Tovey’s girl ‘has what it takes’

By admin
08 May 2013

Tyra Banks thinks Neil Tovey’s daughter “has what it takes”.

America’s Next Top Model host Tyra Banks has been running a competition of sorts, asking wannabe models to tweet her or send her a message on Instagram. She then checks out the pictures on their profile to see if she thinks they have the ‘”X-factor”.

Aspiring model Jessica Tovey (19) was among tens of thousands of young hopefuls who contacted Tyra through the social networking sites.

“I saw it and thought, ‘Well I might as well just try.’ And one day I looked on Instagram and I had all these likes! And then I realised what had happened,” the beautiful Wits student says with a grin.

Tyra had shared one of Jessica’s pictures with her 1,3 million Instagram followers with the text, “Jesstovey9 [Jessica’s Instagram and Twitter handle] has what it takes.”

Although she has little modelling experience, Jessica has started putting together a portfolio, and did her first shoot – a bridal one – this year. “It was so weird pretending to be in love with this guy I had never met,” Jessica says, her big blue eyes widening. “We had to stare into each other’s eyes for, like, 20 minutes . . .”

Jessica was a finalist in Miss SA Teen 2011. “I am looking at doing Miss SA,” she says, suddenly shy. “But only once I’ve finished my degree.”

What does her soccer star dad have to say about all this? “When he heard, he said, ‘You’re almost as famous as me!’ ” she laughs.

While Neil is supportive of Jessica’s dreams he says her studies must come first. “She’s a very clever girl. Obviously her degree is the priority.”

But he just wants his little girl to follow her dream, and do what makes her happy. “She’s always been passionate about modelling and fashion. I won’t push her; it’s her dream.”

Jessica has no problem being known as “Neil Tovey’s daughter”. “I see it as more of a blessing; it could open many more doors for me.”

But at Miss SA Teen, the focus on her famous father did become a bit much. “Half of my interview consisted of talking about my dad,” she says ruefully. “It wasn’t so great.”

“But the thing is, I don’t know if it helped, or if it was a detriment to me.” Jessica worries the judges didn’t choose her for the title because it would have looked like they were playing favourites. “Especially because my dad was a judge when Sonia Raciti won [Miss South Africa in 1998], and she was the main judge [at the 2011 Miss SA Teen pageant],” she adds.

But it might have had nothing to do with it, she says with a laugh. “Because I didn’t come second or third either.”

Regardless, she loved the Miss SA Teen experience. “Some personalities clashed a bit, but then you kind of just stayed away from those people,” she says.

She’s currently in her second year of a degree in BA Speech Therapy and Audiology. One of the reasons she opted to go into this field was her brother, Sheldon (16). After being burnt by scalding water as a baby, and having oxygen cut off from his brain, Sheldon has to wear a hearing aid, and required speech therapy.

“A lot of factors made me study that, and my brother was one of them. Seeing how speech therapy helped him and has improved his life made me decide that I want to do that for other people.”

Her course is a lot of hard work, she says, but she’s thoroughly enjoying it. “It does make it hard to find the time to pursue modelling though, which is still my dream.”

- Kirstin Buick

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