A South Sudanese student has accidentally gone viral. Anok Yai was enjoying Howard University’s homecoming over the weekend, when a photographer noticed her and snapped some pics. Before she knew it, strangers were begging the modeling gods to give her a contract.
Yai is a 19-year-old sophomore studying biochemistry at Plymouth State University. “A friend of mine and I decided to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend Howard University’s Homecoming,” Yai, who grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
They attended Yardfest, Howard’s homecoming concert, featuring performers like Rick Ross and Doug E. Fresh. “After Yardfest ended, I began walking toward the dorms, when a photographer that goes by the name Steve ‘theSUNK’ Hall randomly started taking photos of me,” she recalls. “While he was taking down my information, he said, ‘Today was a good day, and a couple of these photos have the potential to go viral.’ I didn’t really think much of it, so I just smiled and went on about my day.” Little did she know that her photo would indeed go viral. TheSunk shared her photo with his 13k Instagram followers yesterday. The rest is history.
“It wasn’t until later that evening that I picked up my phone and found hundreds of Instagram notifications piling in,” Yai says. “Before all this happened, I had around 150 followers and was getting about 20 to 30 likes on each photo, and then suddenly, these numbers skyrocketed in a matter of hours.”
The first three comments on the photo say it all: “She’s a beaut!” “She’s perfect,” “She’s amazing.” Then there were comments from those hoping that Yai is a model, “Please tell me she’s modeling,” one follower wrote. “Oh my lord! Look at God’s work, wow!! She is runway ready. I feel bad for the dude who was nervous to talk to her. She’s a gem.”
“We need @anookyai to model merchandise for Oceanairs Republic. #wordup,” gushed another. “An agency needs to sign her ASAP,” demanded a third. “Give her a contract.” While most wanted her to start modeling, others assumed the beauty had already graced catwalks and magazine covers. “Yeah I def thought this was some famous model!” someone said.
Believe it or not, Yai, who moved to the United States in 2000, has never modeled. “I’ve always thought about modeling,” Yai says. “It’s a dream that I’ve wanted for a long time, but always pushed to the side because of self-doubt and distractions from school. Now I see this dream as something a lot more obtainable.”
The sudden notoriety has been a lot for Yai to process. “All this attention and praise is definitely hard to wrap my head around. These comments took me by surprise.”
Of course, people are already knocking on Yai’s door. “I’ve had a few offers here and there, but I’m keeping my options open for now, before I make a decision on who I want to commit to,” she says. When she does make the big decision, she isn’t going to ditch school. “I definitely want to finish getting my bachelor’s in science, so I would probably finish school online while modeling at the same time; just have something to fall back on.”
She says the best part has been seeing people appreciate her very dark skin, characteristic of Sudanese people. “It makes me feel honored to be a South Sudanese woman. It shows that the standards of beauty are slowly evolving.”
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