'It's not fair': Model's message for Australia
Subah Koj is smart, beautiful and a raging success in the fashion world.
And while the 20-year-old Melbourne woman is already seen as a role model and inspiration, she credits one person more than any other for where she is today.
"My mum. She is my biggest role model," Koj said.
“Growing up, she didn’t get to go to school, but made sure I did. She is my drive.”
Koj’s rise to success has been sharp, but by no means easy. As a child, she and her family fled war-torn South Sudan to Egypt, before moving to Melbourne in 2005.
She entered the Miss South Sudan beauty pageant aged 18 where she was spotted by scouts from Vivien’s Model Management.
After signing the dotted line on an international modelling contract, she was launched into the fashion stratosphere, becoming the first model of African descent to open Australian Fashion Week in 2016.
Koj knows more than anyone what it’s like to do it tough and has a message for those who judge her community based on negative headlines.
"It’s not fair," she said.
While not condoning the well-publicised criminal behaviour by some members of the Sudanese community, she says it’s not right to tar all African immigrants with the same brush.
“You can’t see us as a whole. There are a lot of kids who are working hard and chasing their dreams."
The model says she receives dozens of messages from people online who come from similar backgrounds to her, and is determined to inspire them.
“It touches me. I want to reach more people; I want to tell them to keep going.”
RISE TO THE TOP
Koj just finished a star-making turn in New York City and London fashion weeks, walking the runway for premier designers including Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, and Burberry.
Her Instagram feed reveals a collection of stunning catwalk moments, including a luminous snap of her in a molten gold fringed dress, side-by-side with supermodel sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid.
Speaking to 9news.com.au over the phone, Koj — who’s currently in Milan preparing for her third fashion week in as many days — has been averaging just three hours of sleep each day for the past month.
Even from 16,000 kilometres away, her bubbling energy and excitement are tangible.
“It’s surreal, I’m still stunned,” she says.
But Koj’s road to success is far from reaching its final destination, with shows to walk at Milan and Paris fashion weeks up until October 3.
She will return to NYC to wear a pair of angel wings in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the most-watched fashion show in the world. Last year, nearly five million people tuned in to the televised version of the glittering spectacle in the US alone.
From the heavenly heights of Victoria’s Secret, the model wants to keep pushing forward in fashion and beyond.
Koj has recently put the brakes on a business degree at RMIT University, but plans to resume it soon as an online course.
She isn’t fretting about timing though, instead allowing life to evolve organically.
“I have faith. Everything happens for a reason.”