Glass meets model on a mission – Duckie Thot

ONLY a few years into her career, there are not many who have created the same seismic shift in fashion quite like Nyadak Thot. Better known as Duckie Thot, the South Sudanese-Australian model has turned the fashion industry upside down with her striking looks, earning her the nickname of Black Barbie and in turn creating a new, more inclusive narrative for everyone to follow. 

In 1994, Thot’s parents fled South Sudan with her and her siblings during the country’s civil war to find a better life in Australia. Though she spent her childhood in Melbourne, her parents never allowed her to forget her roots. “Coming to Australia from South Sudan created a sense of diaspora for my parents so they were always very diligent about incorporating our culture into our everyday lives as much as possible,” she explains. “Whether that be speaking to each other in our mother language, eating traditional foods, attending a South Sudanese church, and consuming entertainment directly related to our culture.” 

duckie thot, zoom shoot, glass

Duckie Thot. Photograph: Riccardo Abrahao

duckie thot, zoom shoot, glass

Duckie Thot, Photograph: Riccardo Abrahao

Alhough thousands of miles away from South Sudan, the country and its culture is an integral part of her, she adds. “Being in touch with my heritage is at the core of who I am, but I think it was so important for them to pass that on to cope with the culture shock of being in Australia.”  

With family playing a key role in Thot’s life, her decision to start modelling stemmed from seeing her sister, Nikki, do it. “My introduction to the world of modelling came from accompanying my sister to her jobs when she started modelling,” she tells me. “It was really inspiring to see everything that goes into creating a vision – as a model you sort of become the vessel that displays that. Something just clicked and I knew it was what I wanted to do.” 

This newfound passion led her to enter Australia’s Next Top Model at just 17, finishing in third place. A few years later, in 2016 she took a chance and moved to New York in the hope of establishing herself as a model once and for all.  

duckie thot, zoom shoot, glass

Duckie Thot. Photograph: Riccardo Abrahao

Not long after arriving, she made her runway debut for Kanye West’s Yeezy SS17 collection – a moment that catapulted her into the spotlight. Consequently, Thot was cast in one of fashion’s most prestigious jobs, the Pirelli Calendar. The 2018 version was themed on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and shot by the legendary Tim Walker. Thot was cast as Alice alongside an all-black cast featuring the likes of Naomi Campbell, Adut Akech and Lupita Nyong’O. 

“That experience was one that I will cherish forever,” Thot reminisces.  “When I started my career I was always in spaces where if I wasn’t the only black model then I was one of few. To go from feeling like a guest to being in a space that I felt was specifically created for me is something I can’t fully put into words.”  

At just 24, Thot’s career has already seen her flourish both on the runway and in campaigns, working for the likes of Maison Margiela, Balmain and the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. However, her campaigns have caused a much-needed change to occur in fashion regarding diversity and representation. Starring in Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty campaign, working closely with world-renowned British make-up artist Pat McGrath and recently becoming an ambassador for L’Oréal Paris, Thot has created a huge impact.

“Growing up, I never saw women who looked like me in [terms of] beauty, which can be very disheartening when that happens in the industry you’re interested in the most. I just hope that when people see me that they can see themselves reflected as well and know that nothing in this world is off limits to them.”  

Although Thot has been a catalyst for change, I ask her whether she thinks that the fashion industry is changing fast enough. “I think that the fashion industry has come far, but to really push it forward it needs to go further than just hiring models of colour. The industry needs to be more receptive when it comes to hiring diverse talent to work in the creative and decision-making fields.”

She adds, “If there is not a particular space for you, you create your own.”

duckie thot, zoom shoot, glass

Duckie Thot. Photograph: Riccardo Abrahao

As her career soars, Thot remains mindful of the continuing conflict in South Sudan and is committed to providing help to her homeland in a practical way. “I think it’s important to go further than raising awareness. I’m always looking for a way I can give back however I can,” she discloses.  “As I go through the stages of my career, it leaves me thinking about what I can do to hold the door open for the others behind me. What can I do for my country to progress as I progress?” 

She adds, “I would like to use my platform to help South Sudan and, ultimately, Africa as a whole. Aiding underdeveloped countries needs to go further than just donating food and supplies. I want to be able to provide rehabilitation so [people] can heal from their traumas and … get into position where they can care for themselves.” 

duckie thot, zoom shoot, glass

Duckie Thot. Photograph: Riccardo Abrahao

Although only at the beginning of what is predicted to be a hugely successful career, Thot has already worked with some of the biggest names in the fashion industry. But perhaps her biggest achievement is her ability to never stray too far from who she is. “It’s a very humbling experience working with so many ground-breaking and influential people,” she tells me. “Just seeing how they really … work, and how creating is the pure objective even after all the success they’ve experienced.” 

I ask Thot what it means to shine. “Shine to me is acknowledgement,” she replies. Shine is being seen but it can only happen when you are your most authentic self.” Her fight to increase the representation of people of colour in the fashion industry while simultaneously speaking up for South Sudan proves that Thot is far more than just a model. 

By Imogen Clark


Photography: Riccardo Abrahao

Stylist: Erika Golcher

Retoucher: Eddie Mendes

Hair: Bobby Lipford

Talent: Duckie Thot


Clothing Credits:

Look 1:
All clothing: FENDI

Look 2:
Bralette, shorts: DIOR

Look 3:
All clothing: CHANEL

Look 4:
All clothing: FENDI