‘Queen of Dark’ Model Nyakim Gatwech & Her Journey To Unapologetic Blackness
When you visit Nyakim Gatwech’s Instagram, you’ll first notice her many captivating images revealing her unique dark skin as well as her motivational captions, inspiring her more than 400k followers to embrace self-love regardless of your eccentricities.
She recently shut down the 2018 Emmy awards with her incredible style and grace in a beautiful colorful gown.
Named “Queen of Dark” by her fans, the South Sudan model (born in Ethiopia) became an international sensation through the power of the Web for many reasons. Initially, she gained recognition after posting an image of herself posed in between two light-skinned Black models. The image, representing the various shades of melanin, was from a photoshoot in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she currently resides. Photos from the ‘Different Melanin’ shoot, captured by photographer and creative director Isaac West, went viral quickly.
But it wasn’t until after a bold Uber driver asked her about bleaching her skin for $10,000 that she amassed a large fan base from the coverage of her baffling experience on just about every major platform, including Yahoo and Teen Vogue, to name a few. Nyakim’s clever response to the question from the Uber driver was simply, “I would never do that. I consider my skin to be a blessing,” sparking dialogue about societal views on beauty standards. Her fans quickly reminded her that her stunning dark complexion is acceptable in America and beautiful.
Ever since this experience, she has become a public figure, icon of beauty and a true inspiration to young women across the globe. However, this wasn’t an easy journey for Nyakim to embrace her melanin-rich tone.
As a model, Gatwech has faced discrimination. After hiring Gatwech, a local designer changed her mind the day before the gig. “The dress fit perfectly, but she was panicking because the color of the dress did not go with my skin color,” Gatwech says. “She said, ‘No, this is not going to work. I have to find somebody else.’”
As she gains more exposure, Gatwech hopes she can be a role model for others. “I hope to speak to young girls about accepting who you are and loving who you are. I wish there had been somebody when I was younger to tell me that,” she says. “You are black and beautiful. You’re different, and there’s nothing wrong with being different.”
Nyakim and I had a long conversation about her journey to self-love, almost bleaching her skin, advancements in her career and the truth about that fateful Uber ride.
On Nyakim’s struggles with dark skin color in the U.S., compared to her home country:
Nyakim Gatwech: It all started when I was [young]. I never actually had a problem with how I look or question like I’m different or I’m not beautiful because I’m dark until I came to the U.S.
Because when I was back home, in Ethiopia, Ethiopian people, they all have fair skin and look more like mixed people. There are more light-skinned people. And then, I lived in Kenya and Kenyan people too, they’re black but they are a different shade, lighter than me.
So I never questioned it because it’s like I was accepted. I feel like this is normal. God created all of us with all different shades and it is alright. Until I came to the U.S. in 2007. I was 14 years old. Came to Buffalo, New York. That’s where we landed before we moved to Minnesota.