The Ethiopian-born model of South Sudanese descent Nyakim Gatwech born on 27 January 1993 represents the next generation of female models. Her dark skin has attracted attention and has made her a popular Instagram user.
Nyakim Gatwech’s parents lived in Maiwut, South Sudan, before fleeing the South Sudanese civil war bare feet and settling in Gambela, Ethiopia. As she grew older, her family moved to Kenya where they lived in refugee camps, until they finally migrated to the United States in 2007 at age 14.
Nyakim grew up in Buffalo, New York, but later moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has stated that she considers herself South Sudanese despite never visiting the country.
Nyakim, first learned what the word “model” meant in the grocery store.
When strangers would stop her in the grocery store and suggest she pursue a modeling career, the language barrier prevented Nyakim from understanding. “I used to think ‘what’s modeling? Is that a job I should go apply for?’” Nyakim laughed. But her sister, who also used to model, encouraged her to go into the modeling industry to help make it more diverse.
It wasn’t until her Junior year of high school that Nyakim felt she could pursue modeling. The career clicked with Nyakim when she strutted down the runway in her friend’s designs at a school event, she said. It was then the dark-skinned beauty started to build her portfolio, taking two years in New York and countless weekends during college to have photo shoots.
Today, not only has Nyakim taken the internet by storm with her modeling, but she has started a movement of ‘self-love and female empowerment.’
Nyakim went viral after posting a story of her interaction with an Uber driver on Instagram. When the Uber driver asked her if she would bleach her skin for $10,000, Nyakim laughed it off. “I would never do that. I consider my skin to be a blessing,” she told him.
She has faced self-esteem issues and comments from people who promote bleaching to whiten the skin, but with support and love from her fans, Gatwech has learned to embrace her beauty and pigmentation.
With her fierce photos and motivational captions, Nyakim has earned the nickname “Queen of the Dark” from her fans because of her naturally dark skin color. Her self-love has become an inspiration for little girls seeking their own. She appeared in promotional posters for the 2017 film ‘Jigsaw.’
When Nyakim Gatwech was in middle school, she cried herself to sleep because she felt unattractive. Known as one of the most beautiful women in the world, the 29-year-old South Sudanese model is an inspiration to young women everywhere. Having a sense of ‘self-love’ is her secret to success.
“It takes time to love who you are. Be confident in whatever the situation is,” Nyakim explained in an interview with Teen Vogue, “If you love yourself other people will see. It will shine through you and then they have the choice to accept you or walk away.”
“When I put a picture up I’m telling people that no matter what you say, I love who I am. I love my skin tone. I’m telling people that I am beautiful even though I look different than the majority of people in this world I live in,” Nyakim said.
Nyakim has challenged American beauty standards since becoming an Instagram celebrity with more than 990K followers. After spending most of her childhood in Ethiopia and Kenya, Nyakim never encountered colorism until she came to the United States she said.
“I never had a problem with my skin until I came to America, went to my middle school, and realized everyone was staring at me. The kids made fun of me,” Nyakim said.
Through every photo, she takes, the model challenges representation in modeling through her darkly pigmented skin. According to her, beauty is diverse, even though her skin may appear different from others.
Nyakim completed Minneapolis Community College, and devote herself to modeling but knows one day she will be an elementary school teacher.
“My goal is to continue with school, continue with modeling, and give back. It’s not all about me, I want to help others who went through what I went through. I want to give back to my community in whatever way possible,” Nyakim said.
“I empower dark-skinned little girls who are bullied for having skin they can’t change,” Nyakim said. “A little girl wrote me a paragraph thanking me for loving myself. She told me that because I love myself she started to love herself too.”
Nyakim said her mom always reminded her that she was beautiful and helped her develop self-love. Nyakim now wants young women everywhere to know they can reach out to her for guidance and support. The power of self-love cannot be underestimated.
“If you’re going through something as a young girl, talk to someone. Reach out to me. If you send me a message on social media, I will definitely respond and give you the best advice I have,” Nyakim said.