You might have heard of the phrase, “black like jet” or the adjective “jet-black”, meaning as dark a black as possible.
For South Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech, people of African stock even get stunned by her dark hue.
Although bullied, scorned and disparaged for her rare looks, the South Sudan native whose parents had to flee the civil war to Kenya and then to the U.S. is living her best life. This is a far cry from days she and her folks dwelt in refugee camps in the East African state.
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The Second Sudanese Civil War (1983 to 2005) displaced more than four million people and left an estimated two million dead, including Gatwech’s sister and brother.
The St. Cloud State University product, who made entry to the U.S. aged 14, is now dubbed ‘Queen of the Dark’, a reference to her deep melanin.
She’s through the years amassed heavy following on social media platforms, attracting attention from cosmetic brands who engage her to promote their products.
Surely, she must have noticed that she stood out even from her Sudanese folks who tend to be deeply melanated sharing their dark hue with some pacific islanders.
But with time, her hue, which was a source of worry, is opening up doors for her now.
Already, she’s modelled for fashion notables, including Calvin Klein, Fashion Nova, Aldo and Cosmopolitan.
According to the 26-year-old model, she first had her appetite for fashion and modelling ignited while in the Kenyan camp. There, she perused fashion magazines and watched “America’s Next Top Model.”
Gatwech’s initial university experience wasn’t pleasant as course mates and other school mates shunned her company, claiming she was ‘dirty’. She even encountered an Uber driver who asked if she would bleach her skin for $10,000 but she turned him down.
Her elder sister had warned of the disastrous effects of bleaching, having come to the U.S. earlier and succumbed to the pressure to bleach, only to find out it cost money and health to maintain the bleached skin.
“I was [asked by] my Uber driver the other day, he said, ‘Don’t take this offensive but if you were given 10 thousand dollars would you bleach your skin for that amount?’” the goddess wrote on Instagram.
“I couldn’t even respond I started laughing so hard.”
“[Then] he said, ‘So that a no’ and I was like hell to the f*king yeah [that’s] no. Why on earth would I ever bleach this beautiful melanin God [blessed] me with,” she added.
Having come into her own, the Fenty Beauty model said that on rough days, she reads her DMs and even takes screenshots of some of them.
“I don’t want the industry to think [Black models] are trending. This isn’t just a hashtag that’s going to last for a certain amount of time. When this ‘trend’ passes, I’m still going to be this dark, and I want to be able to have opportunities to work. It’s up to us to put ourselves out there and remind the industry, and otherwise, that we aren’t going anywhere,” she said.
Emerging as an advocate for diversity in the fashion industry, Gatwech proclaims “Black is bold, black is beautiful, black is gold… Don’t let American standards damage your African soul.”