A PLAYBOY model has revealed for the first time how she was beaten by her boyfriend when she was just 16 – and gave her daughter up for adoption after he threatened to kill them both.
Vikki Lenola, 32, from Ontario, Canada, wants to make her story public so her daughter Alyssa, now 16, can get in touch if she would like to.
The Peta spokesperson and model, who recently starred in the hit film Covenant, had troubled teen years.
She dropped out of school at 13 and lived with her dad after her parents split, but he chucked her out aged 15.
Vikki, who has more than 500,000 followers on social media, says her life wasn’t always glamorous and she spent years living in a dirty storage room, with only a sleeping bag.
Then she met boyfriend Matt*, 17, and moved into a two-bed flat with him. Vikki felt pregnant shortly afterwards.
She said: “Although I said I was not ready to be a parent, Matt and his family insisted we have a child together so we could be a real family.
“I always wanted to belong to a family so I was not hard to convince as I was young, naïve and lost.”
Aged 16, Vikki gave birth to daughter Alyssa via emergency C-section, after a routine pregnancy.
The C-section was infected because it had been torn open – it was the worst pain of my life. After that I was punched, strangled and hit with a baseball bat
She had a “great” birth and remembers “crying her eyes out” because she instantly loved her so much.
But just days after returning home from hospital, Vikki was attacked by Matt who threw her over the back of the futon, causing her C-section stitches to rip open.
She took herself to hospital, bringing Alyssa with her. The wound was infected and she had to stay in hospital for several days.
Vikki said: “What came next was constant abuse.
“The C-section was infected because it had been torn open – it was the worst pain of my life.
“Even after a few days at the hospital, I couldn’t move without extreme pain. For a month or so after, a nurse would come to change the gauze.
“After that, I was hit in all sorts of ways and too scared to ask for help. I punched, strangled, hit with a baseball bat, and with big pieces of furniture.
“The wall decor from the flat below would constantly crash because of all the chaos.
“One time I asked why he cheated on me, and he left me with a black eye so bad I couldn’t open it, a bloody face and bleeding bald spot – which I still have – from a bunch of hair he ripped out.”
Matt eventually went to jail for unrelated offences and was slapped with a restraining order, after Vikki’s neighbours reported him for domestic violence.
But when he was released, he threatened to kill Vikki and Alyssa. The young mum was terrified, but had nowhere else to go.
She said: “I was scared of Matt but at the same time he was all I knew. Leaving did not seem in my realm of possibilities. Where would I even go?
“Some of my friends were bad people so I stopped being around them when I had Alyssa. And my only genuine friends had their own struggles so they were not able to help me.
“I didn’t want to go to the nearby shelter for single mums because of the bad people going in and out of there. I didn’t want my daughter around those types of people.”
I wanted what was best for Alyssa and made the tough decision to give her up for adoption – I was the one to call Children’s Aid myself
At four months old, Alyssa started suffering from colic and jaundice – so Vikki took her to hospital for her digestive issues.
It was an extremely stressful time for the mum, who had no-one to help her and didn’t have access to the internet, as she was poor and it was still relatively new.
While in hospital, Vikki made the decision to put Alyssa up for adoption and made the devastating call to Children’s Aid.
She said: “Although I had taken many parenting classes, I did not know what to do about these digestive issues. I was a 16-year-old girl with no support around me.
“I felt like I didn’t have enough to give or how to give Alyssa the help she needed.
“Matt was also out of jail, breaking in occasionally and threatening to kill us both.
“At this moment, waiting in the hospital, I wanted what was best for Alyssa and made the tough decision to give her up for adoption – I was the one to call Children’s Aid myself.”
The next few months were a rollercoaster for Vikki. At 17, she became depressed and self-medicated with recreational drugs to numb her loneliness.
Vikki then had an accidental overdose, describing it as rock bottom, and was sent to a children’s hospital for a few days.
She said: “I remember while in my hospital room, I just felt so alone, numb and empty inside, staring blankly at the wall.
“As I walked by the other children’s rooms, they were playing games and their parents were there comforting them.”
My ex kept breaking in and I was too scared. It was too much to handle
Children’s Aid set up a temporary adoption for Alyssa because they didn’t want Vikki to lose her daughter.
They set up visits with her mum and hoped to give Vikki permanent custody at some point in the future.
But although it was a long and complicated decision, Vikki says she only wanted what was best for Alyssa.
She said: “At first I did believe them that yes, I could indeed take care of her, that it was just a scare with her health but everything is fine.
“But Matt kept breaking in and I was too scared. It was too much to handle. One time he actually broke in right before a visit with Alyssa.
“When they knocked on the door, he had his hand over my mouth and other arm restraining me, and he told me to tell them to go away or else I’d really get it from him. I was trembling in fear.
All of this broke my heart and really messed me up psychologically
“So I had to turn my own daughter away, without explaining why to Children’s Aid.
“At this point, they started to believe I was not able to take care of her.
“But they never knew why I turned her away. All of this broke my heart and really messed me up psychologically.”
After getting Matt out of her life for good, Vikki went to rehab aged 18 and fell into another abusive relationship aged 20, before finally turning her life around.
She went onto get a diploma in business and then a bachelor in environmental studies from University of Waterloo, and quit drugs and drinking for good.
Vikki had a bridal brand in stores before going onto modelling at 27, and becoming a spokesperson for Peta.
She said: “I realised that my past helped me to empathise with others and work harder.”
Adoption was definitely the right thing to do for Alyssa. I’ve never doubted that and I don’t regret it. But I sometimes wonder how things might have been different
By 30, Vikki’s modelling career had really taken off and she landed a Playboy front cover – as well as walking runway shows for celebrity designers like Rocky Gathercole.
She also recently launched her own non-profit fashion show to show fashion can be kind to both the planet and animals.
She said: “I’ve travelled the world and I have more amazing friends than I can even handle. There are actually really great people out there in the world.
“Most importantly I am able to give back with my work as an animal activist and through my nonprofit.
“I think I really feel for animals being exploited because I know what it’s like to feel invisible, and like your pain and soul don’t matter. I think I have an idea of what they go through.”
Growing up, the thought of her estranged daughter knowing of her situation made Vikki cringe with embarrassment – but now she is proud of what she has achieved.
Vikki says some people assume her glamorous lifestyle was given to her on a plate, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Speaking to others in toxic relationships, she said: “Look for your resources within the community around you and call your local helpline.
“Your child’s health and safety is the number one priority, so if you can make that happen there is hope.
“If you’re in a tough spot surrounded by toxic people, don’t ever give up.
“I would really encourage other women to take care of themselves first so that they can take care of others in the future. It’s true what they say – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
“Adoption was definitely the right thing to do for Alyssa. I’ve never doubted that and I don’t regret it.
“But I sometimes wonder how things might have been different if I was in a better place at the time. Especially when talking to friends with their own children.
“I now want to leave it open for her to find me. I won’t try to find her, but maybe in a couple of years she will be in touch.
“I would love to hear about her life and would happily help her with anything.”
*Matt is not his real name.
You can follow Vikki on Instagram here.