Model With History Of Activism Confronts Lack Of Consideration For Dark Complexions In The Fashion Industry

She has a platform and she's using it.

Nykhor Paul is a South Sudanese model, former refugee and human rights activist. She is the oldest of nine and left South Sudan for the U.S. at a young age, during the Second Sudanese Civil War. 

In an interview with I-D, Paul described what it was like emigrating to the U.S. in 1998 and dealing with leaving her mother and father behind. 

"The move to the United States was very shocking. I came from a village and I didn't speak English or know anything about the West, but the hardest thing to cope with was knowing that I had left my family behind in the refugee camp," she told I-D. 

While living in the States, Paul caught the eye of a Ford Models agency and, according to I-D, moved to New York in 2008, signing to RED Model Management and subsequently worked on the runways of Vivienne Westwood, Balenciaga, Rick Owens and a Louis Vuitton campaign. 

With a platform, Paul works to raise awareness on the current civil war in South Sudan but also on issues impacting all people of the African diaspora — and particularly in the fashion industry. 


Paul declared: "I'm definitely super tired of apologizing for my blackness!"

In an Instagram post, Paul passionately laid out the difficulties and frustrations she encounters as she prepares for a show, all due to the color of her skin. 

As a dark skin model, she has dealt with a number of makeup artists who are not equipped with makeup to match her skin tone. This has forced her to provide her own makeup to professional shows — unlike her White counterparts whose makeup is provided, a practice it seems reasonable for models to expect.

She questioned why these professional makeup artists are not prepared to work with dark skin models. 

"Don't try to make me feel bad because I am blue black its 2015 go to Mac, Bobbi Brown, Makeup forever, Iman cosmetic, black opal, even Lancôme and Clinique carried them plus so much more. there's so much options our there for dark skin tones today." 

Paul's message didn't only revolve around makeup, she addressed a few other issues as well...

Paul touched on the lack of booking opportunities for dark skin models, period.

"Just because you only book a few of us doesn't mean you have the right to make us look ratchet," she stated. 

Cultural appropriation. 

"...Sh*t we started fashion in Africa and you modernize and copy it! Why can't we be part of fashion fully and equally?"

And how art isn't racist...but the people behind it can be. 

"Fashion is art, art is never racist it should be inclusive of all not only White people..."

Paul frequently uses the hashtag #refugeegirl on Instagram. Many of the pictures posted to her account are both modelesque and attached to a social cause.  Her dedication to bringing awareness to the crisis in South Sudan is apparent. She created a foundation called We Are Nilotic meant to "promote peace among the 64 tribes of South Sudan." She was also nominated as the 2014 Humanitarian Model Of The Year. 

According to UNICEF, since December 2013, the conflict in South Sudan has displaced 1.9 million people of which more than half are children. It also estimated that 1.5 million people "are in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity, expected to rise to 2.5 million in 2015." 

Whether she's advocating for dark skin women in the fashion industry or spreading awareness on the critical issues in South Sudan, Paul is surely using her platform to make a change. 


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