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Tragic model Alli McDonnell's brother dedicates World Dance win to his big sister

'I felt Alli on the floor with me the whole time, and during each round I talked to her, to push me to do as best as I can'

Tragic model Alli McDonnell

Montel and Jillian dedicate their win to his tragic sister, model Alli McDonnell

eugene masterson

Tragic model Alli McDonnell's youngest sibling has won the World Dance Organisation World Youth Under 21 Latin Championships with his partner - and dedicated his win to his big sister.

Model and singer Alli's death by suicide in February 2019 sent shockwaves through the social scene, with rumours that one of Ireland's top catwalk queens had been the victim of cruel online bullying.

Just weeks after mum-of-four Alli's death, her former boyfriend and You're A Star singer Andrew Mann was found dead in his home.

Alli's younger brother, Montel Hewson, and his partner, Jillian Bronwich, were last weekend crowned world champions at the final in Sicily.

Montel and Jillian are also partners off the dance floor.

"We were so happy to win the competition," Montel (20), from Templelogue in Dublin, tells the Sunday World. "There are so many couples in it, and then it goes to the last six finalists.

"When it came to second place it was just us left and the Ukrainian couple, so the tension was really high. Our hearts were thumping out of our chests.

"Then, luckily, it was in our favour - they called the Ukrainian couple to be second and we both started crying, that we won it for Ireland.

"It was the first time ever that an Irish couple had become world champions in this competition, so it was the first time they played the national anthem. When we got up there, we were crying our eyes out."

It was even more emotional for Montel, who felt Alli was with him every step of the way.

"I felt Alli on the floor with me the whole time, and during each round I talked to her, to push me to do as best as I can," he reflects. "She is an inspiration to me always.

"She only got to see me dance once with Jillian, as we only started dancing together maybe two months before she died.

"Alli was the type of person that always invited us to her house after training, as she'd always be awake. I dedicated my win to her."

Montel says Jillian was his rock in the aftermath of Alli's death.

"I'm so lucky to have Jill as my partner, as she helped me so much to get through that.

"I found it so hard to get back into training, as I was just distraught," he recalls.

"When I came back into training, Alli's favourite song Hotel California came on for the rumba - and I just burst out crying."

Jillian (20), from Firhouse in Dublin, says all their training has paid off.

"I started when I was six and I've been dancing with Montel for three years," she reveals.

"It was so special to win, and that we made it finally after everything we have been through together."

Montel and Jillian dedicate their win to his tragic sister, model Alli McDonnell

Montel is the youngest of eight children. He and Alli shared the same mother, but different fathers.

He was born in Dublin but moved to Romania with his Romanian father and Irish mother at a young age and started to learn to dance there when he was four. He moved back to Ireland when he was 11.

"My love for dancing basically started at a very young age, but both of us hadn't really started doing proper competitive dancing until we started training with our coach Anna Sevastijanova," he explains.

"We both train under her in Dance Talent Academy in Fonthill retail park in Clondalkin, Dublin.

"The problem with dance in Ireland is it's not really recognised at all, unlike other sports.

"Dancing With The Stars is a great show, but a lot of it is about entertainment and the glamour aspect of it - but when it comes to competitive dancing, you don't really hear anything about it at all.

"Any time I speak about dancing, people always mention Dancing With The Stars, but the competitive side of it is a completely different."

As a schoolboy Montel was able to be his own person with regards to dancing.

"At my age I was never a small guy and I was always able to stand up for myself when it came to that, so I was rarely slagged that much about it," he says.

"I wasn't really bad at other sports. You have to be co-ordinated to dance, so when it came to other sports it helped me to actually be better than most people."

The couple train six days a week and despite their dedication and representing their country, they are not paid to do what they do.

"That's the sad thing about dancing - it's not as highly regarded as other sports," says Montel.

"We train for five to six hours a day, six days a week, and when it comes to a competition like this, we had to pay €1,000 of our own money to represent Ireland.

"We are always travelling abroad for competitions. The lessons are expensive, the coaching, the clothes. Like, Jill's dress was over €1,000."

The couple hope to achieve more in the future.

"Our main ambition is to become professional," he confirms.

"If we became professional we could get paid for competitions. You get invited to China, where they pay for everything.

With a name like Hewson, Montel - who was named after the American TV presenter Montel Williams - reveals he is a distant relation of U2 singer Bono, whose real name is Paul Hewson.

"We're distant cousins, but I've never met him. My auntie has met him a few times," he adds.

He also has a talented singer sister, Rebecca Hewson, who goes under the stage name Abecca.

Last year Rebecca told us Alli and Andrew were like the "Romeo and Juliet of Irish showbusiness".

The pair were actually first introduced to each other by Rebecca at a show when she was aged 14.

The couple shared a young daughter together, who was aged just two when the tragic circumstances unfolded three years ago.

The young girl, who turns six next month, is now being raised by Alli and Rebecca's big sister Emma and her family.

You can follow Montel and Jillian on Instagram at Montel_jillian_dta.

If you are in a crisis situation please call PIETA HOUSE immediately on 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444

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