South Sudan native Anok Yai was studying to be a surgeon in New Hampshire until Instagram changed her life. After a photographer snapped a shot of her at a Howard University party, Yai became an overnight modeling sensation. Years later Yai is making supermodel history, opening and closing shows for major fashion houses like Prada, Chanel, and, most recently, Tom Ford.
On Monday, Yai took Vogue along on her jam-packed journey to Tom Ford’s highly anticipated Spring 2020 show, which was staged in an abandoned New York subway station. The busy day kicked off with an early call time for Yai’s morning show and ended with her working the final look at Tom Ford’s star-studded underground runway, squeezing in umpteen fittings between. Zig-zagging around the city, Yai tells Vogue the real story of how she went from the classroom to castings in just one week.
New York Fashion Week is the first stop on this month’s marathon of Spring collection debuts, which culminates in Paris after checking off London and Milan. Walking in multiple shows a day and racing to fittings across the city, models tend to lose steam, naturally, but not Anok. Her down-to-earth nature and willingness to take every moment in stride push her across each finish line with poise.
Check out what it’s really like to be a model at NYFW with Yai, here.
Originally Appeared on Vogue