Duckie Thot is a rising star in the modeling world, with her striking looks captivating a global audience. But the stunning Australian model has seen a dark side to her line of work that the camera lens fails to reflect. And her outward beauty masks a hidden world of pain and struggle.
Now women often complain of feeling immense pressure to live up to unexpectedly high beauty standards. Indeed, they are bombarded with immaculate images of models featured in glossy magazines and on advertising billboards. However, it may seem hard to believe that models, too, can often feel inadequate. After all, they are constantly judged on their looks.
Moreover, the path to success for a woman of color in modeling can be lined with additional hurdles. And it’s a struggle Australian beauty Duckie knows only too well. For she always dreamed of becoming a model, but felt the profession was failing to embrace black women.
Indeed, Duckie found few modeling opportunities in her Australian homeland. So she weighed up her options and made some drastic changes in order to work her way up the career ladder. However, she learned quickly that when your life is on display, you leave yourself open for people to take swipes.
In fact, Duckie was on the receiving end of some devastating comments and criticism. And it had a big effect on the young model, who was trying to find her way in the industry. On that note, let’s learn more about the model whose flawless complexion has earned her the nickname “Black Barbie”.
Since appearing on Australia’s Next Top Model in 2013, Duckie has picked up more than a million followers on Instagram. Indeed, her posts regularly receive more than 100,000 likes and over 1,000 comments. And when you see her statuesque figure and doll-like features, it’s easy to understand why.
Now Duckie’s first runway show was for Kanye West, after a chance-encounter in 2016. And soon after she became one of the faces for Rihanna’s own line of makeup products, Fenty. Before long, she appeared alongside modeling legend Naomi Campbell in Pirelli’s 2018 calendar.
By all appearances, then, Duckie lives a life that many might envy. However, it’s been a tough road to the success she’s achieved so far. What’s more, in her personal life she’s faced family tragedy and the shadow of her parents fleeing a civil war. For you see, she could have well been raised in another continent had things been different.
Yes, because Duckie was the first of seven siblings to be born outside her parents’ homeland of South Sudan, Africa. Indeed, she was born in Melbourne, Australia on October 23, 1995. However, despite never visiting the east-central African country due to an ongoing civil war, she nevertheless identifies as South Sudanese. So where on earth did she get the ominous name “Duckie” from?
Well, interestingly, Duckie’s given name is actually Nyadak. However, teachers and students at school couldn’t pronounce it, so she earned the nickname “Duckie” when she was around eight. And evidently it stuck, as it’s the name she continues to use professionally. So how did she get her break as a model in Australia?
From an early age, Duckie set her heart on becoming a model. Early in her teens, she would accompany her older sister, Nikki, to photoshoots. In fact, she was mesmerized by the level of creativity involved in getting a single shot. Outside of modeling, however, Nikki found a different route to fame.
Yes, Duckie’s older sister is Nikki Perkins, half of Jamie and Nikki, a husband and wife YouTube team. Now they post regular videos of their everyday life. And furthermore, the couple have gained 1.8 million followers since January 2006, racking up nearly 300 million views of their videos. However, Nikki’s early career was spent modeling.
Indeed, and Duckie was first spotted by modeling industry professionals while accompanying her sister to an audition. Firstly, Nikki tried out for the Australian version of …Next Top Model. But during a break, two of the judges, Alex Perry and Charlotte Dawson spotted Duckie and invited her to audition.
However, Duckie was too young to take part in Australia’s Next Top Model at her initial invitation. Nevertheless, it was an experience that left the then-teenager sure of what she wanted to do with her life. And she returned for a successful audition for the show in 2013. But the experience was a baptism by fire, as we’ll soon find out.
For Duckie learned that there were many aspects of modeling she enjoyed immensely. As she described to Frank Body in 2015, “The best bits were the photo shoots – the locations and the briefs were just beautiful. Those moments made everything worth it.” So it seems Duckie thrived under the pressures of modeling.
As the model went on to explain, “You’d be totally thrown in the deep end, and you just had to be able to work with it. The vibe on set was amazing.” And although she found the work rewarding, nothing prepared her for the consequences of being thrust into the public eye.
As Duckie recalled to Frank Body, “The hardest bit was the critique, both from the judges and the public. It was difficult to come off the show (Australia’s Next Top Model) and see what people had been saying about me and my weight and race.” Furthermore, the young model would soon learn how tough the profession was for a woman of color.
Yes, Duckie, then 17, eventually earned a third place finish on season eight of Australia’s Next Top Model. But she had had to overcome many challenges along the way. In fact, one experience left the young model in tears. And strangely, it seems the show was under prepared for a contestant of South Sudanese heritage.
“I was extremely upset and embarrassed that [stylists] didn’t know how to cornrow my hair,” Duckie wrote in an Instagram post. “I sat in front of the mirror silently crying before my shoot doing my own hair.” Indeed, this experience left the teenager terrified of elimination due to stylists’ lack of knowledge on ethnic beauty practices.
Moreover, Duckie encountered the same hurdle beyond Australia’ s Next Top Model. As she described to Teen Vogue in December 2016, “When a makeup artist pulls out their palette, they’ve got 20 different shades of foundation for a white girl, but only four ‘darker’ shades.” Furthermore, the darker shades would be too fair for Duckie’s complexion.
So Duckie felt as though her race wasn’t fairly catered for in the fashion world. Indeed, even buying beauty products when growing up proved a challenge. For example, she would source makeup from overseas suppliers because of the lack of in-store products available for her skin tone. And the struggles didn’t end with foundation shades.
Indeed, the lack of professional knowledge and advice available to women with hair of Duckie’s texture was frustrating. As she explained to Teen Vogue, “Being a black woman, we haven’t really been taught how to take care of our natural hair, we’ve only been taught how to hide it. “I think hair companies, the media, hair stylists, and the industry itself are to blame.”
But the Australian emphasized that, strangely, she had been ready for the fashion world’s lack of insight. And this had come after years of watching her model sister in the stylist’s chair. In fact, Duckie confessed to taking her own makeup to shoots, knowing better than others what works for her skin. But she soon hit a dead end.
For the lack of understanding surrounding Duckie’s ethnicity didn’t end with hair stylists and makeup artists. That’s right, she soon realized that there was a serious lack of representation for black women in Australian fashion overall. And with it came a lack of job opportunities for the aspiring model. But Duckie faced other problems, too.
Shockingly, Duckie learned that the more followers she picked up on social media, the more negative comments she would receive. And the remarks were brutal, to the point the model was subject to online bullying. But she told Teen Vogue that sister Nikki helped her around this. She explained, “Nikki always just told me, ‘it is what is is, as you grow the hate will grow, and that’s okay’.” However, the bullying couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
For you see, the model revealed on TV in 2013 that she often drew inspiration from her younger sister, Sarah. That’s right, she said, “Sarah is always in the back of my mind.” So whenever the competition got tough, Duckie looked to her sister to draw the strength that would carry her through.
As she went on to explain, “There were so many things I didn’t want to do on the show, but you just do it. You should [make] the most of the opportunities you get, as many people don’t get them.” In fact, it was Sarah who didn’t have the same opportunities as her sisters due to a mystery illness.
At the time, Sarah suffered from a condition that had yet to be diagnosed. At first, when she was eight, she became unable to eat. Then her illness affected her mobility, so she could no longer walk, as well as losing her ability to talk. Tragically, it was a degenerative illness that lasted into her teenage years.
And on May 23, 2014, Nikki posted a YouTube video to inform her followers that Sarah had passed away. So now the stresses of life appeared to be stacked high. Yes, the grief of losing Sarah, online bullying and a lack of modeling opportunities seemed to become too much. On that note, Duckie took a break from her career.
As Duckie went on to further explain, “Since I started modeling, I’ve been molded by absolutely everybody in every corner,” she described to Teen Vogue. “People have always told me what to do, what I should look like, what hair I should have – all these sorts of things. And I listened to these comments for a very long time.”
And by taking time off, Duckie was able to figure out what she wanted from modeling and her career. What’s more, in finding clarity away from chaotic photo shoots, she realized what it was she needed to do. Indeed, she had an epiphany while working out one day in the gym.
“I remember running on the treadmill in Australia and thinking ‘You should be running on the treadmill in New York’,” Duckie recalled to Paper Magazine in September 2017. “I just thought, ‘Why am I here?’ So I [said], ‘Let me make the executive decision to move to New York.’ I’m not getting my coins in Australia.”
In addition, Australia was the opposite side of the world to the fashion powerhouses of London, Paris, Milan and New York. So Duckie gambled on placing herself in the fashion world’s field of vision. Firstly, she rented an apartment in Brooklyn, and later signed with the agency New York Model Management. Then came a lucky break.
As Duckie went on to explain, “I left a casting in New York and [a member of Kanye West’s team] ran out after me,” she recalled to Vogue in October 2017. “‘You have to come upstairs! Kanye will love your look!’ she cried… I followed her to see what was up and ended up shooting a magazine cover that day.”
Ecstatic, it was the break Duckie had been looking for. Following that, she made her catwalk debut at the Yeezy spring/summer 2017 fashion show for rapper West. Then followed a social media campaign, In The Mirror, with celebrated makeup artist Pat McGrath. Indeed, their one-minute video went viral, further boosting the Australian’s profile.
Furthermore, for the fall/winter 2017 catwalk season, Duckie was a Puma girl for pop star Rihanna’s Fenty brand. Unsurprisingly, it was an experience that blew the young model’s mind. She told Vogue, “I’m still trying to get my head around working with Rihanna, she’s one of the most influential women in the world.”
However, a career highlight came after Duckie met with leading fashion photographer Tim Walker. You’ve guessed it, the Australian model was selected for the 2018 Pirelli calendar, appearing alongside Naomi Campbell. And strikingly, the two appeared in a reimagined Alice In Wonderland theme featuring an all-black cast. More than a tyre brand, Pirelli are famous for producing groundbreaking and thought provoking calendars every year.
To add to that, Duckie became a Victoria’s Secret “angel” in 2018, and appeared in its fashion show. In fact, the lingerie brand is famous for hiring models from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Mind you, Duckie then went on to sign as an ambassador with L’Oréal Paris. Now this is a role where she endeavors to inspire girls of color to embrace the beauty of their skin.
So fashion can be a tough industry, particularly when its own models feel like outcasts in their own skin. It’s a situation Duckie knows only too well. However, in finding her way, Duckie has achieved success she previously only ever dreamed of. And with her new found fame it’s something she inspires other women to do.
As Duckie went on to summarize, “That for me has been the biggest change in my whole career – listening to myself, what I feel and what I know,” Duckie told Teen Vogue. “Until you find your own groove, you’re going to be confused… Really being sure of what you represent and being confident in that. Know that you’re a voice for hundreds or thousands of girls out there.”