people who come to this country and find a job right away and continue working despite the language barrier while enduring ignorant customers who mock their accents aren’t “immigrants”,,.. they’re superheroes with superpowers and they deserve all the respect in the world for taking on a challenge half of Americans wouldn’t even consider taking
Dayang Nur Atikah Karim, better known as Atikah, won a major modelling
competition in Malaysia five years ago, it shut up those who had
criticised her dark skin.
Since then, the 22-year-old Bajau-Bruneian beauty has moved to one of
the fashion capitals of the world — New York — where her sharp features
and tanned skin got her jobs modelling for brands like Polo Ralph Lauren
and Banana Republic.
Atikah, known as Tiks to friends or Ika to her family, is living the
dream of every aspiring model by working in New York although she
doesn’t consider herself as having “made it” yet.
The third child of four children of a retired contractor dad and civil
servant mother, Atikah grew up in Kota Kinabalu and joined her first
beauty pageant when she was 16.
When she finished secondary school, she entered the Ford Models
Supermodel of the World Malaysia competition and won it, earning
herself a modelling contract and a spot in the international modelling
She started travelling for work at the age of 18 and hasn’t stopped since; she moved to New York in 2015.
Atikah talks to Malay Mail Online about modelling, being away from home and what she misses most about Malaysia.
In her words:
I’ve always dreamed of being a model since I was little.
My parents do support me especially my mum, although at first my dad
didn’t get how the industry works but when I explained to him, he was
cool with it.
I joined a beauty pageant when I was 16. I did not win anything but realised from there I’m totally not a beauty pageant type… it was first and last, but after that I started to do shows in KK.
Chanel Iman is my idol. I used to watch her catwalk on YouTube all the time to practise my walk. I don’t think I’ve “made it big” yet. Maybe people back home think that I’ve made it but I need more, maybe if I get one big campaign…
Trust me, New York is on the wish list of all models and I’m one of them.
I’ve always dreamed of living in a big city since I was little. I moved
to KL when I was 18, started to travel abroad by myself when I was 21
to London. When I started to travel I decided to find a place to
be based, where it’s easy for me to travel around, so I chose New York
because it is where the money is… I’ve been to London, Milan but not Paris (yet).
Being away from my family, the way I eat, mindset totally changed, and I’m more independent than before. Whenever I travel, I used to bring all these Sabahan cookies like kuih cincin, kuih bulan and our maid Kak Miah always made and packed sambal belacan tempeh goreng for me. But she’s no longer with us, so I just buy all those cookies when I get the chance to go back to KK.
People didn’t really appreciate the beauty of dark skin before when I first started in KK. They just think if you’re fair, you’re pretty. This mindset was totally obvious back then if you know what I’m saying. I see that back home they are starting to appreciate darker skin now which is good for newcomers.
(On the hardest challenges in the industry) During fashion week… in one day, you’ll have 10-20 castings and you’ll miss some for sure. For me I just try to make a list a day before. Sometimes, it’s also tough to face all those fake people in the industry.
I think what sets me apart is the belief in myself. All the
support that I get from my family and friends especially my boyfriend
Danny Lim — he’s the one who helped me a lot and pushed to get me signed with my mother agency (3mmodels). Be
yourself, confident, don’t be afraid to try new experiences, always
remember where your roots are. If you want to go far, work for it… don’t
The best experience I’ve had so far was performing with Miley Cyrus as a model dancer in London.
What I miss most about Malaysia is probably waking up early just to go mamak or find a place to eat breakfast. I miss the food in Malaysia!