'Little Girl From Manch' Gets Chance to Make Fashion History
MANCHESTER — For the first time in 20 years, a black model opened a Prada runway show and she is from New Hampshire.
Anok Yai, 19, of Manchester, opened for Italian fashion house Prada's fashion show in February. She is the second black model to open for the fashion label following Supermodel Naomi Campbell, who opened a show in 1997.
"It was an honour and I'm proud that I was the one chosen to open, but this is bigger than me. Me opening for one of the top fashion houses is a statement to the world — especially for black women — that their beauty is something that deserves to be celebrated," Yai told Vogue.
The process of being cast as the opener was a short one. Yai did not find out she was the opener of the show until an hour before the first walk.
"Before we all changed into our looks, the production team had me do a walk-through of the runway for a third time. I asked her why I was the only one doing it, and that's when I was told I was opening. I was pretty anxious before walking but the second I got on the catwalk all the nerves went away," Yai said.
The career-defining moment comes just months after photos of the model at Howard University's homecoming went viral after being posted on Instagram.
Since then, Vogue reports that Yai's walk on the Prada runway was only the second time that the model had taken the spotlight, the first being a menswear show in January.
Vogue also said that Yai opening the show is not only a big move for the model but for the industry as well. In the past, Prada has been criticized for their lack of diversity in their shows.
Yai is a student at Plymouth State University. Anok's family fled South Sudan and has lived in Manchester, New Hampshire, since 2001.
In an Instagram post, Yai thanks the "Next Team" for "giving the little girl from Manch a chance."
PRADA WORLDWIDE EXCLUSIVE. This is something that I'd only dream of. Thank you Ms Prada, Olivier Rizzo @willyvanderperre @ashleybrokaw @kylehagler and the Next team for giving the little girl from Manch a chance. Can't believe I'm the first black woman to open for Prada since queen @iamnaomicampbell, forever grateful. And thank you to @patmcgrathreal @cheriejohnson56 and @guidopalau they made me look extra chic - PRADA CHIC 😂💋
A post shared by ANOK (@anokyai) on
The 19-year-old model studies biochemistry and said she's always been interested in fashion and art, but modeling was a dream she didn't think would ever happen.
"I had always wanted to be model, but I was very hesitant," she told Vogue. I wasn't sure how well I would do in the industry because it's always changing. Now, I want to become the best model I can be and take my career as far as possible."
Material from the Associated Press contributed to this article.