MEET TOP BILLING'S JONATHAN
Fri, 21 September 2012
The winner of the recent My Top Billing Dream competition, Jonathan Boynton-Lee is charming TV audiences on the glam lifestyle show with his smooth delivery, sharp style and good looks.
Not only is he stunning in front of the camera, both as a model and TV host, heís also a real talent behind the scenes. An award-winning television commercials director, Jonathan recently co-directed his first feature film, Jozi Kings, and plays the piano and paints for good measure.
He spoke to Mambaonline about being adopted, the gay influences in his life and his secret man-crush.
Did you always know you were adopted?
Iíve known since I was young enough to understand. My mom used to read me these childrenís books that explained everything to me. Iíll always remember the poem she used to tell me: ďNot flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone. But still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, you never grew under my heart, you grew in it.Ē I think that will be my next tattoo.
Do you think being adopted might have given you a different outlook on life?
I do think it makes me appreciate everything in life more because, if you think about it, I never would have had this life if I wasnít given that second chance. So everything that comes my way is a blessing and a gift that I so nearly missed out on. So, in that sense, I live more and I love more.
What was young Jonathan Boynton-Lee like in school? Would we have liked him?
[Laughs] I was actually quite a hard worker in school. Head boy in primary school, prefect in high school, 1st team sports, captain etc. Everything went pear-shaped the moment I went to college in Grahamstown. [Laughs] So depending on what you like, I went through it all.
What led you to want to be in the movie and TV business?
As long as I can remember Iíve wanted to be in the business; both sides of the camera. I remember making little home movies in my parentsí back yard with my toy soldiers. And Iíve always loved performing. Iíve got an archive of some very interesting footage. Locked away, forever. [Laughs]
When did you realise that you were model material?
I was walking barefoot through Melville and got ďscoutedĒ. I had gotten attention but never made much of it. It made me shy so I never sought out the attention. It just kind of happened. Problem is, the whole shy, ďdonít care muchĒ thing ends up getting you even more attention, so it didnít work too well.
Do you think you've had to work a little harder to be taken seriously because youíve done modelling?
Not really, because I donít go around telling everyone Iím a model. First and foremost Iím a film maker and a performer and presenter. Modelling was always something on the side and I was very selective of what I did. If anything itís actually helped me and made me a more rounded performer. On the directing side I try keep it secret. Well, until now! [Laughs]
How do you reconcile the smart, intellectual Jonathan and his ambitions with the Jonathan parading around in his underwear (not that we're complaining, mind you)?
Hey donít undermine the ambition of parading around in underwear [Laughs]. But seriously, theyíre the same person, so no reconciling needed. Every intellectual has a fun side to them, some just arenít brave enough to bring it out in public with a leopard print Speedo. [Laughs]
Why did you decide to enter the My Top Billing Dream?
Fate. I was supposed to be in Thailand with my girlfriend but we broke up a week before we were supposed to leave. I found myself alone and depressed in Joburg. Iíd always wanted to be a Top Billing presenter so I thought ďIím definitely still in Joburg for a reasonĒ. The rest is history. Best break up of my life, though it certainly didnít feel that way at the time.
How do you juggle all that you do, plus being in front of the camera for Top Billing? Sounds exhausting!
It is exhausting but you have to prioritise. Right now Iím putting all my energy into being the best presenter I can be. Iím throwing everything into it and embracing the amazing ride. I know everything else will fall into place.
Being a hottie in the media and entertainment biz, you must get hit on a lot by guys.
Itís very flattering. Gay guys have the best taste.
Why do you think so many straight guys are threatened when a gay guy hits on them?
No idea. To me itís such a big compliment. Any guy whoís threatened by that either has serious issues within themselves, or theyíre still in the closet.
Do you remember when you first became aware of what being gay meant?
Iím constantly surrounded by gay men. In my family, in my work, close friends, my ex house mate, the list goes on. I canít remember when I first became aware of what being gay meant. Itís always been such a huge part of my life I never really paid much attention to it.
Have you had any influential gays in your life?
Plenty. One of my best friends, who was also my ex house mate. He now lives in New York with his boyfriend. My Uncle and his husband. My cousin and his husband. Theyíre both living in the UK now, but have been a huge part of my life growing up.
If you had to admit to a celeb man-crush who would he be? And why?
Iíd have to say Ryan Gosling. Heís not a pretty boy but heís incredibly good looking. An impeccable actor, and he carries himself like I do; below the radar, understated, with humility and not fighting for the limelight - just letting it happen naturally. He takes his mom to award shows, kind of like me and the finale of My Top Billing Dream. [Laughs] He lets his work speak for itself.
Your favourite film and why?
Black Swan for sure. My favourite director, favourite actress, and favourite DOP (director of photography) got together to make a movie. I mean, it doesnít get any better than Aronofsky, Portman and Libatique. Special mention must go to Skoonheid. Itís brave, unapologetic, and powerful film making. Best part, is itís proudly South African.
What kind of films do you want to make in your career?
I want to make proudly South African films that challenge the audience. Films like the ones Iíve mentioned. Intimate character pieces that take chances. They arenít ďsafeĒ choices. They arenít necessarily comfortable to watch, but they are everything a powerful and memorable cinematic experience should be.
Are you still single? Do you do well as a single guy or do you prefer being involved?
Yes Iím still single. Itís going to be difficult to find a girl who understands the nature of this job. Iím in no rush. Iíve always found that the most special girls come into your life when you arenít looking. So right now, Iím not looking.
How do you rate yourself in the relationship department? Would we want to date you?
Of course youíd want to date me! [Laughs] But seriously, when it comes to relationships Iím all about old school romance. The best, most romantic kind. Iím talking classic Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach type of old school.
So, you're a hopeless romantic then...
Thereís no reason why love canít be like it is in the movies. If itís not, youíre not doing it right.
How much work do you put into staying buff (and again, where do you find the time)?
I donít put in nearly enough time at the gym and I eat chocolate every day. Itís very difficult to get to gym and eat right when youíre on the road. I gym about two or three times a week and make sure that when I get to gym I make the workout count. Short and intense works best for me, between 30 and 40 minutes. Apart from my chocolate weakness, I also watch what I eat as best I can. Nutrition is 80% of the work, maybe even more.
Tell us one thing we'd never guess you're really good at and another that youíre really bad at?
Iím pretty good when it comes to music, poetry, paintingÖ the ďsofterĒ things in life. People often mistaken me for a ďjockĒ. I love surprising them. I think a lot of people were very surprised when I played the piano and performed with [up-and-coming singer ] Paige Mac on [Top Billing]. I like to keep a few aces up my sleeve for rainy days.
Then, Iím really bad at social media. I only recently joined Twitter and Facebook so Iím still getting the hang of it.
What would be your perfect holiday?
Thatís a tough one, I can think of so many. If I had to choose, I would say a luxury yacht cruise that ends up on a deserted island somewhere. The deserted island would also need to have abundant wildlife, including the big five. Is that a bit much to ask? [Laughs]
Then, the most important question of all. Why the hell aren't you gay? We're quite upset about that really...
[Laughs] Iím afraid I love women way too much. Sorry.
JONATHAN BOYNTON-LEE QUICKIES
Boxers or briefs: Boxers
Fruit or chocolate: Chocolate
Joburg or Cape Town: Joburg
Pizza or burger: Pizza
Champagne or whiskey: Champagne
Madonna or Gaga: Madonna
Beach or bushveld: Bushveld with a beach
Dogs or cats: Dogs
Books or magazines: Books
Drag or Halloween: Both are equally fun to dress up for
Nightclubbing or eating out: Eating out, then nightclubbing
Real fur or Faux: Neither
Facebook or Twitter: Twitter
Shaving or trimming: Trimming
Catch Jonathan on Top Billing on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on SABC 3.