• Modelling portfolio of Bijang Slabb (Vivien's modelling agency)Source: Vivien's modelling agency
After being scouted by a talent agent, the 19-year-old aspiring surf lifesaver is now riding a wave of modelling success.
By
Emily Nicol

22 Mar 2019 - 10:00 AM  UPDATED 22 Mar 2019 - 1:49 PM

It's easy to see the influence of the ocean, saltwater and a grounding in culture in the growing portfolio images of upcoming model, Noah 'Bijang Moogerah' Slabb. 

Being born and bred in the coastal town of Fingal Head in Northern NSW, Bijang Moogerah which means 'little storm' in his native tongue (Bundjalung) tells NITV that he loves getting to travel the country and shoot for big brands, but surfing, beach culture and community has always been the biggest 

Bijang's father is Yugambeh-Bundjalung and his mother, from Brewarrina, "belongs to the mob out there". As such, he was raised and continues to express himself, as a proud Aboriginal man.  

"Both of them [my parents] grew up in big families so I think it's fair to say I've got so many cousins I don't think I've met them all yet," he laughs.

"We've always had a connection with culture growing up because my father grew up in our community, learning from the old people, and that knowledge has been passed down to us.

"We're [siblings and cousins] all taught our dances and cultural practices from a young age, so it's very important and a very strong part of us."

It was through this expression of his Indigenous culture that quickly landed the 19-year-old a different kind of platform to showcase his heritage and identity.

Last year, Bijang became the face of The Spirit of Churaki, a music production that his father, Kyle Slabb, had created for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Bijang's performance and striking looks caught the eye of a model talent scout who found the green-eyed, sandy-haired teen on Instagram and initiated a meeting.

"I've always loved being in front of the camera, acting and filming myself, so I thought 'yeah why not?!'. A few weeks later I was up in Brisbane in a meeting and it pretty much kicked off from there," he told NITV. 

"Once I get a bigger platform I hope more people will recognise, and be able to learn about, my culture and where I come from."

Now, Bijang is a part of the internationally renowned model agency Vivien's who represents the likes of Belle Lucia and Scarlett Rose Leithold and is one of a growing number of Aboriginal models on the company's books. 

While he loves being in front of the camera, Bijang feels most comfortable in the water, growing up at Fingal Beach and nearby the Tweed River. 

"We're a saltwater tribe, a lot of what we do revolves around the water like swimming, fishing and surfing," he told NITV. 

Being a relatively secluded area, often Bijang and his family have the waves at Fingal to themselves. But when there wasn't any decent swell, Bijang reflects on the surrounding scrubland which always provided good activity as a young one.

"When we weren't able to surf, we would be playing in the bush making secret hideouts and bush houses and just having fun and practising the skills and knowledge we learnt."

When he was old enough, Bijang eagerly joined his local surf life-saving club and today, his passion for helping people continues, as he recently spent over 200 hours patrolling his local beach. On the job, he has rescued people from dangerous rips and unruly swell many times.   

"Saving people was such an adrenaline rush and I always felt really good after saving someone's life," he says.

"That feeling sparked my ambition to help people to be a lifeguard. I haven't got there yet but I'm still pursuing that dream and hope to achieve it by the end of the year."

As Bijang works toward his Gold Medallion, he continues to pursue the fast success he's had in modelling.     

Bijang says that working with well-known brands such as Bonds, Billabong and Target have been highlights in his emerging career, but the work can be challenging for an outsider to such a demanding industry.

"I think one of the biggest struggles of modelling is trying to put yourself out there and still staying grounded and true to yourself," Bijang admits. 

"You can learn things and take advice from other people, but at the end of the day you have to understand that everyone's experience is different."

It's the very real exhausting cut-throat of attending many castings and potentially being turned down for all of them that Bijang can find difficult. However, he says that the experience can be a positive one.

"I guess the way to success comes down to knowing your self-worth and just being persistent and optimistic until you get that break your looking for," he told NITV.

"I want to show people that no matter what community you come from, or what background, if you put yourself out there and be persistent, opportunities will come."

Still in his first years of the industry, Bijang hopes to eventually work with some of the major international brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. However, the young model says that while doing so, he is committed to staying connected to Country.

"I still do cultural things with my Dad and he's still passing knowledge down onto us, which means we hold the responsibility to keep it." 

"This keeps me grounded and connected to my culture because even though I fly everywhere and do all these things, I still have that responsibility to withhold. 

"But the ocean and my hometown always pulls me back to my roots as well... Because I start to dry up if I'm not in the saltwater."