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From Growing Up In Sabah To Walking Down The Runways Of New York: Meet Atikah Karim

The Sabahan lass has modelled for the likes of Kenzo, Kimora Lee Simmons, and Kate Spade.

From Growing Up In Sabah To Walking Down The Runways Of New York: Meet Atikah Karim
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Usually, at the tender age of 18, the average Malaysian teenager would be waiting anxiously for their SPM results and contemplating the next big step in life: where to pursue their tertiary education and which course to study.

But for one Sabahan lass, she chose the road less travelled and decided to pursue her dreams of becoming a model.

Meet Dayang Nur Atikah Karim, an aspiring 22-year old Bajau-Brunei Malaysian model hailing from Tanjung Aru, Sabah who’s currently based in Europe at the time of interview.

Atikah walking down the streets of Manhattan.
Fondly known as Atikah or Tiks among her friends, she entered the Ford Models Supermodel of the World Malaysia at age 18 and won. She’s never looked back since.

Atikah credits Cilla Fong, a judge during the competition for helping her book her real first job for designer brand Marc by Marc Jacobs after the competition ended.

She has been dreaming of being a model since she was a little girl. However, the journey to be one wasn't as easy as it seems.

"Guys always teased me in school and called me"emo tiang hitam" because of my height and skin colour. I used to be so tanned because I played a lot of netball and I even represented Sabah from the age of 12 to 17", Atikah told Rojak Daily.

"Not many people back then viewed having tanned skin as something beautiful, everyone tend to stick to the same stigma - being fair was considered beautiful."

Goodbye Malaysia, Here Comes Atikah!

Atikah basking in the sun at Williamsburg.
was a pivotal year in Atikah’s life; it was when she decided to move to New York to pursue her modelling career.

It surely wasn’t an easy feat for her and her family, but exciting opportunities await her abroad.

“It wasn’t easy to let go of everything and start a new chapter in my life. Deep down I was really sad to leave my parents but I’m really determined to make them proud of me one day,” Atikah told Rojak Daily.

Although she’s busy chasing her dreams abroad, she always misses home and tries to come back once or twice each year.

Atikah chilling in New York.
“I miss my parents, my family, and of course, all the food!”

After spending a lot of time in the city of skyscrapers, we’re pretty sure Atikah misses the beach a lot as she grew up in Tanjung Aru, where the calming sound of waves crashing against powder-white sand is only a five minute drive away.

When asked whether she has any plans to continue her studies in the future, she didn't rule out the possibility.

"I would love to continue my studies but for now, I really want to focus on modeling. Age is very important in the modelling industry and as for studies, I can continue it when I'm older anyway."

Trying To Make A Name On The Runway

Atikah during the Kate Spade 2017 NYFW.
After being signed to her agency, Soul Artist Management, her career started to take off.

Atikah has walked for notable designers on the runway – Polo Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Kimora Lee Simmons, Libertine, Kate Spade, and most recently, Kenzo. She’s even performed alongside Miley Cyrus as a model-dancer in London.

“I’m really grateful to get the opportunity to walk for these brands. It was truly a blessing.”

On her favourite show she’s done so far…

“I'm so honored to be part of the Kenzo SS18 show because for the first time ever, they celebrate our Asian heritage with an all-Asian model line-up. During the show, they put an orange wig on me. I personally wouldn't dye my hair in that shade in real life but it's something different.”

That striking shade of orange really made her stand out.
Though she has modelled for some of the biggest names in the fashion industry, she doesn’t seem too fazed about it and is convinced that she’s far from “making waves” in the Big Apple.

“I’m not really comfortable whenever someone says that I’m “making waves” in New York. Although I’ve done a few good shows, I feel that I’ve got a long way to go and it’s not enough yet to make it out here,” she said.

With her exotic looks and sun-kissed golden skin, we believe that her humbleness and hunger to gain more will definitely help elevate her career to greater heights (and runways) in the future.

Is She Asia’s Next Top Model?

Such a babe!
Ever since Asia’s Next Top Model (AsNTM) debuted on our Asian shores, it exposed us to the amazing talents we have here in Asia, especially in Malaysia.

Most of our Malaysian contestants who have participated in the previous seasons have modelling experience and have done countless of campaigns and fashion shows.

So, like any curious Malaysian, the next question we’re dying to ask is: will Atikah consider competing or auditioning for the next cycle of AsNTM?

“To be honest, that’s not the direction I’m going for. It’s a reality TV show so obviously, some scenes will be edited to get the desired impact and it will not depict what really happens in real life.”

However, she did not deny that the show will help them gain a lot of exposure, especially on social media. She also admitted that she would consider joining AsNTM if the host or mentor is someone who is inspirational and has extensive experience walking down the runways of Milan or Paris.

On who she idolises the most in the industry…

“Internationally, it’s Chanel Iman. Although she’s out of the game but I still follow her updates. Locally, it would be Tengku Azura. She has a very good character as she’s down to Earth and very friendly, which is why I always look up to her.”

Atikah modelling alongside her boyfriend, Danny Lim.
We wish this aspiring model all the best in her future endeavors and may all her dreams and aspirations come true. We’re confident that one day, Atikah will put Malaysia on the map again and be on par as her idol, Chanel Iman.

To know more about her, visit her profile here.