Anok Yai was hanging out at Howard University’s homecoming party when a photographer asked if he could snap her picture. The resulting image, which shows Yai staring into the camera, curly hair bouncing on her shoulders, has since gone viral — and has helped land Yai a modeling contract.
The 19-year-old is a student at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where she is majoring in biochemistry. According to The Washington Post, Yai and a friend took a trip to Howard’s homecoming celebration, and it was there that she by chance met Steve Hall, a Howard graduate and professional photographer. Hall documents black fashion and culture on his website, The Sunk. When he saw Yai, he told her that she is “the physical embodiment of what [his] art is,” Hall recalled in an interview with the Post.
Hall posted his photo of Yai to Instagram, where it has since racked up more than 19,000 likes. And Yai, who is of Sudanese descent, was inundated with phone calls from modeling agencies.
“There was one day where I had a bunch of classes, and I had done about three to four interviews, and my sister kept saying here’s another one, and here’s another one,” Yai told the Post. “And I was nervous because I had just gone from being a random girl living in New Hampshire to an Instagram-famous model. I wasn’t sure if I could handle all the expectations.”
Yai has since signed with Next Models agency, whose clients have been featured on high fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, The Telegraph reports. Yai told the Post that she hopes to use her newfound fame to instill confidence in other women of color.
“When I was younger I was extremely insecure about my skin color,” she said. “All I saw was light-skinned and white girls in the media … Now, I can use my mind and tell people about colorism and teach girls about self-confidence.”
Read the full story at The Washington Post.