Ilonka: Something Beautiful
By Jewel Taylor
The 700 Club
"He stopped the car, and he said, 'I want to show you how much I care about you.' He unbuckled his seatbelt, leaned over the car, took the back of my head, pulled me closer to him and he kissed me. I'm 12. Here's a grown man, my mother's age, doing that to me."
All 12-year-old Ilonka ever wanted was to become a famous American pop singer. When she won a singing competition in her native South Africa, she was awarded a recording contract. She welcomed her manager's “fatherly” attention at first.
"Not having my dad around, he became like a solid pillar of oak. This is what it's like to have a dad; this is what it's like to have someone that cares about you. I cared very much about him and I think to the point where I actually loved him almost like he was part of my family.
One night as he drove her to a rehearsal... "We walked in, and there was no one else there. He locked the door behind him, and he raped me. He said, 'If you tell anyone, there will be serious consequences for this.' I was scared to death. I'm a little girl. I can remember getting home, going into the bathroom and I locked the door. I felt so dirty."
The abuse continued for five years. Ilonka’s career, her family’s safety and her reputation depended on her silence, but inside, she was screaming for help.
"I started rebelling against my mother, against my family, clinging on to singing because he holds all the control. All the bad influences in life you can attract I did. So the bad side became very appealing to me."
Ilonka continued to tour and her popularity grew. One night before a show, she finally found the courage to say no.
"He came up to me, grabbing my shoulders, and shook me. He said, 'You listen to me. I brought you where you are today. You owe me. You will do this. You don't have a choice.'"
When the club’s bouncer heard the argument and walked in the room, Ilonka’s manager fled immediately. Two days later her contract was cancelled; without singing, Ilonka felt empty.
"Sex became the only medicated thing that I knew I was good at, that I could do apart from singing to get things. So for the next year and a half, about every bad relationship that you could get in I was in."
In 2000, Ilonka’s mother brought the family to Nashville, Tennessee, to give her a fresh start in her singing career. Desperate for love, Ilonka married within six months. She says, "I fell in love with him the way that you cling on to something when you don't have something, and I remember saying, 'I don't care what it takes. I'm going to get where I'm going. No one is going to stand in my way.'"
Ilonka landed the U.S. record deal she had dreamed of for so long, but she was falling apart inside with all the secrets she harbored. Five years into their marriage, Ilonka told her husband the truth about her past. Unable to handle her past, her husband filed divorce papers within the month. That same week she heard the label was closing its doors. She felt she had nothing left to live for. In an attempt to take her own life, she overdosed on pain medication.
"As I was driving and just absolutely sobbing, thinking this will be great if I can just die today.
Over the phone, her counselor navigated her to a local psychiatric ward and had her admitted. After her release, a Christian man named Bill from the record label began to talk to her about God.
"He said, 'I'm going to read you a scripture that's very true to me in my life and I want you to really think about it. It was Matthew. You can come to Me, 'all who you are burdened and I will give you rest.'"
Over the course of the next year, Ilonka began to connect with the Scriptures, and one day she fell to her knees and prayed to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
"I would have been dead today in the worst place if it wasn't for the Lord who saved me. That was the most precious thing for me to come to realize that I could close my eyes and go, 'Daddy, I love You.' To know that I didn't want or have an earthly father that was present in my life, but I have a father that calls me daughter. All the pain that I've gone through, He hung to die for me so that I can have a glimpse of hope in my life and have salvation and have eternal life, which makes my story okay."
In 2009 Bill and Ilonka married and combined his recording experience with her singing talent.
"Now my story is not about me. It's not about the tragedy that I went through. It's not about the pain that I went through. It's about the Lord taking my junk and making it beautiful."
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