Diversity has long been an issue in the modelling industry, and for young South Sudanese-Australian model Nyadak “Duckie” Thot, it's lead to humiliation and tears in front of a television audience.
Thot competed in the eighth cycle of reality TV series Australia’s Next Top Model when she was 17, and last week opened up about a heart-wrenching incident where one of the show’s hairstylists was unable to work with her natural hair.
“On one of the episodes I had to cornrow my own hair” Thot wrote on Instagram, “I was extremely upset and embarrassed that they ‘didn't know how’ to cornrow my natural hair when at the end of the day that's their job.”
“I sat in front of the mirror silently crying before my shoot doing my own hair, cameras rolling while all the other girls had hairstylists, shit scared I was going to get eliminated because a few ‘hairstylists’ didn't know how to do their job.”
“It's not fun being bullied for something you can't control,” she reflected.
Now 21, Thot told Teen Vogue that the experience made her feel “like a joke” and that she still remains hesitant about doing photo shoots with her natural hair.
In fact, the young model regularly brings her own foundation and weaves to jobs as “believe it or not, a lot of the time makeup artists or even hairstylists, have never worked with a girl with my complexion or hair texture”.
Thot hopes to see the industry in Australia pay more attention to women of colour and to ensure they are “looked after in their most natural form”. She recently moved to New York to pursue a career there.
Diversity has regularly been highlighted as an issue for the modelling industry in Western countries, and in Australia, one Melbourne-based agency is trying to instigate change.
Rin Models is the country’s first agency exclusively for dark-skinned models. Its founder Juach Cyer told SBS he and his late cousin Rin Dut were inspired to set it up after struggling to find dark-skinned models to showcase their clothing label.
"It was really hard, so it started from finding friends to model his clothes, and that sort of ticked the idea - we should really start a modelling agency, because this market isn't there," he said.
"We don't want it to be interpreted in the wrong way, and we aren't saying the industry is racist. We're just opening up a market that isn't there and giving people more options. It just felt right."