From strutting her stuff on a catwalk in Milan to opening her first fashion show in Paris, a Calgary teenager has come a long way from when she first arrived in Canada as a refugee.
Nya Gatbel was only a one-year-old when she moved to Canada with her mother and four siblings. The South Sudanese family travelled from Ethiopia to Calgary in 2002 as refugees and have lived in the Canadian city ever since.
“Being in Canada is such a privilege in itself,” Gatbel, now 17, told CTV News. “You should feel like you’re able to do anything. You’re coming from Ethiopia to Canada.”
It’s perhaps that optimism that has contributed to Gatbel’s success in the fashion industry. The statuesque was first discovered in Calgary when she was 16 years old and an agent approached her older sister about a career in modelling. Her sister immediately referred the agency to Gatbel instead and she began modelling.
Antonija Klotz, the head of The Nobles Management, the agency representing Gatbel, said the young model’s beauty goes beyond her physical appearance.
“She has this grace about her,” Klotz explained. “She’s someone who’s very grateful and doesn’t take things for granted.”
Gatbel’s poise helped her impress audiences during Paris and Milan’s fashion weeks last month where she completed her first season in the circuit. In Paris, she walked for designer Guy Laroche and the labels INGIE Paris and Comme des Garçons. In Milan, she modelled for Italian fashion house Giorgio Armani.
Now that she’s back home in Calgary, Gatbel said she’s just soaking it all in.
“It was incredible,” she gushed. “To be across the world doing what I love in cities that have been on my bucket list forever. It’s a feeling I can’t even describe.”
Although she was surprised at first, the teenager’s mother said she approves of her daughter’s decision to be in fashion. Gatbel herself said she still can’t believe how quickly she’s risen in the industry.
“Two months ago, if you told me I was going to be in Paris and Milan, I would be like, ‘Stop lying. Just stop!’” she said with a smile.
The fashion model said she hopes to become a role model for other women and girls who look like her. She said she receives messages on social media from young women and girls who tell her how much she inspires them.
Gatbel said she noticed more diversity on the runways while she was working in Europe. She and three other models included in the Comme des Garçons show were the first black models the designer had hired in more than 20 years, she said.
“It’s been very refreshing to see a lot of models of colour working and getting huge jobs,” she said.
Despite the whirlwind pace, Gatbel’s modelling career is only just beginning. The teenager will return to Paris in June to prepare for the haute couture shows while simultaneously working on completing her high school diploma.Read more at:celebrity dresses | vintage formal dresses