What would you do if you were constantly called ugly in school? Be depressed forever, or become a model? Sydney Bailey tells us her story of how she got bullied, almost made it big and what she is currently doing now…

“I had a balanced childhood, with an understanding mother who allowed me to be a kid and experience life, but I had a father too, who was quite strict and always told me to turn my life around.”

Sydney lived a life of partying, getting drunk on weekends and living it up.

“It was on September 21st, 2014 when I decided to change my life.” Sydney got baptised and started seeing life differently. When asked who inspires her, she did not hesitate to say, “Jesus!”

Before Sydney’s radical lifestyle change, she use to model and had a sure future in the modelling agency; but despite the glitz and glamour, modelling isn’t always what it’s cut out to be.

“I did modelling for about 7 years. I had dreams of becoming an international model. Miss South Africa and Victoria’s Secret modelling was where I was heading. Modelling is a different experience for everyone. For me, I felt pressurised to be perfect. I felt pressurised to lose more weight, be taller, change my appearance. What it did was cause insecurity,” she describes.

Sydney was signed with Zero Models and Boss Models. She explains the irony of feeling insecure in a world full of beauty.

“I felt ugly. I was already bullied at school; people called me giraffe and ugly all the time, boys and girls. Because I felt so ugly, I wanted to pursue this modelling career.”

After changing her life around by becoming a believer in Jesus, she says she now puts her desires before the Lord. Her beliefs made her reflect on her life. “I was seeking many things, all was for my gain and fame. I even entered Idols season 10 and made it to theatre week. “

So she changed course dramatically. She started and registered her own NPO that helps those less fortunate.

“In February 2015 I started a movement, Free Hugs ZA. It was initially going out to the streets giving people free hugs. But in January 2016 I registered under a new name, Holy Hands Foundation which is an NPO to feed the hungry.”

A great memory for Sydney is when her NPO hosted a banquet for those less fortunate.

“We went out there, inviting people to this banquet prepared for them, it is something they will never forget.”

Sydney says walking away from modelling to pursue a life completely different did not provoke the best reactions from those close to her. “When I said goodbye to modelling, my parents were not happy!” she laughs.

“They didn’t understand that God had a bigger plan for my life.”

It was not only her parents who disagreed with her radical change, but her close friends too.

“I sacrificed friendships. Some thought I was uncool, others thought I was boring. There were friends who stuck with me, but were still chasing the lifestyle I ran away from, so I couldn’t keep holding onto those friendships.”

Sydney shares her advice to all those who are victims of bullying: “Jesus heals hearts. Remember that God made us all in his image. You are beautiful, once you believe what God says about you, you won’t have to fear the opinions of others.” And to those seeking fame, she says, “Seek God, not fame.”

Tell us: What did you learn from Sydney’s character?