There’s a lot of talk about building a modeling career off of the strength of an Instagram following, but in the case of Anok Yai all it took was a single image that wasn’t even posted on her feed.
The 19-year old was walking through Howard University outdoor Yard Fest event last week when she crossed paths with Howard graduate, employee and professional photographer Steve Hall, who was shooting women for The Sunk, his lifestyle blog.
“I told her ‘I don’t know what you’ve been doing, but you should definitely be photographed and you should be modeling,’” said Hall in an interview with the Washington Post.
Hall posted the image of Yai on his Instagram feed and it proceeded to rack up thousands of likes. Yai’s own following quickly grew from 300 to 59,000 followers.
Not long after, Yai was contacted by multiple modeling agencies and yesterday (October 31, 2017), the New York-based division of Next Models, announced it had signed Yai.
Yai’s background is Sudanese, but she was born in the Egypt and moved to the United States when she was two-years old. She’s now enrolled at Plymouth Sate University in New Hampshire, where she’s a biochemistry major and is studying to be a doctor. Her mother still wants her to finish school and has suggested she take advantage of the opportunity to model, but continue studying possibly through online courses.
“When I was younger I was extremely insecure about my skin color,” she told the Post. “All I saw was light-skinned and white girls in the media. Now, I can speak my mind on certain topics and have people that will definitely listen. Now, I can use my mind and tell people about colorism and teach girls about self-confidence.”