Viral images from Anok Yai’s time at a Howard University’s homecoming celebration have vaulted her from Instagram timelines to the cover of Elle's January 2019 issue.
According to Yahoo, 21-year-old Anok Yai was a biochemistry student at New York’s Plymouth State University when the following photos of her hanging out at Howard’s 2017 homecoming landed on Instagram.
The images attracted the attention of modeling agencies, and within a week, Yai signed with NEXT model management in New York.
Yai told the Boston Globe she was surprised by the attention the pictures received, saying "My phone started vibrating rapidly for a long, long time … I honestly thought someone made a meme of me or something.
Coming from a Sudanese and Egyptian background, Yai told Elle that her family was not just surpised about the attention the pictures received, but were skeptical about the offers rolling in. She said her father told her, “You’re telling me that someone wants to pay for your flight to LA, pay for your hotel and then pay you to take photos? It’s a scam.”
Despite her parents' concern, Yai obviously took advantage of the new opportunities available to her, and quickly began booking shoots and shows. During Prada's Fall/Winter show this year, she accomplished a feat matched only by Naomi Campbell when she became the second Black woman ever to open a show for the brand.
Although things were taking off in her career, the model was hesitant to leave school behind. It was only after her chemistry professor joked about modeling being far more lucrative than science did she decide to totally focus on modeling.
Yai comes from a family of five children and worked up to 80 hours a week to pay for school during her time as a biochem student. Her family fled Sudan for the United States to escape the civil war when the model was four.
Coming from a diverse background, Yai told Elle she wants to see more Black women and Black hairstyles represented in fashion. She has reportedly successfully lobbied the brands she's worked for to allow her to appear with her natural hair in various styles. She also works for inclusion behind the scenes in fashion.
You can check out images from her Elle shoot below:
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