Wednesday 21 November 2018

Meet 18-year-old Appiok - the Irish model whose name you should know

Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Appiok Tong at the Joanne Hynes SS17 collection 'A Rousseau Rendezvous' launch at Dunnes Stores Stephen's Green Shopping Centre
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

There are few phrases more overused in media than "the next big thing".

Every agency, stylist and journalist wants to claim they found a bonafide star on the rise, especially after they have risen; but this time, I really mean it. Irish model Appiok is 18, she's in sixth year studying for her Leaving Cert in June and stalks the runway with aplomb in her spare time.

She was born and raised in Dublin, doing something of a SoCoDu tour, living in Stillorgan and Carrickmines before her family settled in Dun Laoghaire. Her parents hail from South Sudan and emigrated to Ireland in the late ‘90s after her father received a scholarship to UCD.

“I’m very proud of them. When they first came, they were based in hostels, they didn’t have their own house or car so they really did start from the bottom up – now they have a nice house and car, their kids go to a good school,” she beams.

Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren

“My dad moved here in ’95 I believe and my mom followed the year after. In 2008, my dad moved back because he got a better job there.”

As one of the few models of colour working in Ireland, Appiok’s ever increasing success is reflective of much desired diversity in our modelling industry.

Earlier this month, she was one of a number of new faces who featured at Brown Thomas's spring/summer fashion show and her final appearance led to a collective gasp - partly due to the fuschia Gucci gown she was wearing and partly because she is drop dead gorgeous.

While models like Nykhor Paul have put makeup artists on blast for being unprepared to cater to darker skin tones on jobs, she’s been pleasantly surprised by the availability in Ireland.

Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren

“That’s what I was expecting, I thought I’d have to bring my own stuff all the time, but there was only one time on my first shoot that happened - the makeup artist did have darker colours but they weren’t as dark as me, which you can see in the photos but it doesn’t look too bad," she says.

Appiok was snapped up by Not Another Agency after she was scouted at 16, while preparing to do promotional work, or "flyering", for a vintage clothing store in Temple Bar.

Like all ambitious young models, she knows that a move abroad is a prerequisite for any hope at a successful international career.

“I used to think I’d go to London because it was closer and especially before Brexit, but now I’m thinking New York because it’s more diverse there and there’s good clients there," she explains.

Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren

“I want to take a gap year next year, I need a break from school. I’ll see how things go, if I do come back to Dublin, I’ll do a culinary arts course in DIT."

Appiok credits her biggest influence as British supermodel Jourdan Dunn, who inspired her to pursue modelling to begin with.

"I had an interest in it from a young age, I played catwalk in my auntie’s house but I never looked into it. When I was 14, I saw her on Instagram and I got drawn in. I started researching her and realised she was a model, so she got me into it," she says.

This is her first interview: she’s softly spoken and refreshingly sweet as we set up camp for our chat and a mini photoshoot at NoLIta on Dublin’s Georges Street. In a way that seems fitting for a teenager destined for supermodeldom, she wears hardly any makeup when we meet – just some strobe cream, mascara and concealer.

Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren
Irish model Appiok. Picture: Mark Condren

Over the last two years, she's worked for major brands, including Irish designer Joanne Hynes, but her feet remain firmly on the ground.

And her friends are unfazed by her choice of part-time job.

“I don’t really like to talk about it, I don’t like to bring it up all the time because I don’t really see the point in doing that, but my friends are really supportive,” she says.

As for her parents, “They weren’t mad about it, they weren’t against it, but when I first said it, they were a bit sceptical because I was 16. Now they’re really good about it.”

She's just turned 18 and enjoying the newfound independence that comes with that milestone age, planning for a summer that sounds like the premise of a reality show worth watching - she hopes to travel to New York with her friend, who performs in drag, and take the Big Apple by storm.

It's refreshing to see a new face emerge victorious, one with a surely big career ahead.

So, what’s her ultimate career goal?

“To be on the cover of Vogue.”

Online Editors

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