It took Zephany Nurse years to make peace with the fact that she wasn’t who she’d always thought she was. She grew up believing she was Miché Solomon, the daughter of Lavona and Michael Solomon. But it all turned out to be a lie.
But then she started to embrace every aspect of her two lives, choosing to use the name she was given at birth, but also accepting the name she grew up with. And along with the healing came more joy: a man named Justin Sheldon who captured her heart and popped the question.
Zephany (25) was recently surrounded by her friends and family for a bridal shower hosted at her aunt's house in Strandfontein, Cape Town.
“It was the best thing having a bunch of women together freely handing out marriage advice – things like always treating your husband with respect and to love him unconditionally," Zephany says. She’s truly looking forward to saying her vows, she adds.
As they prepare to exchange vows later this week, we take a look back at an exclusive interview we had with the couple when they got engaged.
Cape Town soccer coach Justin Sheldon proposed to her on her 25th birthday, Zephany tells YOU.
And now, for the first time in years, she no longer has to focus only on picking up the pieces of her life.
“I’m very happy,” she says. “We understand how serious this commitment is and we’re looking forward to creating our life together.”
They belong to the same church and have known each other for years. Zephany was a worship leader, and he was in the church band but they didn’t really know each other well. “We used to greet each other, but that was all,” she says.
They became friends two years ago when Justin worked as a driver in a private ride-hailing service and Zephany was a returning customer.
He was pretty old-fashioned about asking her to be his girlfriend, she says fondly. He took her to a restaurant in Constantia, Cape Town, and gave her a hand-written card and a box of chocolates.
“I was late for the date – he had to wait three hours,” Zephany recalls. “But he waited for me and asked me to be his ‘courtship partner’ in the letter, which he read out loud. He’s really an old soul,” she says, smiling.
“Justin is truly wonderful in the sense that he sees things through. It’s not easy being with someone who’s been through what I’ve been through. I’m still in therapy, but he fought for me from the start.
“He has self-confidence, he’s motivated, and he has an energy that can completely change the atmosphere in a room. I feel very safe with him.”
It came as a huge surprise when he popped the big question on her special day.
“I’d spoken to him a lot about how important my birthday is to me,” Zephany says. “I’d always celebrated it on 30 April, because I believed that was my birth date.”
But it was actually the day the woman who raised her, Levouna Solomon, stole her from the hospital and took her home.
It was only two years ago, after a great deal of counselling, that the young woman could accept her real birthday as 28 April.
“It’s the truth and when my relationship with God grew, I realised God honours the truth,” she explains. “And also that it had been a joyous day for my biological parents, the day they celebrated my life.”
She shared all of this with Justin and is overjoyed that he “truly listened”, choosing her birthday to propose given the significance of the day.
Zephany has made peace with much of her turbulent past but admits there are things she’ll always carry with her and that she’ll have to work on.
“At this point, the past is in the past and I’m in a really good place,” she says. “But one always has to be open and willing to grow.”
Her story made international headlines when it broke seven years ago. Her biological parents, Morné and Celeste Nurse, were devastated when she was stolen while sleeping in the cot next to Celeste’s bed at Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital.
She grew up Miché Solomon, the daughter of Lavona and Michael Solomon. Her true identity was discovered years later when her biological sister, Cassidy Nurse, started to attend the same school where Miché was a matriculant.
The resemblance between the two was uncanny and blood tests confirmed Miché was the long-lost Zephany Nurse.
Lavona was found guilty on abduction charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison, causing Zephany's world to collapse.
It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions the past few years and the birth of Sophia (5) and Matteo (2) were highlights. Zephany raised them as a single mom and is delighted that Justin has formed a bond with them.
He’s the one for her, she says. “It’s important to always support each other and to be selfless toward each other. I think we’re busy laying a wonderful foundation.
“I can speak to Justin about anything, even on my ugly days. He’s a solid man and his family raised a grounded man. I feel content with him.”
She knew something was up on the day he proposed but she couldn’t have guess what it was.
It started with a boat cruise at the V&A Waterfront. “I teased him and asked what the next surprise was,” Zephany says. “He took me to the Cape Wheel at the Waterfront and when we got there, they’d set up a table in one of the cabins and served us food and dessert.”
Her fiancé has a talent for doing things in a unique way, she adds. “He always wants to do something no one else has.
“We talked for a long time, about the future and what we want to achieve in life. He said he believes in me and him, with God in the middle and that our relationship means something. It was really beautiful and intimate – and then he took out the ring.
“I was shocked and overwhelmed. We’d talked about marriage before, but I didn’t think he was going to ask me that day.
“My first reaction was, ‘What are you doing?’ But I immediately said yes.”
The ring he chose is another example of how attentive he is – Zephany had pointed it out one day in a jewellery store as something she liked. “It’s rose gold and I love it,” she says.
They spent the day in a bubble of bliss and only later that evening shared the news with Celeste and Morné.
Michael let Levouna know and Zephany received a message from her the next day congratulating the couple, and asking that they delay the wedding until she’s out on parole.
Zephany can now get stuck into wedding planning and says she and Justin hope to grow their family. “Justin will make a very good dad,” she says, adding that she’s looking for forward to every moment of their lives together.
“It’s important to both of us to grow in all aspects of our lives.”