A little more than a year ago, 19-year-old Anok Yai set the internet aflame after being photographed at Howard Homecoming. The South Sudanese stunner, then a biochemistry major at Plymouth State University, was captured on camera in the middle of the festivities in an image that instantly went viral—and launched her fashion career.
Now, Yai ends a breakout year that saw her become just the second black woman to open for Prada with a coveted spot on the cover of Elle magazine.
Images of the January cover were dropped last week (h/t Yahoo Lifestyle). Photographer Max Papendieck shared a copy of the cover, which features Yai rocking cornrows and an ornate fringed jacket and matching skirt emblazoned with religious iconography.
Yai is also profiled for the magazine, which heralds her as one of “fashion’s brightest young stars.”
In the article, Yai shares more about her journey—particularly, about how her parents initially found all the modeling offers Yai began fielding as rather suss.
“You’re telling me that someone wants to pay for your flight to L.A., pay for your hotel, and then pay you to take photos? It’s a scam!” Yai told Elle, quoting her father.
Now Yai, one of the faces of Estée Lauder, says she’s doing her part to make the industry more diverse—even as a rookie to the game. Yai is “particularly proud of convincing designers to allow her to walk the runway with either cornrows or an Afro,” Naomi Rougeau writes for the magazine. Yai also has pushed for more hairdressers able to style a variety of hair textures (read: black hair) to be hired.