Sam Sarpong, a London-born model and actor who at one time had been the face of Tommy Hilfiger and Louis Vuitton, died Monday in Southern California after jumping from a bridge in Pasadena. He was 40 years old.
According to published reports, the case is being investigated as a suicide and the official cause of death will await results of toxicology testing.
Pasadena police had spent seven hours attempting to talk him down from the Colorado Street Bridge before he jumped, reports said. The police did not return calls to comment further on Thursday.
Sarpong’s family released a statement that read: “It is with great sadness that the family of Samuel ‘Sam’ Sarpong Jr. must share the news that Sam has passed away. The circumstances surrounding his death are currently under investigation and no additional details are known at this time. The family appreciates the thoughts, prayers and other expressions of sympathy, and request their privacy be respected at this extremely difficult time.”
Sarpong was born in London and moved to Los Angeles when he was 11. He attended El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, Calif., where he was a star on the basketball court. When dreams of a professional basketball career did not materialize, Sargong turned to acting and modeling, according to his Wikipedia page.
Sarpong, who was also a musician, has 76 acting credits to his name including cohost of MTV’s “Yo Momma” show. He hosted the BET Awards pre-show All Access for seven years and starred as Paul Unanga in the film “Anchor Baby,” a role for which he won Best Lead Actor at the 2012 New York Film Festival.
In addition to starring in Hilfiger and Vuitton campaigns, Sarpong had also modeled for the brand Boy London and had been the face of the Nelson Mandela Foundation apparel line. He was also the recipient of the MAA Fashion Award for Male Model of the Year. He has also walked the runway for designers including Versace, Donna Karan, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana.
In an e-mail Thursday, Tommy Hilfiger said: “He was a good-looking guy with a great smile and a great sense of humor. It’s shocking and sad.”
He is survived by his father Samuel Sarpong Sr. and his sister June Sarpong, an English television presenter. Details on services have not be finalized.