An Exclusive Interview with Nykhor Paul: Model, Photograher and IRC Voice

Nykhor Paul (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

Nykhor Paul (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

Nykhor Paul grew up as a refugee in Ethiopia before moving to the United States in 1998. As a supermodel and acting voice for the International Rescue Committee, Paul normally finds herself in front of the camera. But on a recent trip back to Ethiopia, where she was reunited with her parents for the first time in 16 years while visiting a refugee camp in the Gambella region of Ethiopia for South Sudanese refugees, she spent a significant amount of time behind the lens.

International Rescue Committee New York Fashion Week Pop Up Event (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

International Rescue Committee New York Fashion Week Pop Up Event (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

We caught up with Nykhor Paul at a New York Fashion Week pop up event hosted by the International Rescue Committee, where Paul’s touching photos were on exhibition, to discuss her experience in Ethopia, her partnership with IRC and what inspires her to give back.

“I always knew that I wanted to help people,” Paul explained. “It started when I was little. I sing, so when my father would go pray for people, I would go along and sing to them.”

Even at university, she studied biology as a way for her to help others. “Then I thought, I don’t need to study this, I just need to pick up and do it! So when Hurricane Katrina hit, that was my first experience going down and helping others. All you need is that passion and going after it”

Paul teamed up with the IRC in 2014 after joining them on a trip to Africa. “Everything I’m hoping for, for my country, is everything they’re doing, so I thought, ‘Let me go to Africa and see how this works, this 81 years of helping people,’” Paul said. “And it was amazing. So when I came back, I said ‘Listen, I would love to be on board and collaborate with you and see what we can do to bring more help.’”

And to be back at the same refugee camp she left 16 years ago, seeing her family again, the feelings Paul had were unlike anything she’s ever felt before. “It was the most emotional trip of my life. I have never cried so much. I came here when I was ten, so to go back at 25, I’m an adult now. It’s so different.”

But even with time and distance keeping her and her family apart, Paul said they really connected again in the two weeks they spent together. “They’re so supportive of me working for the refugees of South Sudan and what the IRC is doing.”

“It’s helping the refugees help themselves. That’s what it’s all about.” Paul explained exactly what the IRC is doing to help the South Sudanese. “You don’t go into a situation to keep that person neutral. That’s not helping. But with the IRC, they encourage the refugees. They help them get jobs and get on their feet. We have to be the example and I respect that so much.”

When asked what it was like to be behind the lens, Paul said, “I have a love for taking pictures. To be able to photograph real faces and real stories, drew me to the people of South Sudan even more.”

Nykhor Paul with her parents in Ethiopia (Image Credit: Original Photography by Nykhor Paul | Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

Nykhor Paul with her parents in Ethiopia (Image Credit: Original Photography by Nykhor Paul | Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

The photos of her old refugee camp lined the walls at the IRCxNYFW pop up event.  Even a special photo of the reunion with her and her family. “It was great for me,” Paul explained about her what it was like to be back at the camp. “The one thing I really picked up on is how it’s all the same. The refugees and their constant struggle is no different from when I left in 1998, but the resilience they have and the hope– I wanted to capture that.  Every day when I visited the spots, I had to grab the shots. They all tell a story of what they’re going through.”

Paul also told us what she hopes people will take away from her photo exhibition. “I hope people take away what the IRC really does. They put a voice to the people all around the world who are suffering. So this showcase is really everything behind what I want to do with refugees, which is put their stories forth so people can see it, relate to it.  We are in a visual, technical world so for the IRC putting this up- we hope to raise more awareness by putting a face to what is going on”

As for managing her charity work and her busy modeling career, Paul says it now feels like one in the same. “It’s not just me anymore. It’s not just Nykhor posing. This pose will now be able to bring a voice to every person in my country, so it makes it easy and it makes it one.”

Paul plans on continuing her collaborative efforts with the IRC and hopes to one day travel back to Africa. “I would love to be able to capture the 64 tribes of South Sudan, the more indigenous side of it, even with all the corruption and the war, to just be able to put a voice to it.  To find beauty in all that trauma. That’s what I call my career– the beauty and the peace.”

Visit the International Rescue Committee Official Site to find out more about the organization and IRC Voice Nykhor Paul.

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IRC shares message of sustainability, charity and a love of culture at NYFW!

IRCxNYFW Pop Up Event (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

IRCxNYFW Pop Up Event (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

The International Rescue Committee made it’s second appearance at New York Fashion Week this February at the Empire Hotel.  The IRC’s first showcase at NYFW came last year and with a great turn out, a strong return was inevitable. And strong it was with a collaboration between supermodel and voice of the IRC, Nykhor Paul, Celebrity Chef Marco Canora and partnerships with Whole Foods and Threads for Thought.  All parties involved shared a passion for sustainability, charity, health and a love of culture.

We caught up with IRC representatives Sandy Borgman, Director of Entertainment Relations for the IRC, and Melissa Meredith, Director of Strategic Events for the IRC, to tell us a little bit more about the event and what the IRC is doing everyday.

Melissa Meredith and Sandy Borgman of the IRC (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

Melissa Meredith and Sandy Borgman of the IRC (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

For those who are not familiar with the IRC, it stands for the International Rescue Committee and was started by Albert Einstein 81 years ago by helping academics and artists flee Nazi occupied Europe. “And since then,” Borgman added, “we’ve taken that banner and we help with relief and develop our work in 40 countries; refugees who are forced to flee their homes in cases of conflict or disaster [we can] help them gain back their futures. We also help resettle refugees here in the U.S.”

“This is our IRCxNYFW pop up event. It’s our second one and we always try to combine a little of our celebrity IRC voices along with our supported celebrity chefs. This year we have Celebrity Chef Marco Canora and we have his very hot bone broth that’s featured here. We also have Nykhor Paul, who is an IRC voice, who is from South Sudan. [She] fled with her parents to a camp in Ethiopia that the IRC runs and was resettled in the U.S. at the age of 10 and was just reunited with her family after 16 years.”

The IRCxNYFW pop up booth really shows that NYFW isn’t just about designer fashion lines and runway models. Borgman explains that there’s more to it than that.

Nykhor Paul (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

Nykhor Paul (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

“It is fashion week and I think a lot of people think something about the fashion world. What we think about the fashion world is that there are a lot of very sensitive, compelling, globally interested people involved in all aspects of fashion week and of the fashion world- we found that last year when we did our first pop up, that everyone from models to stylists to designers to celebrities all came in, they all learned a little bit about it and when we let them know we were going to be doing this again, we’ve already gotten a stellar response from it.”

The event space was filled with the breathtaking photos of Nykhor Paul’s recent trip to Africa, where not only did she photograph emotional stories of the South Sudanese refugees, but she reunited with her own family after 16 years.  “It’s helping the refugees help themselves, that’s what its all about.” Paul said about her experience working with the IRC to bring relief to the South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia.

Celebrity Chef Marco Canora was also present serving up his celebrated “bone broth” which has become a popular health craze in New York City. “I launched this on November 3rd. It’s really new but the response has been extraordinary.” Chef Canora explained.  “It all has a halo of health around it; the whole idea is convincing people that healthy and delicious can live side by side and I feel like this simple cup of broth exemplifies that point.”

Chef Canora’s bone broth is served at Brodo, a window outside of his restaurant Hearth in the East Village. New Yorkers are loving the health benefits of adding just a cup of bone broth a day to their diets.

“If you’re going to get any nutrient density or any nutritional benefit out of it, you have to start with healthy, happy animals. We’re using 100% grassfed beef bones and organic chicken bones. Everything is humanely raised. We really care about that,” Chef Canora explained. “It contains tons of collagen and gelatin, which really speaks to our vanity- hair, nails, skin, wrinkles, it really helps all of those things. It also has a lot of amino acids which helps the gut lining; there has been so much talk about gut health and how it’s tied in to regular health, inflammation, your ability to digest, etc.  The gut is also where a lot of serotonin is created, your feel good hormone.”

Chef Marco Canora (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

Chef Marco Canora (Image Credit: Lauren Gambino / The Daily Quirk)

When asked what made Chef Canora decide to partner with the IRC for this pop up event, he said, “I wanted to be here and partake and have some fun. I love what the IRC does. It’s just an amazing organization that’s doing great, great work. It’s important to me personally and to Brodo the brand that we do more than just take and that there’s some giving involved.”

The IRC is currently providing relief efforts in South Sudan, Nigeria, Ukraine and Syria to name a few. They also play a big part in the Ebola relief efforts of West Africa where they partnered with the GE foundation to create a special Ebola suit that will better protect physicians.

If getting involved in giving back is something that you feel passionate about, Borgman explains how you can start. “Learning, I think, is half the battle. So definitely by going on rescue.org and learning. We have offices in 22 cities around the U.S. so there are always volunteer opportunities” she said. “And support the IRC’s work,” added Meredith

Visit the International Rescue Committee Official Site to find out more about the organization and how you can get involved.

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