Scotland's model teenager takes on the world

By Steven Brocklehurst
BBC Scotland news website

Image source, Alan Peebles
Image caption,
Connor Newall has appeared on the front of magazines around the world

Connor Newall has had a meteoric rise from Glasgow schoolboy to international model whose "unique beauty" stares out from the front covers of style magazines around the world.

The 18-year-old from the Govan area has been catapulted into the upper echelons of the fashion world.

Almost since the moment he was discovered he has been in constant demand from fashion magazines such as GQ and Vogue and clothing brands such as Dsquared and Stone Island.

Connor has been in the studio with a roll call of the top photographers working in the industry today, constantly shuttling between Paris, Milan, New York and London.

According to those in the know, his "ugly-beautiful" face can look hard or angelic and its angular features are endlessly fascinating for photographers looking to create something special.

"I just see myself as a normal guy," Connor tells the documentary Scotland's Model Teenager, part of BBC One's Our Lives series.

"People see things I have never seen in my face."

Image source, Alan Peebles

The story of how an unassuming lad from Govan became a top model began when he was spotted by casting agent Claire Catterson.

She was looking for new young talent for a Scottish government-funded public service film on the dangers of knife crime.

Claire had been visiting Connor's school but hadn't found what she was looking for.

Image source, Connor Newall
Image caption,
Connor posted this picture on Instagram of seeing himself on the side of a wall in Milan

She says: "I was on my way out of the door, saying goodbye to the head teacher, when the school bell rang.

"My boy came down the stairs just as I was about to leave and I quickly asked the head teacher 'can you stop that boy?'"

Ms Catterson cast Connor in the No Knives, Better Lives film but she also sent his picture to Michael O'Brien at Model Team Glasgow.

She says: "Within seconds of pressing send on the email my phone rang and Michael said 'Where is he? I want him in the office'."

Image caption,
Connor (second left) was cast in a No Knives, Better Lives video in 2015

O'Brien says as soon as he opened the email the hairs on his arm stood up.

"He just looked completely different to everybody," he says.

Connor was feeling worse for wear on a Saturday morning when he got his first call from O'Brien.

"I thought he was joking," says the teen model. "I was going to hang up the phone."

Image source, Connor Newall
Image caption,
Connor with Paris Hilton at a fashion show after-party

O'Brien wasted no time in signing him up and sent a taxi to collect straight away.

He says: "Before I'd even met him I sent the images down to some friends in London."

"Then the phone started ringing and, to be honest, it has never stopped."

Within days, O'Brien had to phone up Connor while he was doing a Maths test at school and tell him to make his excuses to his teacher because he had a GQ magazine photo-shoot in London.

Within weeks, he was shooting "editorial" for magazines in Paris, Milan, and Barcelona.

In the fashion word, editorials are a photo-shoot that often includes magazine front covers and several pages of differing fashion looks inside.

Connor was thrust into the big time immediately and admits it was a strange world to find himself in.

Image source, Connor Newall
Image caption,
Connor in one of his many from cover appearances

Before his big break, Connor was considering joining the Army like his older brother Andrew.

Their mother is a home-help and their father works in the Govan shipyards.

Connor's dad is concerned that modelling is not a career that will last.

He says: "It does not take much talent to become a model.

"If you've got the look and know how to stand for the camera then fair enough. I don't look upon it as a career.

"Maybe I should but I wouldn't like it to last five years and then he's dumped and suddenly he's packing shelves in Asda."

Image caption,
Connor (right) with his older brother Andrew

Connor's older sister Denise is amazed that someone from Govan can be a top model.

She says: "It does not really happen to people from round here."

Connor can hardly believe it himself.

He says he first realised the scale of it when he was walking around the Duomo Square in Milan and started to browse the magazine racks.

It is a strange feeling, he says, to look at stars such as Ben Stiller, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rihanna and Justin Bieber and then see your own face alongside them.

However, for some reason this young Scottish lad suddenly had model agents around the world vying for him.

International fashion designers Dean and Dan Caten, from the global brand Dsquared, chose Connor for their "classic collection".

Dan says: "It was because the collection is quite tailored and proper. By using a face like his, it is a contrast. "

According to Dean: "He's not the bad boy he looks like. He's the sweetest boy with a bad boy face."

Angular face

The BBC documentary follows Connor to Madrid where he works with photographer Eugenio Recuenco.

The photographer says: "Because he has such an angular face, any small gesture he makes in front of the camera can give such completely different sensations.

"He can be someone sweet but equally he can be someone strong."

"With a simple small movement of his face and then add lighting into the mix. With him the sky is the limit."

Recuenco adds: "He plays a kind of character. He's more of an actor. You can make him play whoever you want him to play."

Acting is something Connor wants to get into and he has been taking lessons but for now he is continuing to ride the wave of modelling fame.

Michael O'Brien says: "He became a phenomenon. He's probably one of the most successful boys Scotland has ever produced."

But despite his phenomenal success Connor says he could never be "arrogant or stuck-up".

"Even if I wanted to be my mum would kick my arse," he says.

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