South African mum unveils modelling career after granted NZ residency

Woman who claims she was refused entry to New Zealand because she’s too fat embarks on a new career as a plus-sized model

  • South African mum told by NZ officials to lose weight or be kicked out of country
  • Mondelea Bezuidenhout was allowed to stay after dropping BMI by 10 points
  • She opened up about her journey one year after she was granted exemption 
  • Hopes to launch new career as plus-size model as weight loss journey continues

A mum denied permanent residency by New Zealand officials for being too overweight has been allowed to stay as she unveils her plans to launch a new career inspired by her ongoing weight loss journey.  

Mondelea Bezuidenhout, from Palmerston North in New Zealand, made headlines around the world after her application for permanent residency was rejected because her ‘too high’ body mass index made her too much of a health risk.

The South African native said she was ordered by officials to lose 30kg or face being kicked out of the adopted country she’s called home for the past four years.

Ms Bezuidenhout, 36, appealed the decision and was granted a special exemption to stay a year ago after she dropped her BMI by 10 points and obtained a referral from her GP stating she was in good health.

She continues to document her weight loss journey on social media in the hope of inspiring others with the support of her husband Donovan and two children Donna-Lee, 11 and Damien 4.

Mondelea Bezuidenhout (pictured) has been told she can stay in New Zealand after she was initially deemed by officials as too overweight

She unveiled plans to become a plus-size model, inspired by South African fashion label Donna Claire.

‘I’ve always wanted to be a plus-size model, like the Donna Claire ladies – I even named my daughter Donna-Lee,’ she told South Africa’s You magazine on Thursday.

Once tipping the scales at 128kg, the busy mum now trains five days a week, including a weekly session with a personal trainer.  

Ms Bezuidenhout reflected on the worldwide attention her story attracted, which she described as a bizarre experience.

She insisted she always felt comfortable in her own skin and said she wasn’t ‘bothered by fat-shamers who made me feel as if I was a criminal’.

The busy mum of two exercises at least five times a week to get into shape, including a weekly session with a personal trainer

‘It’s very strange to have complete strangers discussing your body,’ she told the publication.

‘I’ve always been bigger than other people and I’ve accepted myself for who I am.’ 

Ms Bezuidenhout also deals with post-concussion syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that upsets a woman’s period. 

Mondelea Bezuidenhout (pictured) wants to become a plus size model as her weight loss journey continues

She conceded weight loss would always be part of her journey and admitted there were many struggles along the way.

‘One of the most difficult things to face was to admit that I sometimes need to rest. Don’t wait for the burn out to happen. Take note of your own wants and needs and set clear boundaries,’ she recently posted on Facebook.

She revealed in another post: ‘I’m not perfect and somedays I complain about my body but this body has been through enough and I will continue to heal and love myself.’ 

Several months after she was granted an exemption, Ms Bezuidenhout spoke out about the ‘hurtful’ rejection and the extensive toll the snub had on her and her family’s lives.

‘I’m overwhelmed not just because of the decision, but because I felt really listened to and understood, finally… someone in the government saw my side of the story, how hard I had worked, without even meeting me,’ she told Stuff in February.

‘This process has been really hard, it’s taken a toll on us. What happened was hurtful.

‘Our hearts are still healing, but we are celebrating the victory and looking forward to a bright future.’

Once tipping the scales at 128kg, Mondelea Bezuidenhout (pictured in April) has since reduced her body mass index by 10 points

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