This week In Conversation series, we chat with high-spirited Wellington based model Ayan Makoii, about living in the moment, pushing forward and not taking things too seriously

What industry do you work in?
I work in the fashion industry as a model, I am currently in my last year of high school at sacred heart college.

Tell our audience a little about your background: What’s your heritage, where did you grow up and where do you live?
I’m originally from South Sudan but I was born in Gambella, Ethiopia. I moved to New Zealand when I was two years old. We briefly lived in Auckland before moving to Wellington!

What was your biggest motivation for your career choice?
I've always wanted to be a model because I thought it'd be a cool thing to do for fun. However, Imogen Wilson who is my agent has been instrumental in my pursuing modelling seriously. She encourages me to give things a go in the nicest way possible and let's me know I have the option of not doing a shoot if I’m uncomfortable. Knowing that makes me feel secure and confident enough to step out of my comfort zone! Sometimes all you need is someone telling you to give something a try and with no pressure in you doing it.

If you could be anything — besides being a model— what would you be?
I would love to be a teacher. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher but not secondary I don’t think I have the patience for that. I would definitely teach primary and younger.

What advice would you give to yourself as a 10 year old?
Ten year old me - love yourself, step outside your comfort zone, it’s okay to be different and most importantly it’s okay not to be okay and it’s okay to open up to people!

You recently took part in your first big campaign for Karen Walker Eyewear. Tell us about that experience (ie. how you got involved, what you learnt and loved about the campaign).
I had previously been up for a Karen Walker online store shoot. I think that’s how I got the Eyewear campaign. Imogen messaged me saying that they (the team) wanted to use me. I was so surprised! I really didn’t expect it; that was a nice blessing. It was a great experience to be shooting for such a renowned brand. In terms of shoots, it wasn't majorly different to ones I had done in the past. What I found challenging was the range in facial expressions required for the shoot. It was all head shots and for that, you need to show a variation in facial expressions. It was a real learning for me. I loved how nice everyone on set was. The team were very encouraging and always told me how the photos were looking. I found that helpful. Overall, it was a wonderful experience and meeting Karen was very cool.

If you had the power to change one thing in the world what would it be and why?
Poverty! It’s so sad that we are in 2018 and there is still poverty around us.  I don’t like to see people struggle or people be homeless. I think that as a society, if we could work towards ending poverty what a beautiful place the world would be.

What advice would you give a young person aspiring to be a model?
Young person! If you do not feel comfortable doing a photo shoot let your agent know. Do not get caught up in comparison. Also make good friends within the industry and do your best to be confident and don’t be so hard on yourself!

Who is an Africa creative you look up to, and why?
I came across this girl a few months back her name is Mowalola Ogunlesi. She’s a menswear print graduate from Central St Martins. The products she makes are just so beautiful and very out there! That’s what I love about her, she doesn’t limit herself when she creates these really cool fits. I think that she is paving the way for young African creatives. Her recent collection is all about the celebration of black African male culture, sexuality and desires. It’s nice to see her creating something that would make some people uncomfortable and that I find it very inspiring.

What has been the best advice you've ever received?
Sometimes you can’t capture the most beautiful moments and love always win! So love everyone even if they hate you.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I don’t know what I want to do next year so ten years time is so hard! Hopefully, I’ve come up as a model, been a part of big shows and campaigns while branching out and networking with different people. I would love to do something big with a charity for my home country.

Who would your dream collaboration be with, and why?
It would be a dream to collaborate with Vans. I’ve always wanted to make shoes and vans is my favourite shoe brand so collaborating with them would be surreal.

What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest phobia is heights! I hate anything to do with heights. My hearts starts beating crazy fast and I just have the biggest anxiety about being high up.  Even with flights!

What do you do for fun?
Hangout with my friends and dance parties at school.

What brings you happiness?
My friends. I love all my friends so much I don’t let them know enough.

How do you overcome self-doubt?
With me, it’s been a journey. Some days my self doubt levels are very high and other days they are very low. The advice I would give is, surround yourself with good people who make you feel loved and appreciated because then you start to love and appreciate yourself.

What is the biggest lesson you've had to learn in your career?
I haven’t had a long career but I would say don’t be late! I’ve started a habit of being late to things and that’s not good at all.

What is your biggest strength?
I would say not caring what people think about me is a strength. I’m pretty good at taking risks too.

Tell us about the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
To just keep going and pushing forward no matter the situation. Always try to see the light at the  end of the tunnel. Also remain positive and definitely do not beat yourself up about failure because how else would you learn if you don’t fail?

What is your favourite piece in your closet at the moment and why?
I can’t decide on one. so here are a few ... I have these red track pants and they can unzip at the knee to be shorts. They are just the coolest pants and I got them for $8.50! Another fav is my lazy oaf pink tracksuit that I got for my birthday last year. It’s so comfortable and a bonus is the track suit still looks cool if I don’t wear both pieces! Another fav is my illegal civ brick jumper. I love the jumper so much it’s literally me in a clothing item. I don’t wear it much because I don’t want anything to happen to it!

Where can our audience find out more about your work?
You can find my work on The Others website and Instagram.