A Baby Was Abandoned Because of His Looks, and 37 Years Later He Became a Successful Model and Motivator
Being born with physical differences can be difficult for a child. However, a harsher and more terrible reality is being born with parents who refuse to raise you because of your appearance. Jono has acknowledged this truth since he was a child, but he fully accepts his beauty to encourage others to embrace themselves beyond stereotypes.
A genetic disorder and the sad decision to abandon him
Jono Lancaster, now 37, was born with a distinct appearance from other children his age. His face is characterized by an underdeveloped jaw, a lack of cheekbones, and ears he loves to liken to Bart Simpson’s. He does, in fact, have Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by head and face malformations. This rare condition can occur in the general population at a frequency of 1 in 50,000 live births.
Though dealing with a child with this syndrome may be difficult for a parent handling a newborn for the first time, Jono’s parents did something unexpected. They signed over their rights to him about 36 hours after his birth, and the pair didn’t even want the rest of their family to meet Jono.
Little Jono was left behind soon after birth, and this trauma has impacted him. Making such a decision may have been motivated by a strong refusal to raise their own child, but it was also because they were a married couple in their early twenties at the time, and they didn’t feel like taking on that burden.
His adoptive mother is his staunchest ally and supporter.
Despite the sadness of the event, an angel on earth spared Jono’s life by taking him in her arms and raising him apart from his physical appearance or any prejudices. Momma Jean, Jono’s adoptive mother, took him in when he was only 2 weeks old and formally adopted him when he was 5.
“She did a fantastic job protecting me,” Jono said, recalling how the hospital had forewarned her about his appearance when she first met him, but how delighted she was to do so. “She’s always told me that the first time she saw me, she couldn’t help but smile.”
“All you need is love, a mother’s kind of superhero love!” On his Instagram, Jono posts love-filled messages for his adoptive mother. Despite the harsh reality of his birth parents abandoning him, he never felt lonely after being adopted because his mother has always served as a safe haven from the outer world.
Over his childhood years, his stepmother progressively revealed his parents’ decision and gave Jono small “bits” of the story. “With as much tact as possible, she told me that my parents couldn’t cope [...] As I got older and could understand things better, she said they ’just struggled to accept that I was different.’”
His gradual self-acceptance during his teenage years
From the moment he was born, he has struggled to accept his distinctive appearance, and he is still on this road. Once he started high school, Jono came to terms with people’s preconceptions. He said, “I was exposed to kids who hadn’t known me before. They hadn’t met anybody with facial features like mine. They’d pull down their eyes, fold up their ears.”
Throughout those years, he harbored resentment toward his biological parents, a feeling he only learned to deal with when he turned 20 and began a period of growth and healing to become the confident and outgoing person he is today.
Another occurrence that helped him feel more confident was kissing a woman he never thought would be interested in him. “I went from thinking that I was unlovable to feeling like the most attractive in the world. She said, ’I love your face.’”
Juno’s purpose is to empower those with the same syndrome.
Jono learned the truth about his parents’ abandonment when he was 25 years old, finally prepared to face that awful reality. Once he read the adoption papers, he thought, “These 2 people were supposed to love you, but they were not able to bond with you.”
After that, he decided to give them a chance to bond with him, so he sent them a letter in 2009, asking them to contact him. Unfortunately, he just received a sad response saying they didn’t want any contact.
Today, Jono hopes to serve as an example for everyone dealing with the same condition and to help them develop self-confidence. After enduring years of rejection, low self-esteem, and unfavorable looks, Juno accepts himself for who he is. He is also working as a model and can finally say, “I look at my face, and instead of wanting to push my eyes up, I smiled.”
Maybe he’ll never be able to forgive his parents, but he’s come to understand something: “They brought me into this world. I need to live the life that they gave me. It’s been a long journey to get where I am. But I’m in a place of happiness and joy.”
How would you handle such a harsh reality? Do you have any advice to help people boost their confidence?