First came Alek Wek…. she opened the door…. then came Atong Deng; Ajak Deng; Ataui Deng and Ayor – a stunning cadre of Sudanese models saturating the modeling world with a distinctive look, feline stance and flawless skin. Now enters NYKHOR PAUL, also born in Sudan but left when she was too young to remember – maybe at two or three years old. She grew up in Ethiopia and moved to Nebraska when she was nine years old. Nykhor is the new face for the Payless Shoes Campaign. She’s the girl on the Diet Coke commercial that was premiered during the super bow and she was the darling of last season’s New York Fashion Week walking for several big named designers like: Tory Burch, Mara Hoffman, Betsy Johnson, Catherine Malandrino, Stephen Burrows, Milan Breton and Farah Angsana to name a few.
The 21 year-old Taurus beauty was trying to finish her formal education when she was lured by the modeling industry. She attended Doane College in Nebraska and Emory University in Atlanta where she studied Biology with a minor in Psychology. “I was not really running after a modeling career. When I lived in Nebraska people always told me I should be a model, but I am such a school oriented person, I wasn’t aware of the industry, recalled Nykhor of her entrance into the world of modeling. “While I was in high school, I was `discovered’ by a model scout while shopping in a mall in Nebraska. A lady from Ford told me I should go to Chicago, so I went with my Mom and they liked me. I was signed to Ford Chicago. But after a while I thought it was interfering with my studies and take me off course, so I walked away from it.”
Later, while navigating her way to finish college, Nykhor was `re-discovered’ and came to New York “I came with a mission to accomplish certain goals. I gave myself two years and I am proud to say that in less than two years I’ve accomplished all that I wanted and soooo much more – commercials, a campaign, a good agency, runway work…so I am here and there is no turning back,” beamed Nykhor from her Harlem home base. How did it all happen? “When I first came to New York I researched and went to all of the agencies, they all said they had a girl that `looked like me.’ My girlfriend Grace was signed to Red and she encouraged me to see them. I am very big on energies and vibrations when it comes to people and the personal relationship I have with my booker. I found that at Red and signed with them. My booker at Red has incredible energy and I liked her immediately. The first day she sent me out I booked Glamour Magazine. That was the biggest thing to book Glamour the first day I signed with a New York agency.”
Nyhor has since shot with Glamour three or four times, she’s been featured in Essence Magazine, Fader, Jones Magazine, Elle and Seventeen Magazine. “When I was in Nebraska I said I wanted to be in Seventeen, so that was another one of my wishes that came through early in my career.” So now that this 5’ 11” beauty has accomplished a lot of what she wanted to do in a relatively short space of time, what does she want to do in the future? “This is a stepping stone to be bigger than I am now. More campaigns and of course I want to go back to school and finish my studies and be able to use what I know to branch into other fields. I am such a school-type person, I love dealing with people that’s where my Psychology studies come in handy. Modeling exposed you to so many different people from various backgrounds. I want to use it to enhance people and help others. I also want to work with children.”
ADMIRATION & ADVISE
A great admirer of mega model Naomi Campbell, Nykhor said: “I love the way Naomi carries herself, not the way people portray her to be. I like the way she brings her edge in fashion. I like models that are pretty and edgy. I also love Kate Moss, but for me its’ always been Naomi. In terms of advise for up and coming fashion models and young ladies who may want to follow this career path Nykhor taps into her own experience, noting that its definitely not what it looks like on the outside. “You cannot take this business personally, because it can really get to you and wreck you to the core. Everything happens in its own time. I’ll advise young ladies the same thing my Mom always told me, she says; `Not everyone gets their prize at the same time. Your time will come.’’’
Published in Profiles98 Summer Issue 7 2011