.

Zizipho Soldat was born with Phocomelia Syndrome – a rare condition which can cause extreme malformation of the limbs.

The birth defect prevented her left arm from forming fully and caused her left leg to be significantly shorter than her right.

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The 27-year-old, from Johannesburg in South Africa, used to worry about how her disability would affect her future.

But after she started posting body positive snaps on Instagram in her twenties, she received plenty of support.

Zizipho said: "When I was younger I always knew I was different.

"It was when I went to school and started speaking English that I began to do my own research and find out more about my condition.

"I didn't come from a wealthy background so there was really no help at all. There were no funds for the physio I needed.

"I used to fantasise about being normal, and I wanted to live in a different world.

"It took me forever to find friends, I used to cry every night."

Mum Miranda Soldat, 46, had her daughter Zizipho when she was just 22.

Zizipho was raised by her grandmother and sent to boarding school aged six.

She recalled: "I was very vulnerable at boarding school. It was like prison for me.

"I felt so alone. Being so bullied, physically and emotionally, I just couldn't defend myself.

"The bullying was constant, and the kids felt entitled to say whatever they wanted."

Zizipho developed anxiety and depression as she struggled to cope with the cruel taunts.

And her low confidence meant she couldn't picture being successful in the future.

Zizipho went on to get a Public Relations degree at Walter Sisulu University in South Africa and chased dreams of becoming a film maker.

But in 2018, her life changed forever when she started posting modelling photos online.

Inspired by other influencers with disabilities, she plucked up the courage to share full-body shots.

And the gamble paid off as she's since signed to two modelling agencies – My Friend Ned and Gamute Management, in South Africa and USA.

Zizipho said: "It was my friend who said I should do it.

"I was inspired by the US-based influencers, and I've always loved clothes and makeup.

"I posted one photo online and people began to like it, and it just carried on from there…

"When started posting online, it was overwhelming because I wasn't used to it.

"The first time I posted showing my full body, I felt insecure about it.

"But the photos that show my full body get the most likes."

Zizipho has completely changed her life by taking a leap of faith and embracing her disability.

She added: "My childhood was hard and I never got the feeling I'd amount to anything because of my disability.

"I had wanted to become a model for so long, but everyone I saw was able bodied.

"It wasn't until I started using social media and seeing other disabled people living their lives to the fullest, that I started to change my thinking.

"Now, a lot has changed, I'm a micro-influencer working for different brands on social media.

"I don't back down and whatever comes my way, I take it.

"My confidence is amazing these days, looking back it's like I'm a different person!

"For people like me who feel they can't do what they want, I would say first of all that if you do not do it, you'll never do it.

"It's not easy but once you do it, you'll be proud."

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