“It feels fabulous to be home,” Duckie says on the drive back from Bowral. The South Sudanese, Australian-born Duck has been working it in a Ferrari Portofino and turning heads in the countryside of New South Wales. Life’s good. Hell, yeah. It’s been a whirlwind few years for model Nyadak “Duckie” Thot, who has been living in New York City.
Duckie’s first epic job was for Kanye West’s Yeezy and then she was hailed as the most loved and raved- about face of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty. That’s what we like, a Kanye and Rihanna co-sign from the start. But no one knows Duckie like Duckie does. This is her story, in her words.
“Yeezy was the first thing I did in NY. It was actually a woman named Kim – not Kardashian – who works on Kanye’s team. It’s so funny, I said ‘Kim’ in an interview and everyone thought it was Kim Kardashian and I was like, ‘No, no!’ Kim is the one who saw me leaving a casting – I think it was Tom Ford or at Ralph Lauren – and she was like, ‘Oh my gosh, Kanye is upstairs and I’m sure he would love you.’ So she sent a headshot and he was like, ‘Yep,’ and so I met Kanye right after that day and he snuck up on me. It was actually really funny. Now he sneaks up on me every time. That’s when I met Pat McGrath and started working with her and doing all of that. I’d still love to work with Steven Meisel.
“I think working with Rihanna is always going to be one of those pivotal moments in my career and also my life, because it’s… Rihanna. She’s just so sick. I learnt a lot from her. Watching her, being in her space, I just learnt a lot about how you’re meant to be when you’re working. Also working and partying. She’s the all-round woman. She does it all. She’s just funny. She’s a boss – she is actually one of the biggest bosses I’ve ever met in my whole life. The way Rihanna runs her empire is just so great. I love being around her. I aspire to have a team like that myself. But I don’t have a posse [of friends] here. I would just rather get in, get out, do my work. I’ve always been a solo yer. Not for any particular reason, I just know I’m here for work.
“I am more inspired by the people I work with creatively. When it comes to creativity in my work, I’m all about drawing from other people. Especially when we work in a eld where you need to be inspired. Nick Knight and Tim Walker have inspired me the most. I’m
really cool with both of them. I’m always challenged by them when I work with them. Nick will give me something that’s just otherworldly. We have a great working relationship. I can easily feel where he’s going with something and I like working with him because of that. And Tim, he challenges me a lot. He’s very particular with what he wants. He knows exactly when he’s getting the shot and I feel it, too. We’ll bounce off each other until we find it. I don’t do that with many photographers. He’ll make sure we find the photo together and I think that’s really important, having that relationship. And to be seen. I feel like I’m seen when I’m shot by him, which is rare. I know I’m a model but it’s very rare to feel seen with a photographer and also be on the same wavelength.
“I’m always myself and that’s really important to bring onto a set. I also think that creative people like working with models with a personality – they can bring their own vibe to a set as well. I don’t want to lose that. It’s important to be yourself and be comfortable, especially when you’re being creative with groups of people, so that your vision is seen and heard as well. Nick has my back. So does Edward Enninful – he’s super-dope. Who else? Who else are my friends? I love Val Garland. She’s so amazing, a great make-up artist. Sam McKnight – supercool. Love him. I was at his place for tea not too long ago with Edward, which was really nice.
“I’ve learnt to trust myself and my own instincts and believe in what I want. We get so caught up trying to please everyone else in everything we do, so when you’re listening to yourself, it’s a lesson. It was a drastic change, moving to New York. I didn’t know shit. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t plan for anything. I think that was the biggest moment in my life. It changed everything. You’d think you would talk to all your friends the way you have your whole life, and that just didn’t happen. I lost contact with a lot
of my friends. Not because of anything in particular, I was just on the other side of the world. That was really difficult to grasp.
“Reading and writing [get me through my days]. I love doing both of those things. I like praying. I love to pray morning and night. This might be a little bit dorky but I have my own little bible journal, where I write things like my God thoughts. I write my verses and what’s going on in my life, or different things I want to give up. I think that’s what keeps me grounded. We grew up going to church but I think, for me, it became a bigger thing when I moved to New York and I was by myself, and that really tested my faith in many different areas. And then it grew – surprise, surprise. Here I am! Closer to God!
“I also love music. I’ve always loved music. I have a lot of friends who are in music, like Kehlani, Lil Yachty. There are really great people I’m close to who make music. My brother made music when I was growing up, so did my sister. Now I have a piano and a microphone in my apartment in New York waiting for me. It’s a way of expressing yourself and feeling. I just spent a month in Ghana and got put onto all these African artists, which is really cool. Tiwa Savage is amazing, I’ve always loved Mr Eazi. Shatta Wale – he did a song with Beyoncé, and I love that song. I’ve been diving into new African artists.
“Since I started modelling, I’ve witnessed so many more models from different backgrounds [coming through]. It’s awesome. I consider myself South Sudanese-Australian. I like the way Australians are. We have an easy way of going about things, very relaxed, very chill. We always get the job done, which is cool. Living in different places and experiencing other cultures, I didn’t realise how relaxed Australians were. We’re flow-y.
“Freedom to me is expressing yourself, however you feel, in whatever way you feel. And being completely
happy in it. I think that’s freedom. I hope to have my own empire in the future. I don’t know what it will look like, but it will be a big one. And a family, of course. I’ll get married one day, hopefully. I want to have kids soon, actually. I want the whole shebang going on. My family is big, so I’ve always wanted a big family. I want [to be with someone] who makes me happy, who’s driven, who goes out of their way to continuously keep themselves inspired. Somebody who makes me laugh – honestly, on- the-ground laughing. You need to have a real laughing buddy. If your partner isn’t your real laughing buddy I think that’s a problem – well, for me it is. I just have to know I’m having a great time with my partner. I realised when I was in America, I was like, ‘Whoa, being single sucks, I’m just out here by myself.’ But it’s important to go through life single as well. I understand both sides. I do like having a partner. I’m never mad at having a man.
“When I get home to Australia, I chill with my friends. Get grounded, laugh, chill. And then I go home to all the screaming kids. There are six of us siblings, and then there are 30 children – or so it feels. I miss the food when I’m away. Food first, family second. My mum makes Sudanese food when I’m home.
“I’m doing whatever I want to do now. That’s the best part [about being Duckie]. I’ve let the reins go and I’m doing whatever and letting it be. I just popped up in Australia without any warning. I’m just owing. To young Ducks, I’d say, ‘Honestly, it’s not that serious. You get so caught up thinking it’s all so serious, but just have fun. Young Ducks, relax! Life is only going to get bigger and brighter and more exciting and I think it’s really important to appreciate that. And you don’t have to be scared of living life. People get so roped up in what life is meant to look like – primary school, high school, college… No. You can do whatever you want to do. You really can.’”
Photographer: Bart Celestino
Fashion Editor: Caterina Scardino
Text: Roxy Lola