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Fiji Time: 6:51 AM on Friday 18 April

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The boy who made it

Margaret Wise
Friday, June 21, 2013

FROM Labasa to Australia and beyond, Pedro Virgil's meteoric rise from warehouse worker to negotiating and mingling with the elite is a truly amazing and incredible journey.

And as he tells it, it was a mother's love and his stubborn pursuit of a passion that propelled him from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of the celebrity world.

It all began while growing up in Labasa in the 1970s, when as a child he became fascinated with becoming a performer.

At the age of 16, Virgil migrated with his mother to Australia where he continued his studies and secured a degree in electrical engineering.

"I found that work so limiting and boring and opted for a career as a singer," he said.

"I was working at a warehouse selling spare parts for plumbing and right next door was an Art and Makeup School.

"During my breaks and at every opportunity, I would go over and listen to the students as they talked and my mind would explode listening to them.

"One day, the head of the school approached me and said she had seen me around a lot but never seen any of my assignments.

"I told her I was not a student and explained the fees was just beyond my means. Two weeks later, she came looking for me. I thought I was in trouble. Instead, she handed me a scholarship to study there.

"I found the industry was not easy and competitive. I constantly heard the word 'no', so I had to find another job to supplement my income. Luckily I could sing and our band toured the UK in 2003 before we went our separate ways.

"Returning home, I didn't know what I was going to do."

It was while Virgil was in Newcastle that the opportunity arose to use his photographic skills.

"I was friends with rugby players and was asked to help raise funds to fix the stadium.

"I thought of a Gods of Football calendar featuring the players.

"It was so successful it raised $100,000 and allowed the purchase of lights that allowed the team to play at night.

"So, in combining sports with fashion, I decided to pursue a national campaign using national sports icons and raise funds for breast cancer.

"This project exploded and went international in 2009. This was the catalyst to my career because it caused a chain reaction of interest."

Last month, the 40-year-old completed a stint with Caribbean's Next Top Model, the TV reality show that is the brainchild of supermodel Tyra Banks.

"No matter where I have been, nothing beats Fiji. In the future, I would like to return home and use my skills to help similar projects with advertising and sponsorship.

"The only advice I can give to people who have talent and are gifted is that you can dream and be what you want.

"But an important component is to always surround yourself with positive people.

"Never give up, no matter what it is that you do."