A Sac State model’s journey from struggles to seniority

Tajah Bona’e has a passion for helping others


Rahul Lal

Kinesiology major and model Tajah Bona’e poses in Alumni Grove at Sac State on, Feb. 28. Bona’e also has a blog where she writes poetry and gives advice to young adults.

Gavin Rock

Sacramento State kinesiology major Tajah Bona’e is not only a model with an expansive portfolio, but also a blogger with advice for young adults, recipes for healthy dishes and poetry. 

Bona’e first got the idea to model in high school, it wasn’t until her sophomore year at Sac State that she began to seriously collaborate with people. Her roommate at the time who was a photography major needed Bona’e for a project. After that, Bona’e began to model more often but didn’t know where to start. 

“I was talking to my sister and she was like ‘hit up some photographers in the area and tell them you’re a model,’” Bona’e said. “So that’s what I did, and ever since then, you get one professional photo, then other professionals look at the photo and they know I can take professional shots.”

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Bona’e grew up in Riverside, California, until her house burned down in March of 2008. Bona’e said she remembered smelling smoke but didn’t think much of it until her dad started screaming for her to get out of the house. She said the fire started in their garage, and quickly engulfed the home.

“My little sister and my mom had gone to the grocery store, and when they came back, saw the firetruck there and the house on fire,” Bona’e said. “We had this car sitting out in the driveway and flames were coming from the garage hitting the car. My mom ran into the house to grab the keys to move the car.”

After the fire, Bona’e and her family began bouncing around Riverside before eventually moving to Ventura. Bona’e said the event caused her life to start to crash, and she still thinks about the blaze to this day. 

“I feel it was so symbolic in my mind, because that was the point everything in my family went haywire,” Bona’e said. 

The move from Riverside to Ventura transformed Bona’e into a more negative person.

“Back in Ventura, I didn’t do anything because I was so upset,” Bona’e said.“I didn’t go to prom, my mom told me ‘you’re gonna regret this.’”

Bona’e wasn’t even certain about attending college until one of her high school counselors pushed her to.

In spite of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Bona’e, her roommate, Sac State business major Alexis Pacheco, described Bona’e as one of the most outgoing and friendly people she has ever met. 

“(Bona’e) just wants everyone to feel comfortable around her,” Pacheco said. “She wants to make everyone feel included, and that’s why I think she attracts a lot of people towards her.”

On her blog, Bona’e encourages others to use it as a place to express their own creativity.

Quentious Addison, a political science major and good friend of Bona’e, has already contributed to the blog with her experience of going vegan.

“(Bona’e) influences me to be aware of the beauty that I and every other person has inside themselves,” Addison said. “She has taught me to always walk with my head held high even on the worst day.”

Bona’e initially chose nursing as a major, but switched to kinesiology after a chance encounter with a stranger at Denny’s.

“I usually go to Denny’s at night to write, and this guy came up to me and we had a conversation,” Bona’e said. “I told him I was stressed about my major, and he asked ‘do you even want to do (nursing)?’ I told him ‘no,’ and he said, ‘there are other ways to do what you want to do.’”

Bona’e realized nursing was not in her future. Now a kinesiology major, she said she chose a career path in which she can still help people without falling into debt. 

“Now that I’m in kinesiology, I just want to pinpoint what I’m doing,” Bona’e said. “I really want to work with kids, but I need to figure out how to do that. I’m thinking about occupational therapy because I get to help kids with disabilities.”