Watch CBS News

Instagram Star Blazes Her Own Trail In Modeling World

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Her photos have captured a lot of attention this year and now a Minneapolis model is called "Queen of the Dark."

The image that captured so much attention was posted in March on Instagram. It shows Nyakim Gatwech behind the scenes at a photo shoot intended to display different shades of melanin.

The 24 year-old now has over 300,000 followers on Instagram. Her colorful snapshots show off her vibrant personality.

Gatwech has had dreams of striking a pose but never thought it was possible.

"I always wanted to model, but I didn't see someone in mainstream media looking like me. I'm would think I'm not built to be a model," said Nyakim Gatwech.

The South Sudanese native immigrated to the United States with her mother and siblings when she was in middle school. First Buffalo, New York, where she said adjusting to the culture was challenging.

"I was fine with my self-esteem and I started being torn down by society, and I started looking at myself," she said. "Do I blend in with what the society considered to be beautiful?"

It wasn't until she arrived in Minnesota when she found more acceptance. During her senior year at St. Cloud Tech High School she was asked to model in a fashion show called Africa Night at St. Cloud State University.

"I went to the show and I was so nervous, but it felt amazing and I thought this is fun," she said.

After graduation she moved out east to live with her sister.

"I was in Buffalo and I would travel to New York City and tried to sign with an agency, and that process took forever," she said.

The process became too costly and she eventually moved back to Minneapolis to go to school at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and model on the side.

"We did a photo shoot called 'Different Melanin.' The photographer did a shoot with all different shades of black from really pale, to really dark, which happened to be me," said Gatwech. "When I first started modeling I did a lot of photo shoots where the photographer would boost my complexion and they would edit it lighter than it actually is."

Gatwech said she is trying to stay true to her natural look and has since deleted those photos from her personal page. Her story caught the attention of Teen Vogue after Nyakim said an Uber driver asked her a question about her skin color.

"They asked me would I bleach my skin for $10,000 because he believed that my skin isn't beautiful or I have a hard time," she replied with a smile. "It's funny that I still get that question today, people need to accept that we're different."

Now she is using that conversation and her modeling platform to be a positive image for young girls all over the world.

"I want to be an example with girls who struggle and see me and say she's living proof to love yourself," said Gatwech.

WCCO reached out to Uber and here is how the company responded:

"We have a clear non-discrimination policy. (We have zero tolerance for any discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, marital status, gender identity, age, etc.) Riders and drivers can report incidents to us through the app and also should utilize our two-way feedback system. When a rider or a driver makes any allegation, Uber's 24/7 incident response team will investigate both sides and take any necessary action."

Gatwech said she plans to apply to the University of Minnesota when she graduates this semester to pursue an education major. She wants to be a teacher. She was also just recently the honorary guest at the South Sudan ACE awards in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.