New Zealand teen Noah Tumataroa rubs shoulders with fashion royalty on Versace catwalk

It's been a career-defining week for one Christchurch teen, who has been rubbing shoulders with fashion royalty in Italy.

Noah Tumataroa secured his first modelling gig outside of Australasia, and it was for one of the world's biggest fashion houses - Versace.

The glitz and glamour of Milan Fashion Week might be a world away from Christchurch, but the 19-year-old certainly looked at home.

Noah has been strutting with the stars in Versace's 2024 showcase this week, mere metres away from mega-celebs including Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and '90s supermodel Claudia Schiffer.

"I got to walk in this sick black suit," he said. "I got to talk to Gigi a tiny bit, we were close in the runway. But Kendall was [with] heaps of paparazzi and security - I still got to see her, so that's kinda cool."

It was an out-of-the-blue Instagram message that kickstarted Noah's career two years ago, prompting him to ditch a college soccer scholarship in America and move to Sydney.

"I don't know how many days a week I was taking him to training, and the money involved in it," said mum Belinda Nicholls. "But anyway, he's doing well with the modelling."

Noah was signed to Sydney-based modelling agency The Scouted in 2021 after being discovered through Instagram.

The Scouted's founder, Simone Hellicar, was responsible for securing his spot in Milan this week.

Opportunities to model for a fashion house like Versace don't roll round often: Noah's the first Kiwi in recent memory to appear on the runway for the iconic label.

Unique Model Management director Ursula Seven said it's the "equivalent of winning a gold medal in the 'Fashion Olympics'."

"It is highly competitive, and to be from little old New Zealand and get one of those coveted spots - huge."

For older brother Phoenix Tumataroa, who has a degree in fashion, it's a money-can't-buy milestone for the family. 

"It's weird admitting your brother is prettier than you are. But it's cool, it's really cool seeing him do fun stuff," he said.

"I've got a few friends waiting for him to get home so they can get a photo with him before he gets mega-famous."

Noah said he'd never really considered working in the modelling industry before.

"I just got messaged on social media like, 'Do you wanna do it?' So I was like, 'We'll give it a go'. I'm definitely glad I did it."

When it comes to who he got his good looks from, Nicholls admitted they are probably inherited from his dad.

"But he's got my lovely personality," she added.

So forget the Kardashians - it might be Keeping Up With the Tumataroas one day soon.