Growing up with Caribbean parents wasn’t an easy thing for top fashion model Olayinka Noel. In constant pursuit of her runway dreams, her parents were always one-step behind nudging her to dive into a more business-oriented career. 

“College is first… an education is more important,” was the household mantra for her parents, says Noel. But one fateful summer while in college she took a trip to New York City and wound up signing a modeling contract with one of the biggest agencies in the world, Wilhelmina Models. 

ESSENCE caught up with Noel to get the exclusive on what it takes to make it in the industry as a Black model. “My interest in modeling started when I was bout 13-years-old when I saw Naomi Campbell and that walk, and I was like, ‘YASS, that’s what I want to do! She’s fabulous, I want to be fabulous.’ And that’s where it all started,” says Noel. “When I walk, I want the audience to see attitude, sophistication… a Black queen, in her glory!” she adds.  

Photo by Natasha Hatendi

Along the path of her budding career, Noel has graced the style pages of ESSENCE, in addition to Cosmopolitan magazine and a slew of other notable fashion projects. Reflecting on an early career moment when she was confronted with racism in the industry, she recalls being booked for a major beauty campaign but in the final hour her agent called her to state, “They decided to not go with a Black girl,” says Noel. 

When I walk, I want the audience to see attitude, sophistication… a Black queen, in her glory!

Not one to be hammered down by adversity, the echoing advice of her parents finally caught up to Noel as she has recently become a female entrepreneur –along with her sister— creating a jewelry line that highlights the Black Diaspora, called MIANIK. “I’ve always been obsessed with jewelry and I fell in love with it the more I did it. I want to represent African culture,” she says. Fans of her jewelry line include Karrueche, Trevor Jackson, Marjorie Harvey and more. And as if owning a business wasn’t enough #CareerGoals, Noel still has high hopes for the future—  one of her biggest aims is to walk the runway for the Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show

Watch our exclusive video above to find out more about Noel and her burgeoning career. 

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