Introduction by Alina Powell; Photographs by Clint Catul, Styling by Lisa K. Stephenson / Spring 2023
“Shaving my head has been one of the scariest decisions that I have made in my life, but at the same time liberating. Having alopecia was a blessing in disguise for me and my career."
The modeling industry is a tough business to maneuver as you will sometimes need to fight for your position to make it to the top. But what does it mean to ‘make it’? Perhaps a model is now walking for Versace, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton or in this case, posing for Adidas. Nandi Sommers is a working model professionally known as Nandi Summers. Born to a very caring and supportive family in Toledo, Ohio Nandi and her parents relocated when she was just one year old to Durban, South Africa. The family resided there for ten years. However, when her father was diagnosed with leukemia Sommers and her family, including a younger brother she describes as “smart and my best friend” traveled back to the United States for better medical care.
Durban, South Africa is the third most popular city in South Africa after Johannesburg and Cape Town. Durban (adjacent Pinetown) has a larger Indian population than White; the area contains one of the largest concentrations of Indians in South Africa. According to statistics, Durban is administered by the Ethekwini Municipality with an established population of 3,468,086.
Today, many high fashion supermodels hail from various parts of Africa. This comes after a time when the fashion industry was not a favorable industry for Black models. Nowadays, the story is different, we see famous African supermodels on runways wearing their natural hair and walking in multiple shows. These supermodels continue to rise to the top, showcasing the rich and diverse African culture to the world. Nandi received her big break when she overcame her fears, walking into a meeting and leaving with a contract.
“I started modeling at the age of four and it’s kind of a funny story…my mother had been scouted at the mall—she is gorgeous. But for me, I was young and unfiltered therefore envious of her at the time. I told her that I wanted to be a model and that’s how it all started. I did stop modeling when I moved to the United States but started again in 2018 when my eldest cousin—who I am very close with—told me that I should give it a try again and contact some agencies. I did it and after a few calls, Boss Models asked me to take a meeting and I was signed the same day.”
Once Sommers accepted this wonderful opportunity it was upward from there. “One of the biggest and most memorable gigs for me was for Vivianne Westwood. This took place in London and changed my perspective on how I viewed myself as a model. I remember going into the casting and automatically being doubtful that I would not get the job since there were so many other beautiful people there,” Nandi said smiling as she recounts the story. “I did end up getting the job and I was shocked. The experience taught me that I just needed to push whatever self-doubt I was having aside—realize that I am capable of working with anyone I want to in this industry. Additionally, the team treated me so well and I am thankful and blessed that I was able to work alongside such a great crew.”
Crown, Sola wood floral headpiece by Wood & Word Blooms | Jewelry, The Gina Brand
Sommers is proud of where she is now and the journey it has taken to get here. While some girls know from a very young age that modeling is their passion, others, not so much. Since the early seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, we see a young Kendell Jenner taking it upon herself to speak to her mother about her passion for the occupation. Although, yes, many models may have taken the same course and shown the same ambitions, we’ve seen Jenner’s play out for the world. As Nandi grew and her passion for modeling along with it, we couldn’t help but wonder, what would she be doing if not this?
“If I was not modeling, I would either be doing television broadcasting—because I went to school for communications and journalism—or I would be teaching. I teach and coach kids when it comes to modeling and would love to continue doing so in the future because it makes me happy.” But that’s not all, Sommers has a hidden talent, “But I must say, a lofty dream of mine is to become a signed singer because singing and songwriting brings me much happiness.”
Jewelry, Gina The Brand | Dress, eShakti | Flowers, POMP Flowers
Transitioning from one career to the next is not impossible. We’ve seen past supermodels do this—for example, Cara Delevingne who went from walking in Victoria’s Secret show in 2012 and 2013 to starring in breakout roles including Suicide Squad, Paper Towns, Carnival Row, Valerian, and more. The British actress is no stranger to versatility as is Sommers. From her portfolio we see that Nandi can thrive in any environment where she is comfortable, this confidence in change started from a young age. She’s SINGLE asked Nandi about the decision to shave her head once her career began to blossom, “At the age of sixteen, I started losing my hair due to alopecia and for the longest time I was afraid to cut my hair because it was the first thing people would compliment me on,” she smiled.
“In 2018 when I reentered the modeling industry, I would wear a lot of hair extensions and wigs to cover any bald spots. Eventually, the maintenance of trying to keep that up just became way too much for me. I then decided it was best to shave my head. Shaving my head has been one of the scariest decisions that I have made in my life, but at the same time liberating. Having alopecia was a blessing in disguise for me and my career. My condition before and after the big chop has allowed me to become more versatile when it comes to my hairstyles and work, I can now do both high fashion modeling and commercial modeling.”
High fashion modeling is an art form of fashion. The photographer photographs the model in artistic themes that relate to the clothing promoted—we can see this reflected through Nandi’s Adidas campaign. This, according to Sommers wasn’t too dissimilar from her style, saying, “I would describe my fashion style as grunge, tomboy and classy/chic when I need to be.” But as a model who is all about adaptability, Sommers does have a passion for both runway and posing.
When you’re a model who enjoys both print and runway work, things can become quite hectic as work demand increases and where there is demand, there must be time for rest. On her days off from work Nandi shares that she enjoys writing, singing, running/walking, or skateboarding. But that’s not all, diligently working on your passions and goals can wreak havoc on your skin if you’re not careful. “My skincare routine consists of using the iS Clinical Cleansing Complex gel face wash, and once or twice per week using Dr. Dennis Gross peeling intense wipes. My skin is very sensitive and I always think less is more when it comes to skincare.”
When asked, Nandi describes herself as being reserved which falls in line with her aforementioned beliefs. As a Taurus sun, Sommers, while “not very knowledgeable when it comes to the topic of astrology” does believe that she emulates minimal traits that have been used to describe her sign. “Some traits that I’ve heard of Taurus where others say I can relate are dependable, enjoying routine/stability, and being hardworking.”
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