Since she first stepped onto the runway at Schiaparelli’s Spring 2015 couture show, Nigerian model Mayowa Nicholas been nearly unstoppable in her quest for fashion month domination, walking a marathon 43 shows during Spring 2017 and, in following seasons, earning coveted spots on the runways at Balmain, Dolce & Gabbana, Fenty x Puma by Rihanna, and both Moschino and Jeremy Scott—many of them brand bookings she has earned multiple times over. Last fall, she was selected—alongside fellow Gemini Samile Bermannelli—to walk her first Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show; this past season, she walked a more-edited lineup of the shows with reputations for their castings, including Michael Kors, Brandon Maxwell, and Alexander Wang.
All this has led observers to compare the 19-year-old to a young Naomi Campbell, both in career trajectory and, from a certain angle, looks. The comments on a recent shoot for Interview magazine, for example, indicate as much: “Naomi is shaking!!!” one reads; “Naomiiiiis baby,” another remarks. (The two did share a runway on one occasion, during Versace’s retrospective Spring 2018 show.)
“I don’t really see it,” Nicholas told me recently, “but okay, it’s a good compliment.” Of course, it’s on her own merits that Nicholas, who won Elite Model Look Nigeria at age 14, in 2014, and proceeded to sign with Elite Model Management, has also encountered such success so quickly. Here, she shares how she maintains her natural hair and impossibly smooth complexion—which, it turns out, is all about minimalism and balance.
Your look in three words:
My look is very simple, elegant, and chic.
Medicine cabinet snapshot:
Moisturizer, definitely. I have one that I love, actually, and I just recently found it, which is amazing. It’s called Retrouvé. I’m in love with that one now, I just found it. I take it around on my flights, everywhere. It’s so good.
Best advice from a facialist:
I would say just to drink lots of water and eat clean. When you eat clean, it kind of shows in your skin and in your body, and you want everything to work together. It sounds really cliché, but it works.
Good skin starts with:
The secret to good skin for me is not using too many products. The fewer products you use, the more beautiful your skin will look. I use so many natural products, like aloe vera, clay masks, all these little, little things. You don’t need to use all these chemicals.
I love the Maybelline mascara, and there’s a bronzer from Estée Lauder, Bronze Goddess, I do like.
Never leave the house without:
A lip balm. I know it sounds crazy, but I would never leave the house without a lip balm. My lips get dry so quickly, so I always have my lip balm with me every time, everywhere I go.
A good hair day starts with:
I feel good when my hair is fully moisturized. I think that’s a good hair day, when it’s fully moisturized and clean, because it looks healthy. I use olive oil, organic olive oil for moisturizing my hair, and I also use shea butter. I don’t go too much into products because some of the products are bad for my hair type. So I just basically use natural stuff that I trust.
My hair colorist always says:
I once dyed my hair really, really black. I regretted it afterward, because it was too black, and it just looked really horrible. And I did it myself. I tried to do it at home and it was too hard. I was looking at this YouTube tutorial and it didn’t work, it just looked crazy.
Nails must be:
Just clean with white color or nude color or black—so sexy. I don’t go for too crazy anything.
Beauty from the inside:
Eating clean is just balancing everything. In the morning, drink lots of water when you wake up. It’s not just always eating vegetables—you have to mix them with protein, some soup. Staying away from junk is the best way possible, actually. A balanced diet, basically.
I always do cardio, because I have a gym in my apartment. I always do a 40-minute cardio two times a week. I don’t do too much. I always walk on the treadmill for like 40 minutes straight. I do that two times, maybe. I think that’s good because it keeps your metabolism faster. I also do yoga. I find time to do yoga once a week, at least, because I feel like yoga is just so good. I feel like when I go to yoga, it really brings you to the moment when you stop thinking too much. In this industry, I think you need yoga, because you just need to… yeah. [laughs]
Drink of choice:
I hardly drink soda. I drink mostly vitamin water or coconut water. I love Vita Coco. I love, love, love that one. That’s my go-to drink.
A woman's fragrance should:
Blooming Bouquet by Dior.
Appointment you'd love to nab:
A massage. I always want to go for a Thai massage. I always go to the Thai places in SoHo—they are so good. I always get the hot stone massages, oh my goodness, that’s amazing. The Swedish massage with the hot stone, wow. Thinking about that now, I’m like, you should actually go one day.
I mostly listen to music. Right now, let me go to my playlist. “Can’t Believe” by Kranium and Ty Dolla $ign. It’s been on repeat the past two days. I landed from Mexico four days ago and they were playing it on the radio. I’ve been listening to it for three days, now, straight—just listening to it everywhere.
Best advice from Mom:
She actually taught me how to take care of my skin, because before, I was carefree about it. But she was like, you need to do this, you need to use these products, eat clean, don’t drink too much alcohol on the weekends. The advice she’s given me is to just stay clean, keep your body clean.
Sometimes people say I look like Naomi [Campbell]. I don’t know. People have said it so many times, and I’m like, okay, I don’t really see it, but okay. It’s a good compliment.