For rising Verona High School senior Cristiano Queiroz Jr., summer is not a time of relaxation, but a chance to plunge in-depth into his swimming and professional pursuits. From September through July, Queiroz trains and competes with the Cougar Aquatic Team, Montclair Kimberley Academy’s swim team, in addition to working as a model in New York City, where he has a contract with Boss Models. This summer, he’s also swimming with the Verona Waves, the town’s summer swim team, working at the Hollister clothing store in New York City, going on modeling auditions and taking acting classes–but at least he doesn’t have that little distraction called school.
“During the school year it’s very hard,” says Queiroz, who goes by the nickname Junior. “If I have an audition I have to leave school early and make up the work I’ve missed.” That can be a challenge with swim team practices six days a week and important meets to train for, like New Jersey’s Junior Olympics, in which he competed last year in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly events.
Queiroz seems to have picked up his work ethic from his parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Brazil with then seven-year-old Cristiano and his 2-year-old brother Thiago after losing their jobs and house, and selling all their possessions to buy plane fare to the U.S. For six months the family lived with an aunt in Newark; then his parents, looking for work, moved the family to Florida. When jobs there didn’t materialize, they ended up back north, in East Orange, where his mother enrolled in beauty school and his father began a construction job. What eventually brought them to Verona, when Cristiano was about to start high school, was his swimming: His parents wanted to be closer to Montclair, where Cristiano was a member of the YMCA’s team, the Waves. “Every day I thank my parents because they are such strong fighters for my family and I love them for that,” he says. His mother now owns Mulher Skin Care in Cedar Grove and his dad manages a sidewalk construction business.
At one time an Olympic swimming hopeful, Queiroz has now targeted a more realistic short-term goal of winning a college swimming scholarship and is receiving guidance from his former Verona Waves coach Brienne Von Rosendahl. She is a VHS alumnae who swam on scholarship with Villanova, graduating in 2009, and now coaches the Mount Saint Dominic team, along with another VHS alumnae, Andrea Jordan.
Queiroz got his start in modeling as a 15-year-old when his parents signed him up for a national competition sponsored by the Brazilian television station Rede Globo; he ultimately won first place and the Boss contract. Highlights of the years since include a TV advertisement for LaCoste and an appearance on the MTV show “Made” in 2008. He works in New York during Fashion Week every February and September; last year, he was selected to work for top designer Michael Bastian. “Models don’t get paid for Fashion Week but it’s extremely fun and you get to meet all the top designers and models,” says Queiroz. “It’s like you’re a superstar on the runway. It’s ten seconds but you are on top of the world.”
As if he weren’t busy enough this summer, Queiroz recently started acting classes at the prestigious T.Schreiber Acting School in Manhattan. He’s enthusiastic about learning the craft, and hopeful about getting acting work after high school, while acknowledging that the competition for jobs is even tougher for actors than models. “The people in acting seem much nicer,” he says. “People in modeling can bring you down, they’ll tell you that you don’t belong in the industry. It’s hard to take it all and be strong.”
This time next year, Queiroz doesn’t know where he’ll be headed. Swimming for a college in the city would be the ideal way to juggle modeling and acting work, but he says that’s unlikely, since most colleges in the city do not have strong swim teams. A lot will depend on how well he swims this fall for the Cougars. One thing is sure, however: Wherever he ends up, he’ll make the most of every hour of the day.
(Home page photo courtesy Joseph Bleu)