SHE’S the McDonald’s girl who burgered off to start a modelling career . . . and now Tanya McDonnell is showing off her buns – tastefully of course – in The Sun.
We told last week how the 23-year-old has gone from earning £7 an hour serving Big Macs to raking in up to £1,000 a day as a model for Next and Superdrug among other High Street names.
Today comes another milestone in her new career, and she said: “I’m super-excited to be in The Sun. It’s a huge platform to share my story with others who may be in a similar position to where I was. I just want it to show people not to give up hope when you don’t quite know which direction life is taking you.”
Tanya, from Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, added: “I’ve had the best time shooting with The Sun and the team were so lovely. This is a big deal for me as my family and I have been loyal readers since I was a kid.”
Her life was transformed just over a year ago after she began posting snaps of herself on holiday on Instagram. Manchester agency J’adore Models got in touch, invited her to a meeting and signed her immediately.
Now looking the confident professional, Tanya seemed totally at ease at The Sun photoshoot as she showcased some of this season’s biggest trends.
“I feel like a different person to how I was a year ago. I’m a lot more confident now.”
After studying psychology at Reading, Tanya took the part-time job at McDonald’s in Washington, Tyne and Wear, to save some money.
She said: “I didn’t know what to do in my life, I had no real plan. I wanted to make money and still be in a creative job but I thought it was just a case of too little, too late.”
She was also concerned for her amazing size 8 figure, as working in a fast food restaurant meant it was hard to resist the temptation of a free meal every shift.
Tanya, who is 5ft 8in, continued: “I looked up to people like Kate Moss and Alexa Chung, but I thought you had to be 6ft and a size zero to be a model.
“I think these days any shape or size girl can make it.
“When I got the message from the agency I was super-excited because I just couldn’t believe they found me,
“My Instagram wasn’t established, it was just me posting pictures of myself on the train or on holiday.
“The first time I went for a casting I was wearing make-up and didn’t realise that you aren’t supposed to, so they immediately made me take it off!”
Tanya’s parents Mavluda and Kevin, both 59, were very supportive of their daughter’s new career. But tragedy struck the family when Tanya’s brother Adel died from cancer last year aged just 38.
Sadly he only got to see the beginnings of Tanya’s modelling career, but the loss has simply spurred her on to succeed.
She said: “It’s definitely made me grasp life with both hands a bit more and go for it. I want to pursue my dreams more than ever because it just shows that life really can be too short.”
Just a month after being signed to the agency, Tanya decided to ditch her McDonald’s job.
Since then she has visited Sweden, Germany, Dubai and Iceland and has modelled for footwear brands Public Desire and La Moda — and nowadays she mixes with a different class too.
She said: “I was on a job in Dubai and happened to spot Justin Bieber, so I plucked up the courage to say hi to him. He was really nice.
“That’s when you realise how much your life has changed. I just thought, ‘Pinch me, this really can’t be real’.”
Tanya has since signed with two more larger agencies in Europe, including MGM in Germany, which represents Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie.
Even so, she insists she won’t forget her time serving fries. She said: “Everyone needs to start their journey somewhere and I’m proud that McDonald’s was a part of mine. It taught me how to graft and start from the bottom to work your way up.
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“Hard work pays off, and I’ve proved it.”
Tanya’s next adventure takes her back to Dubai, where she is going for two weeks to work, with a bit of relaxation mixed in.
She said: “My friends say I travel all the time — and in my book that means I must be doing something right.”