Malaysian model making a name for herself in New York

GAINING success after winning Ford Models Supermodel of the World Malaysia, Atikah Karim left a very strong first impression in the local fashion scene with her exotic look and rich dark complexion.

After several years of conquering local fashion runways and magazines, she decided to move her career to New York City where she is now based. Similar buzz ensues when she booked several big runway shows like Ralph Lauren, Costume National, Libertine and Banana Republic, just to name a few.

Despite her sizeable amount of success stateside, the Bajau-Bruneian beauty does not consider herself as "huge" yet. She is working hard to further establish her career with hopes of booking campaigns with well-known international brands.

"It is not that easy. Even if I get booked for a big job, there is no guarantee. The booking agent might cancel on me the day before or even on the day when the job is supposed to take place.

"That's just how it works. So far, I have never experienced that. Some big brands have shown interest in quite a number of occasions but unfortunately, they passed. I can't let that affect me so I just move on to the next one."

The 23-year-old remains positive and is taking it one step at a time with great support from her family and boyfriend, Danny Lim, who is also a model. Travelling back to Kuala Lumpur occasionally for jobs, Tiks as she is fondly known among her friends, remains true to herself while taking in all the new experiences she gained abroad.

You started modelling at a very young age. Is it something that you always wanted to do?
I've been modelling since I was 16 and began travelling outside of Malaysia for jobs when I was 21. My first trip was actually London. I've always wanted to become a model when I was a kid. I remember looking at photos of models in fashion magazines and getting all inspired back then when I was still in primary school. I wanted so badly to be just like them. I waited patiently for my time to come and I am truly blessed that it is finally here.

Was it difficult in the beginning?
It was tough definitely. Back in Malaysia, I've been through a lot but luckily for me, I found a little bit of a shortcut because I won the modelling contest that has really opened a lot of doors for me. As I began travelling, I learned more about the industry and it opened up my eyes that winning the competition does not mean anything. I have no choice but to start over as I am still very new in the international fashion scene with a lot more to learn.

What inspired the move to New York?
It is always a dream for all inspiring models to make it huge in New York City. It is also where the money is. Work-wise, it is totally different from back home. I love it here, but I get homesick all the time. Whenever I'm home, I'll try to spend as much time as I can with my family and friends.

Having been to both sides, do you think Malaysian fashion industry is catching up with what is going on globally?
I have to be honest ... our fashion industry is way behind. Although we are trying to do similar things like creating great designs and images, it just happens that there is no soul in it. We are lacking in originality, but surprisingly good at Photoshop.

What does it take for a model to be successful?
I think in order to be a successful model you have to be yourself, remain confident yet humble and also you need to have a lot of patience.