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Curitiba former model 'mendigo gato' (handsome beggar) turns into a fever on the Internet

10/19/2012 - 11h22



Addicted to crack and living on the streets of Curitiba, former model Rafael Nunes da Silva, 30, has turned into a national fever. This occurred after a photo in which he appears wrapped in a blanket in front of the Curitiba cathedral began circulating on the Internet.

The image of the "mendigo gato", blue-eyed and unshaven, became an instant success and had 45,000 shares on Facebook by last night.

Agência Mundo Model Curitiba/Divulgação/Reprodução/Facebook/Indy Zanardo
"Handsome beggar" Rafael Nunes, former model who's now a fever on the Internet
"Handsome beggar" Rafael Nunes, former model who's now a fever on the Internet

"He used to wear a 40, maybe a 42. Nowadays, if it's a 38, it's big," said Irene Valenga, owner of a modeling agency in Curitiba who "discovered" Rafael ten years ago.

At that time, according to the boy's family, Rafael was already using drugs, but was "more controlled". He started with marijuana at age 16. Little by little he moved on to others until he reached crack.

"He sank after age 25," says his mother, housewife Edit da Silva, 57, who lives in the metropolitan region of Curitiba.

Married to a construction worker, Edit says her son has been hospitalized "several times", but the maximum he was in rehabilitation clinics was ten days.

A year ago, Rafael - one of four brothers - left home. From time to time, he still visits his mother and father, when he showers, gets clothes and says that he is all right.

"He says his life is free, he can do what he wants without being bothered," says his mother.

The boy's dream, according to his mother, was not to be a model, but to study engineering. Since he became "famous", Rafael was no longer seen, despite the news crews moving through the city after him. Some say they saw him roaming the streets - asking for pinga (a Brazilian alcohol like vodka), shouting disconnected sentences, singing in English.

The boy's mother hopes that after the "success", Rafael will go back to rehab. (ESTELITA HASS CARAZZAI)

Translated by DAVE WOLIN

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