We are all born different, but unfortunately, some people’s differences can lead to bullying from others. Whether it’s their accent, social status, or, as was the case for Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech, the color of her skin, which led to her being tormented when she moved to the US at the age of 14.
Having arrived from a refugee camp, Gatwech had already been through a lot, and her troubles didn’t end when she stepped into the so-called Free World because of how darkly pigmented her skin is – pigmentation which prompted an Uber driver to suggest that she bleaches her skin.
The 23-year-old model grew up in an African refugee camp after her mother fled Sudan before she was even born. Sadly, her older sister passed away at a young age, and her younger brother was left scarred for life after he was attacked with a knife.
Although Gatwech’s life was comparatively peaceful when she arrived in the US, her emotional state deteriorated because of bullies. They described her skin as “too dark”, suggested that she didn’t shower, and told her to smile so that they could see her.
Things eventually got so bad for Gatwech that she ended up crying herself to sleep every night.
What’s more is that the naturally beautiful girl considered bleaching her skin because a lot of other Sudanese woman had been pressured into it, including her sister, but when her sister found out that she wanted to do it too, she stopped her.
“You would not just be bleaching your skin, you would be bleaching your mind. I did it and I regret it,” she said.
Despite being tormented for her appearance, Gatwech was inspired to become a model when she walked in a school fashion show but feared that the dark color of her skin and the comments she had received about it, would hold her back in the superficial industry.
She thought to herself at the time, “These kids think I’m ugly. I don’t see myself in the modeling world.”
Amazingly, she managed to push past her own insecurities and has not only become a successful model but used her platform to change beauty standards and show other women that it’s their differences that make them beautiful.
However, even when Gatwech made it in the modeling world, the comments about her skin did not stop.
The model explained that when she caught an Uber once, the driver said to her, “If you were given $10,000, would you bleach your skin?”
Gatwech laughed in response and asked the driver why he thought she should bleach her skin. He told her that she should do it because it would make her life easier – that she would appear more attractive to men and be given more job opportunities.
Nyakim answered, “Even if being lighter would make my life easier, I’d rather take the hard road.”
Gatwech’s skin has also caused problems for her as a model, with a number of directors asking if she could bring her own makeup to shoots because the makeup available on set simply isn’t dark enough for her skin.
To see how Gatwech is trying to change this problem for other models in the future, check out the video below:
Gatwech has now been nicknamed “Queen of the Dark” and it’s a name which she takes great pride in.
“I was asked whether I liked my nickname or not. I said I loved it. Black isn’t a color of sadness or death or evil. So I’m The Queen of the Dark who brings light and love to those around me,” she said.
Gatwech’s positive attitude towards the skin that she has in has inspired countless women around the world to love what makes them different and for that, we salute her. You keep doing you, Queen of the Dark.
If you’d like to keep up with Gatwech’s modeling and activism, you can follow her on Instagram here.