A girl who was bullied for her clothes and only had FERRETS for friends has had the last laugh after she launched a successful modelling career.
Stunning Sophie Roper, 20, took her pet animals on long walks in the hills whenever she was feeling lonely during her teenage years.
She said she had been bullied relentlessly during her formative years but that her four beloved pet ferrets had always kept her good company.
It all started when her family moved to Scotland from Southend, England, at the age of 13 and she struggled to fit in with the girls at her new school.
Ferrets Sasha, Sunny, Mr Blister, and Baby, helped Sophie overcome her shyness.
And now the wannabe Victoria’s Secret Angel hopes to take first prize at the Top Model UK competition in March and bag a place on the catwalk at London Fashion Week.
Sophie, from Rosneath, Argyll and Bute, said: “I had a lot of trouble trying to fit in with different friendship groups.
“A lot of the time I would be deceived into thinking they were my friend but I was just being used as a prop in their schemes.
“I would get a lot of grief for trying to get along with people and would get slagged off a lot for what I was wearing because I didn’t care at the time.
“I’d get used and spoken down to.
“I still have trust issues today because of the way I was treated. I would always try to help people not expecting anything in return but hoping for it.
“The ferrets were my excuse to leave the house and not seem as alone as I was. I took them for quite long walks in the hills near my home.
“It might sound sad but they were my friends. For a long time, along with my sister, they were the only friends that I had.
“The ferrets wouldn’t judge me and were always there for me when I had a bad day. They were a big responsibility.
“At school, I couldn’t bring the ferrets with me so I always felt lonelier than usual. I would wander the corridors on my own or chat to teachers just to look I was busy.
“I was very shy and quiet at school. I would keep to myself but sometimes just break out in tears. I would always be embarrassed to be seen alone.”
The ferrets sadly died two years ago, but at that point Sophie had managed to make some human friends who encouraged her as she entered her first pageants.
Her first foray into pageantry came when she was 15 and finished in fourth place at Miss Caledonia Scotland.
Sophie said: “That was my first pageant and I managed to finish fourth out of everyone in Scotland. I’ve stuck at it since then. For now, the sky is the limit.
“My family have always been really close and encouraging. That helped me to get over my problems.
“Gradually I managed to find some friends who weren’t ferrets and they have encouraged me to get out of my shell a bit.
“I am obsessed with the Victoria’s Secret Angels. It’s my dream to become one of them – though I might be about 84 by the time I manage it.
“I’ve even managed to swear off of chocolate, crisps and everything bad to give me the best chance of winning.”
Mechanical engineer step-dad Paul, 47, also had ferrets when he was a child.
Mum Cathriona, 44, said: “They’re really cuddly pets when they’re awake but they can sleep for up to 18 hours a day.
“When we first got Sasha, the oldest ferret, she actually bit Sophie but they soon got a lot closer.
“I’m just so proud of how far she’s come.”