Small town girl makes it big in modeling
Kewaunee’s small town girl, Nikayla Novak, is making it big as a national and international model.
After graduating from Kewaunee High School in June, Novak spent the summer in New York modeling for Ralph Lauren. An enlarged picture of her wearing the famous designer’s fall and winter collection is featured in Ralph Lauren outlet stores across the country.
“When her picture first appeared in the outlet stores, friends from all over the country – North Carolina, Nebraska, Kentucky and California – were emailing us to say they had seen her picture,” said her father, Charlie Novak.
Nikayla has been modeling since she was a freshman in high school, adjusting her school schedule to traveling to Chicago and New York. She was discovered when several modeling scouts saw her on the streets of Paris and Florida while the family was traveling. They told Nikayla’s mother, Jayne, that her daughter had “the look” today’s fashion designers were seeking.
By the time she was 16, Nikayla was modeling for Ralph Lauren while still managing to return to Kewaunee to attend school and participate on the high school track team.
After graduation in June, she moved to New York full-time, modeling for several top designers and appearing on the runway in the Ralph Lauren polo show this June. A bout with mononucleosis set her back a few weeks, but she recovered in time to do Ralph Lauren’s children’s charity show, which was based on this fall’s movie “Pan” and featured Levi Miller as a spokesperson. Nikayla played a mermaid at the event.
“I met Selena Gomez,” said Novak, still starstruck when we talked with her Thanksgiving week in her father’s real estate and insurance offices in Kewaunee. She was recovering from jet lag, after her 19-hour flight from Sydney, Australia, was delayed.
Following her summer in New York, Novak headed to Australia, where she did photo shots for Marie Claire, Calvin Klein, Women’s Health and Harper’s Bazaar. She also was a model in a Chanel fashion show there.
“I loved the people and the country,” said Nikayla. “It is beautiful and very clean.”
While there, she lived with a stylist and her family who had a 9-year-old daughter with whom Nikayla enjoyed spending time. Nikayla said that Australian’s focus on a healthy lifestyle with a lot of outdoor, physical activity appealed to her. Nikayla is required to keep a very strict, healthy diet and exercise regularly to fit in the small sizes required for models around the world.
She said that she likes coming up with healthy recipes and exercising regularly. She was quick to point out that she “never starves” herself and is looking forward to some breaks in her regimen over the holidays.
Unlike the November temperatures in Kewaunee, when she arrived in Sydney in September it was spring and the temperature often exceeded 100 degrees, she said. In spite of the heat, she loved to walk and traveled on foot to some of her modeling bookings rather than take the bus.
In Australia, she worked with the famous fashion photographer Steven Chee and a whole team of stylists who photographed her for Harper’s Bazaar-Australia and other publications. The holiday edition has already been published and features Nikayla in a gold full-length gown. She will also appear in exercise wear in Women’s Health-Australia this spring.
In case she had any problems while in Australia, her manager, Selena Wallace, who is based in Los Angeles, was available 24 hours a day, she said.
“It is so different now because with cellphones we can talk to her every day,” said Jayne, who, with a Kewaunee neighbor, visited Nikayla in Australia this October.
However, Nikayla said even though she didn’t get homesick, she was ready to come home for the holidays. “I worked extra to be back for the holidays,” she said, noting that she even gave up an assignment to be home for Thanksgiving.
She will be staying with her family in Kewaunee through Christmas, while traveling periodically throughout December to New York and Chicago for modeling jobs. In January, she will head to her next international assignment in Singapore, where she will live in an apartment.
Her father, who reads all the contracts for her modeling assignments and housing, noted that the contract for her Singapore apartment requires that Nikayla take off her shoes as soon as she enters the apartment and stipulates that all dishes be washed immediately after use. She also learned that it is illegal to sell or chew gum in Singapore.
But Nikayla said she is flexible and does not mind adapting to the rules of different cultures.
“I really enjoy meeting new people and seeing different countries,” she said.
The time in Singapore requires that she miss the New York Fashion Week in February, in which she has been a Ralph Lauren runway model for the last three years.
But her manager told Nikayla that she needs to give up Fashion Week this year to build her modeling book, which contains her portfolio of magazine modeling assignments.
The goal of the book is to show she has both the talent and international experience to be hired for the most prestigious international modeling circuit: London, Paris, Milan and New York.
“Everyone wants to be based in New York and then travel to Europe for assignments,” Nikayla explained. But her manager said that she is too young yet for the circuit.
“In London, they want you to be mature and experienced,” said Nikayla, who is 18.
“It’s very fast paced and they want to make sure the girls are ready for it,” said Jayne, noting that they trust the advice of Wallace, who is a former model and really knows the business. “Some models can’t handle it because the pace is just too much to take.”
Before she leaves for Singapore, Nikayla wants to spend time with her family at her parents’ cabin in northern Wisconsin.
When asked what she likes to do best at the cabin, she still sounds like a true Wisconsin girl.
“Cross-country skiing and ice fishing,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Small town girl makes it big in modeling