Part of: Studs

Interview: Jah-Phyah

published on 9 November 2012

Studs model Jah-Phyah opens up on surviving abuse and understanding others in this candid interview transcript.

Studs model Jah-Phyah opens up on surviving abuse and understanding others in this candid interview transcript.

Lou Stoppard: Did you enjoy the shoot?

Jah-Phyah: I did you know, I had fun man, thank you guys.

LS: Can you tell me a little about yourself, about your look, what you're about?

JP: Obviously you know my name, I'm Jah-Phyah, I'm 27 and I live in London. I like art and stuff like that, I like anything that's about fashion, the arts, that's my stuff, that's me. I like to be unique, I don't like to be like other people, I just like to be myself. My look, I don't know how to describe it, it's kind of crazy. When I wake up in the morning I just dress how I feel. 

LS: Do you use the way you dress to express how you're feeling and to express things about you?

JP: Yes definitely, I do do that. Sometimes when I'm down I might dress a bit, you know! When I put my clothes on, it makes me kind of feel better in a way, it makes me feel good about myself, feeling good and stuff like that. I like to look good and feel good. 

LS: How do you find people react to the way you look?

JP: Everywhere I go, people always stare at me. I'm used to it now. It's obvious they're staring at me because I do look quite different. I'm used to it, I take it as a compliment now. I don't really want to look like anyone else, I just want to be myself. 

LS: You say you use the way you dress to express yourself and your emotions, do you try and express your sexuality and things like that through the way you look?

JP: Yes definitely, because I'm boyish and stuff like that. I don't like to be called a 'girl', I just like to be called my name. I don't like to be put in a category where people say, 'she's a Stud, she's gay, she's this, she's that', I just want to be myself. My mentality is like a boy, and I feel like I am a boy even though I know I was born a girl. It's kind of crazy in my mind. I do express myself in that way, with my clothes and the way I talk, the way I walk, the way I am, the stuff I do. Everything about me is just boyish.

LS: You say you don't like to look girly, but do you find when people around you talk about how girls should dress like girls and boys should look like boys, do you find that quite restrictive? Does that bother you?

JP: No, to be honest with you, it doesn't really bother me what people think. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, do you know what I'm saying? Everyone is allowed to feel how they feel and view life how they view it but me, I just feel how I feel, regardless of what people say about me. I just be myself and keep it positive and think that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I don't let it get to me, I've gone past that stage where I care about what people think of the way I dress and the way I look, if that makes sense. It doesn't really bother me, it doesn't phase me. We're living in a world where a lot of people look at you and judge you by the way you look so I'm used to it, I don't let it bother me. If you let little things like that bother you, how are you going to live happy? You're not going to enjoy life you know?

LS: Was there a stage where people's opinions of you made it quite difficult?

JP: When I was a lot younger, I've been called 'lesbian', 'gay', everything that's 'bad' under the sun. It kind of made me feel a way about myself, that I was doing something wrong. I didn't know how to be. I was confused. I was thinking, 'okay, maybe be with a guy', or 'maybe being girly girly is the right thing, this is what God wants us to do.' But deep down in my heart that isn't me. I can't be with a guy just because people think that's the right way. I don't think I woke up one days and said, 'oh, I'm gay'. I've been this way ever since I was 3, ever since I could remember, ever since I was young. My Mum thinks it's because when I was young, I text my form tutor and told her I liked her and she liked me back. She never forced me or anything, if anything it was me that forced her into going out with me because I loved her from year 7 and stuff. My mum has this thing in her head that it was my teacher that turned me this way and I keep telling her, 'I turned MY teacher that way'. I've been that way ever since I was a kid. No one told me how to be it, it was just inside of me to be that way. 

LS: So what were people's reactions to when they found out, about the way you felt and also when they discovered that you had been together with your teacher?

JP: When my mum found out about my school teacher obviously all my family got involved, they wanted to go to the school and complain about her. Obviously I made a promise to her that if anyone found out about us I would never say anything or tell them and I would never hurt her and stuff like that. I wouldn't try to wreck her life or her job or stuff like that. I wasn't like she was taking advantage of me or anything like that, I knew what I was doing and as a kid growing up I was very smart. I used to think like a grown up and stuff like that. I literally begged my family and asked them not to, to just leave it because that was my last year in school. Up until then it was fine, I hadn't told anyone else, I'd kept my promise. I begged my family and they listened to me and didn't. When my family actually found out that I was gay and stuff like that, everyone disowned me, my mum kicked me out because she is very religious. She kicked me out, all my family, they'd didn't talk to me. They thought I was possessed by the devil. They just thought I was going mad. Over the past couple of years they've seen that that is me and I'm not going to change and stuff like that. One day my mum just called me out of the blue and said, 'I need you to come home'. I went home and all my family was there and everyone was cool now. My whole family love gays now because of me, so that's good.

I don't have anything negative to say about anybody, the world we're living in today, we have to understand other people. Just because you see someone doing something today, you don't know what yesterday was like for that person.

LS: So where did you go when your mum kicked you out, what did you do?

JP: I was just living on the street. And from here and there to people's houses, staying at friends houses. I met a girl at college and we started going out, this was after my form tutor, that was first real girlfriend. The first time I'd ever had sex with someone, so by then I started growing up and getting mature and stuff like that. I sorted myself out, got my own place, got a job and started living my life the way I wanted to live my life.

LS: So in a way, was that quite a happy time for you? Because even though you had gone through a lot of problems with your family, and it must have been really upsetting to you they way they had reacted, you were finding yourself?

JP: It wasn't really happy, it was more sad because I was alone, I didn't have any family, I didn't have anyone to love me or that cared about me. I didn't have support, I literally just had to help myself. I literally had no support, no one, nowhere to go. Sometimes I just found myself riding around on the night buses, all night until the sun comes up. Then I'm back on the road looking for jobs, all that sort of stuff, it was just really hard, but I think that nothing good comes easy in life, if you want something you've got to work for it and sometimes things happen for a reason, things to make you better or teach you a lesson you know? I thank God that my mum kicked me out because I wouldn't have my own place and I wouldn't be myself today. Everything happens for a reason but it was a hard time.

LS: That's what I was going to ask, there must be a huge sense of independence and of pride for you for having been able to get through those years?

JP: Yes, over those years I have grown into me, into Jah-Phyah, myself and being confident and just being easy going and confident. I respect people, I don't have anything negative to say about anybody, the world we're living in today, we have to understand other people, we can't just judge people, just because you see someone doing something today, you don't know what yesterday was like for that person. You can only help them and guide them, you can't control them or tell them how to live their life because we're living in a world where everyone has to be happy.

LS: I'm interested because you said there was a point where your mum just called you out of the blue and you went back and all of your family was there and they're so accepting now. What do you think it was in their mind that changed things in their head?

JP: I think, when I was younger I was very angry and I was very hurt because knowing what I'd gone through - I'd been raped when I was 10 years old - and all this stuff used to happen to me. All these men used to abuse me when I was a kid so I grew up feeling like, 'what is it about me, why do these men do this to kids?' I had hatred in my heart for guys, I literally hated every guy in the world. I knew my Mum - and she knows all this and she knows how hurt I have been in my life and she just left me when I was 16 and she didn't care. I felt like she didn't care but I knew she cared, deep down I knew she cared. Then after how many years - about 5 years - I didn't speak to my Mum or any of my family, and I am a family person and I love my family. There are times I don't want to be around my friends or on my own and I just want to be around all my family because I have a big family and I just want to be around them and everybody and just have fun. The thing is, my Mum, she called me up out of the blue, I don't know how she got my number but she got it. She just told me I was welcome at the house and I can just bring my girlfriend and I swear I just popped my eyes out. I was shocked, I couldn't believe it, the only thing I said was, 'thank you God for this moment'. It wasn't a big deal but to me it was, to me that was everything. All I ever wanted was for my Mum to accept me, not even anyone else, just my Mum, she's my Dad because I don't know my Dad, she's my everything in one. She made it kinda better for me still.

LS: You mentioned things like the abuse you suffered as a child and the rape. Do you still have that hatred of men?

JP: Nah, nah, I actually love guys now. I actually get gay guys hitting on me and I find it funny, I have a little nephew who I adore so much, he's like my son and I have a little brother and it's like, if I don't like no men, I can't like my brother or my little nephew. Over the years I have had time to heal, I've had time to sit down and think and put things together and it's not every guy is the same, I've come to realise that. People are just people, some people are just meant to be the way that they are. They might have been through something in their life, for the way they are. I always look at life like there is a reason for everything. Just because one person did that doesn't mean that every other person is going to do that. I have love for guys now, it's not the same as when I was young because when I was young I was very rebellious and very angry but as I got older I started realising that my anger isn't going to change anything. It's just going to make it worse. I don't feel that way towards guys no more, I've gone past that. I appreciate a good looking guy and a guy that dresses nice. Trust me I do.

LS: What are you hoping for for the future, are you in a relationship now? Are you looking for one?

JP: I'm actually with someone, we've been together for 8 years, we've broken up for 2 years out of the 8 years then we got back together now. She actually moved in with me yesterday so we're just trying to make a life together. 

LS: Do you talk to other people who have been in similar situations to yourself, who have had problems with people accepting who they are? Is that something you're quite passionate about?

JP: Yeah very, because even on my Facebook I'm not really anything great, I'm just myself, I'm not famous or anything. But on the daily I find myself advising people, giving people advice and helping people, some people I don't even know. I don't mind, I think it's a good thing to have someone you can talk to because sometimes it's not about someone taking about themselves. Every day is about yourself, it's good to listen to somebody, just listen because sometimes people just want someone to talk to. That's me you know. I listen to people, I understand, I've been there. I've been in certain things in the past so I understand. I realise that you can't allow things in your past to hold you back. Some people are so depressed and they're so sad and they don't realise that they're the person standing in their own sunshine. They're looking at other people's lives and thinking they're the cause of this and that, but they're the ones that are actually blocking their way because if you let go of the past and move forward, everything will be blessed.

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