A man from Sudbury could very well be on his way to being one of Europe's next top models, but Nicholas-Conrad Rheault needs your help to get there.
Rheault is one of the aspiring models competing for a spot in the finals of Top Model Europe. The competition is currently in the public voting phase, and the winners will move onto the semifinals sometime in October.
Speaking with Sudbury.com from his home in Rennes, France, Rheault said he is currently in the top 10 with 1,170 votes as of Monday morning. He's reaching out to his fellow Canadians to ask for their help in propelling him to the next level.
But he's not just doing this for himself. Rheault is competing in this competition in honour of his sister, Janicka, who died from breast cancer in December, 2018. She was 28 years old, and leaves behind three daughters.
“She was my best friend,” he said. “We talked every day, even when she was really sick. “It was difficult being so far away near the end.”
Janicka was diagnosed with breast cancer more than a year ago. Things got better before they got worse, but when things got worse, they got really bad, Rheault said.
“The cancer took over her body, and she passed away in December in our childhood home. It was very aggressive.”
Rheault and his husband, John, have been living in Rennes since January, 2018. Rennes is a two-hour train ride northwest of Paris, France.
They had just moved there when Janicka was told by doctors she was going to be OK following treatment. Then a few months later, the cancer returned, and eventually led to her death.
Growing up, Rheault did a lot of musical theatre. He's always had an interest in fashion, even working in the industry in Ontario.
“Janicka always joked around that I should move abroad and become a model somewhere in Europe, or open up my own fashion store,” he said. “It was something I never really seriously thought about, but when I got back after she passed away, I found this opportunity.”
He applied online, and a casting call went out in May for the show. Organizers were seeking participation from 15 different cities in five different European countries. Having successfully passed the casting, he was informed he would be moving onto the next stage — which is the public voting currently online.
Rheault said he finds out on Aug. 30 if he advances to the next stage.
“Even just the casting experience was very foreign to me, but by the end of it, I was fairly confident,” Rheault said. “The organizers want to see our global impact through the online voting, to see our popularity internationally.”
A jury, made up of European industry professionals and major brand representatives, will also be instrumental in selecting finalists, said Rheault.
“At this stage of the game, I do have a very good chance, because I'm in the top 10 of the public vote stage,” he said.
Filming of Top Model Europe starts during the semifinals. There will be a lot of catwalks, meeting the jury members, and then it's off to the finals.
“I'm mostly just enjoying the experience, and doing it in memory of my sister, but getting a gig out of it and meeting industry professionals would be the ultimate prize, obviously,” he said. “I'm hopeful. It's been exciting so far, but nerve-racking. There's a lot of competition. Europeans are well known to be fit, slim and beautiful people.”
Aside from vying for a European modeling contract, Rheault said he's been enjoying life in Rennes.
“Culturally, it's very different in a lot of ways,” Rheault said. “The city itself is very old, and just so far as eating, it's a lot of markets and everyday shopping, because they don't have big commercial grocery stores like Sudbury has.”
The biggest challenge is the language barrier, he said. However, he has been working toward improving his French-speaking skills, which will open up even more opportunities for him.
In fact, he's taken over co-ordination of a French conversation group in Rennes. When it started two weeks after he and John first arrived, there were five people in the group. Now, there are 56 people from all around the world looking to learn the language.
Want to vote for Rheault? Go here to cast your vote.