Two of fashion’s brightest young stars, models Anok Yai and Grace Elizabeth, take the season’s most head-turning looks for a spin.
Anok Yai was discovered in 2017, when an Instagram snap of the leggy beauty taken at one of Howard University’s homecoming celebrations (she’d been visiting a friend) went viral. Soon thereafter, the then biochemistry major from New Hampshire’s Plymouth State University was booked for Prada’s fall 2018 show, as well as its spring and pre-fall 2018 campaigns. “My art professor told me I should withdraw, otherwise she’d fail me for all the absences,” Yai says, “but my chemistry professor encouraged me to pursue this, joking that it would be a far more lucrative path.” Prior to her discovery, Yai was juggling a full course load and working as much as 80 hours per week in order to pay for her education. Initially, her parents weren’t thrilled about their daughter putting her academic pursuits on hold. They’d fled civil war in their native Sudan, immigrating to the States about four years after Anok was born in Egypt, and had worked hard to provide a comfortable upbringing for Yai and her five siblings. “You’re telling me that someone wants to pay for your flight to L.A., pay for your hotel, and then pay you to take photos? It’s a scam!” she says her father insisted. It wasn’t until they saw her image on a billboard that the Yais came around. Now the 21-year-old is fully embracing her new path.
As a face of Estée Lauder, she’s vocal about the need for more diversity in the fashion industry and is particularly proud of convincing designers to allow her to walk the runway with either cornrows or an Afro. She also advocates for the hiring of hairdressers trained in a wider range of hair textures. Yai, who was bit by the beauty bug at a young age, says she would often sneak into her mother’s makeup bag before going to school but remove any traces before coming home. “She preferred me barefaced,” says Yai. “And I certainly never had any Estée Lauder.” These days, Yai never leaves home without a swipe or two of her favorite Estée Lauder Double Wear Zero-Smudge Lengthening Mascara.—Naomi Rougeau
Despite growing up a self-described tomboy in the Florida Panhandle, Grace Elizabeth Cabe knows her way around the beauty department. For years, her grandmother worked at an Estée Lauder counter in a North Carolina mall. When the 21-year-old landed a contract as an ambassador for the venerable brand, one of the first people she called was her grandmother. “She couldn’t believe it,” Cabe says. “She was so proud that her granddaughter’s face would now be gracing the spot where she’d spent so much time helping women get ready for weddings and other occasions.” The two don’t see each other as often as Cabe would like, since much of her time is spent in transit between jobs. But all that travel has allowed Cabe to perfect her style and beauty routines. In her longhaul beauty arsenal: Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair serum, which she “wears like a mask,” and the occasional bold lipstick. Style-wise, denim is de rigueur for this Southern beauty, who frequents New York’s What Goes Around Comes Around for vintage tees and jeans, elevated by Gucci sneakers. “It’s great to have the best of both worlds,” she says.—n.r.