SA teen walks the global catwalks

2014-07-06 15:00

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Edwina Ontong was a 20-year-old single mother when she gave birth to Eugon in the bullet-ravaged Cape Town suburb of Scottsville in Kraaifontein.

But growing up, Eugon shunned the gang violence that terrorised his neighbourhood, shooting on to the world stage as a model instead.

Today, the hunky 18-year-old has catwalk gigs in ­Paris, New York and Milan under his belt.

He also bared rippling pectorals in the latest male underwear campaign for Woolworths, and can be seen adorning walls in Woolies stores around the country. He will soon also be seen lining walls in Markhams shops.

This week, Eugon’s mother, who works for the SA Revenue Service in Belville, laughed when asked about her son’s steamy nearly nude jobs. “His onderbroek campaign! No. As his mother, I cannot comment on that,” she said.

“The first time I saw pictures of Eugon walking the ramp in Milan, oh, I was screaming. He looked so different, so professional. But when he is at home, he’s just my boy, and so humble,” said Edwina.

On Wednesday, Eugon – known in modelling circles by his stage name “Eugon McNeil” – returned from Paris to Cape Town. His mother welcomed him home with his favourite dish: breyani.

“It’s not where you grow up, it’s your mind-set,” he says.

Eugon will model spring/summer collections for designers that will likely include Gavin Rajah, Fabiani and Craig Port at Cape Town Fashion Week, which starts on July 25. He also has local shoots with GQ Magazine and Polo lined up.

In an interview with City Press on Thursday, he said he was still jet-lagged. But he smiled broadly while showing off a string of smartphone pictures of him next to the Eiffel Tower.

It all started when Eugon was best man at a friend’s wedding. Soon after, a fellow guest who works in fashion helped him compile a modelling portfolio.

Eugon had just finished writing his midyear matric ­exams at Brackenfell High School when he boarded a plane to kick-start his career in Milan, Italy, last year.

“I wrote my English paper on the same day I left for Milan. My flight left at 12am, so I had to write earlier. I had a great principal who allowed it. Well, I still passed,” he told City Press this week.

Eugon returned to South Africa to finish matric and then started jet-setting in earnest. With one of his first large pay cheques, he bought his mother a pair of cream leather boots with “a leopard-print vibe” in New York.

Edwina told City Press that she hasn’t worn them yet – but may do so at Cape Town Fashion Week.

“I’ve just worn the boots in my room. There hasn’t been any events special enough, you know. I might wear them to Cape Town Fashion Week. I’m still looking for a dress for that. I’m quite voluptuous, but hope to find a vintage dress,” she said.

How did the young, single mother manage to shield her son from the violence around them in Scottsville?

“God’s guidance,” she replies. “My mum was also a part of the journey.”

“If you stay in an area that’s dangerous for young boys, you have to do everything to support your son, to help him avoid falling into the traps of drugs and shootings,” said Edwina.

“I worked overtime to buy him a PlayStation to keep him inside. We also spent a lot of time together. I took him to malls, invested in his career for athletics.

I also walked from one school to the other to apply for him for bursaries.”

Eugon’s father lives in Scottsville too, but his parents never married. Nevertheless, they are a tight-knit family.

Eugon says he picked up 10kg over Christmas, which he blames on feasting with family. He says he treated his relatives to drinks on the glitzy Camps Bay strip on Christmas Day.

Despite the glamour of his recent successes, the teenager’s feet remain firmly on the ground.

“The industry is hectic and very competitive, and many people are fake. I don’t bother with that,” he said.

In related news bound to enthuse local lasses, the hunky male model is single.

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