As you’re reading this, Subah Koj is in New York. She’s hanging out in a silky black dressing gown backstage with Gigi, Bella, Kendall and co. Soon she’ll be slipping into some Swarovski-studded wings and shimmying down one of the biggest catwalks in the world.
It’s a scene that’s beyond surreal for the Australian model, who was born in South Sudan during the civil war. Aged 4 she fled to Egypt, then Australia, with her family. “There was a lot of screaming and gun shots when the soldiers had come to our villages – we just had to grab what we could and flea!”
Growing up in Melbourne wasn’t easy. “School in Australia was different and much more disciplined than in Sudan and Egypt,” she remembers. “One thing I really struggled with was making eye contact with teachers when they spoke to me – in my culture it’s very rude to look teachers or elders in the eye!”
The statuesque beauty was soon spotted and signed to Vivien’s Models, and is now making a name for herself on the global sartorial stage: she’s walked for Miu Miu in Paris; Burberry in London; and became the first model of African descent to open a show at Australian Fashion Week, one of her proudest moments.
But far from home, she’s troubled by the so-called Sudanese crime problem in Melbourne and subsequent racial stereotyping.
“It makes me feel quite upset,” she says. “We shouldn’t be judged as a whole – and no I am not condoning the criminal behaviour of individuals who have committed crimes. All I’m saying is to not judge a whole community based on some individuals, as there are many young South Sudanese individuals who are working hard and doing really well for themselves.”
Now, as Subah makes her Victoria’s Secret debut, she wants to inspire young girls from diverse backgrounds. “I hope my story and what I’ve gone through can reach immigrants across the world and keep them motivated that you can do anything you set your heart to. Have faith, stay determined and work hard – it really does pay off!”