Fashion photographer Ion Jairo captured Toni, who is represented by Pop House Model Management, for MMSCENE Magazine‘s latest edition.
See more of the session + read exclusive interview with Toni below:
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Toni Engonga? – I am still discovering who Toni Engonga is, what I know so far about me is that I come from a long generation, I am a person full of energy and enthusiasm. Pioneer and adventurer, I love challenges, freedom and new ideas. I was born in a small heart of Africa called Equatorial Guinea and now I am a citizen of a place called the world – today in Milan, tomorrow in London. I currently live in the Canary Islands.
How were you discovered? And how long have you been modeling? – I have built this up block by block and with the philosophy of Always Strive and Thrive. I didn’t have beginner’s luck and had to go door to door to see if anyone would give me the opportunity to be a model and they all shut me down at first.
All started with a call from one of my cousins, I have thousands of cousins, African stuff, I received a call from one of them and he told me that there was a casting for a TV commercial where they were looking for guys with braids, at that time I had long hair with braids like Travis Scott. My cousin convinced me to go to the casting with him, we did the casting and before leaving the casting the casting director came to me and said “Do you want to be a model?” You had to see my face when he told me that, I said yes but I didn’t know what modeling was.
Days later I signed what would be my first contract with my mother agency POP HOUSE. I did my first job and I got 800€ and I saved it to leave the island. First I went to Madrid to meet with new agencies and it didn’t work out as I expected, they said I wasn’t good for modeling. Despite that I didn’t give up, something told me not to give up, to trust in myself and keep going! That’s what I did. I went to Barcelona to meet with other agencies and the same thing happened again as in Madrid, no agency wanted me except one, TREND MODELS, who decided to bet on me and with them my modeling career began.
If I hadn’t trusted myself and bet on me when they told me that I was not good for this I wouldn’t even be in IMG Models, one of the best modeling agencies in the world or I would not be answering these questions right now. A year later all the agencies that didn’t want me were sending messages to my mother agency that they wanted to have with them. Trust in yourself and everything will be fine. That was 4 years ago, which is how long I have been doing this.
Was modeling something you always wanted to do, or did it just kinda happen? – Being a model never crossed my mind. I didn’t know about the existence of this profession, but the opportunity came up and I decided to take it.
How did you experience the first job you did as a model? – I just remember not sleeping the night before I was so nervous. It was a job for Mango, I spent the night checking the website to see what their moodboard looked like, I memorized all the poses the models did on their website hahaha when the moment of truth came on set I was looked like a robot trying to look natural but the team was very good with me and they gave me several guidelines to relax.
I came out of that job very happy because they confirmed me for two days more to work with Mango and I figured I didn’t do too bad.
What’s the biggest misconception about the male modeling industry? – That we have an amazing life, we walk through red carpets, and we travel stress free all the time. That’s completely bullshit. Behind the doors of the modeling industry everything is a dream but the reality is different, it’s a chaos.
What does your career do for you? – Personally it has changed my life but not in a hedonic sense. Before modeling I was very introverted, shy, nervous…. With this work I have gained a lot of confidence in myself by the simple fact of putting myself in front of a camera or making a show in front of hundreds of people. Also by traveling so much around the world I have known different faces of life that I didn’t know, knowing different cultures, different mentalities and whether you like it or not in a way that makes you more mature. It has also helped me to discover myself with so many solitary trips and it is something I am very grateful to have had that opportunity.
Shoots or shows? – Why choose one if you can do both? Answer from an undecided person! I usually do more shoots than shows but I would like to do just a little more shows, they are exciting.
What’s your most memorable shoot? – There are two: one was for Schon Magazine, we did the shooting in the doubts of Gran Canaria, the whole team was like my friends and there was a lot of confidence between us and that makes the work easier. We moved to different locations: sand, beach, rocks … I would say that we were having so much fun that we looked like kids on a hike.
My last memorable job was to fulfill my personal dream doing a campaign with Zara. Before I was a model I already liked Zara, I like the way they do their campaigns, they look like a movie. I got it thanks to the photographer Brett Lloyd, we followed each other on IG and one day he texted me and told me that he had proposed my profile to Zara for a campaign that was going to be done in Italy.
Your dream modeling job? – I have a long list for this section but I’ve already crossed some things off it… My next challenge is to do a campaign for a perfume! That would be a glory for my career.
What have you learned from the modeling industry? – In Spain we say LAS COSAS DE PALACIO VAN DESPACIO and I think that’s beautiful.
What do you like to do when you have time off? – I don’t have much of that but when I have free time I do a bit of everything listening to music, hiking, skateboarding, boxing, soccer, books, friends, acting coach, running and most importantly doing nothing I like to dedicate time to myself where I do nothing and focus only on myself it’s like a kind of meditation I do to organize my life.
What I would really like to do is spend more time with my family, they are everything to me, especially my little sisters. I’m in love with them!!
If you weren’t a model what would you be? – I would be working at some law firm, paying bills and waiting for the weekend to live.
What do you enjoy the most in life? – Enjoy every moment! I always thought that life began after an obstacle, something to resolve first, some unfinished business, university, a debt to pay then life would begin. Until I realized that these obstacles were life, life passes in front of you while you wait to overcome all that. So I stopped thinking about finishing school, getting married, the pandemic being over Or wait for Friday to live.
Your personal passion or hidden talents? – I am creative. I used to have a passion for drawing and I was very good at it, it’s something I have pending and I would like to take it up again. And also I like making videos and taking pics, whenever I’m with my friends I’m always with the camera in my hand to record and then make a video. I have an instagram account called @spicypic_ I post everything there.
How would you describe your personal style and where do you get your inspiration from? – I would describe it with one word comfortably. For me the important thing is to be comfortable. I’ve never been a fashion dresser but I would say that my style is a little bit different from all the people around me, the brands I work with, my friends and sometimes I go down the street I see someone dressed in a way that I like and I add that to my style as well.
What do you do to stay in shape? – My constitution influences me a lot because I love food so much, I can stay away from everything but I don’t play with food. Also I do a lot of sports, I like aerobic exercises that help you to exercise physical abilities such as flexibility, coordination, orientation, rhythm and help to clear your mind.
Do you have any beauty routine you stick to daily? – When I was 5 years old I was obsessed with using moisturizing creams, there was one in particular that I really liked. It was called IDOLE. It smelled like candy and I liked it so much that my mother had to hide it.
One day my mother was in the living room with some guests and I took the opportunity to go into her room where she was hiding the cream, I took the cream and poured the whole jar all over my body and then I ran to the living room where my mother was with the guests to tell them that I had become IDOLE.
I don’t use a lot of skincare these days because I used so much cream when I was a kid! [laughs] All I do now is moisturize my face with Fenty products and wash my face before I go to bed.
Which Instagram accounts motivate you? – I don’t have references on instagram. I prefer to have them in real life. The essential is invisible TO SOCIAL NETWORKS.
5 facts about you people may not know. – Energy. Affectionate. Independent. Noble. Impulsive.
Name three places that you want to travel to. – Dominican Republic, Finland, Bali, Cape Town, China, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, space… did you say three places?
What’s on your current playlist? – In Spain we say TEMAZOS that’s what I have in my playlist. I listen Blues, Jazz, R&B, Rap, Gospel (Sunday service), Reggaeton but the classic Don Omar pobre diabla, Soul, Techno and Amapiano…
What are your plans for the future? – I will have my own business. And also I have plans with acting, I just discovered that it’s another passion of mine and I am working on it. I’ve already managed to be in a few movies and series for Netflix, Disney and another TV series.