e’s the backflipping half of the funky duo Misunderstood, a star in Robbie Williams’ eyes and one of the bookies’ favourites to win The X Factor.
While Stef Benson is living his dream, his childhood was a living nightmare.
Stef, 25, who performs with partner Jeff Twumasi, 27, spent time in foster care where he claims he endured horrendous physical abuse – beatings and being burned with hot chocolate.
For the first time, he shares his experiences to persuade any children suffering in care today to speak out too.
“My story is not a sob story,” he says. “It’s real. Not a lot of people realise what can go on in foster care. I wasn’t just beaten every day, I was tortured. It was malicious and all done behind a front.
“I have come through it with a positive attitude of resilience. But some kids won’t. They might not feel they have a voice. So I want to say to anyone in care, ‘You do matter. You are worthy. Please tell someone if you’re unhappy’.”
Stef, one of five siblings, was seven years old when he was taken from his home in South East London along with his brother Brandon, then six, and sister Melissa who was a tiny baby. The memory is vivid and painful.
“One minute I was just playing, the next I was being dragged out of the sitting room and hauled into a car while my mum was crying.
“My brother and sister were with me. It was frantic. I knew something big was happening because of the sound of people sobbing.”
Stef ’s mum Amanda, who was bringing up five children alone at the age of 29, asked social services for short-term help between jobs.
She was unaware it would mean losing her three youngest children to the care system for two years.
Stef says: “My dad just wasn’t around. We’ve never had a connection and I don’t even know what he looks like. And we were all OK with that because we didn’t know anything else. My mum was so strong, and so there for us, it didn’t really matter that we didn’t have a dad.