Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City

Nya+Niek+has+succeeded+in+many+ways+since+leaving+Kenya.++
Back to Article
Back to Article

Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City

Nya Niek has succeeded in many ways since leaving Kenya.

Nya Niek has succeeded in many ways since leaving Kenya.

Photo courtesy of Nya Riek

Nya Niek has succeeded in many ways since leaving Kenya.

Photo courtesy of Nya Riek

Photo courtesy of Nya Riek

Nya Niek has succeeded in many ways since leaving Kenya.

Lela Howard, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






A young girl tiptoes the line between life and death, a line of mortality that forces kids like her to grow up too fast. The footsteps of death follow them through everything, they’ve witnessed illness and war before they can crawl. Just small, emaciated bodies, tucked in the moral brags of middle class Americans, hidden behind sympathetic sighs and donations, made to be less human, less innocent, less alive. They are trapped in a lackluster reality where the unknown is to be feared, not explored.
Nya Riek lived this reality in Kenya, constantly in fear of something she couldn’t comprehend. Being just a little girl, war and politics went over her head. She only understood the most instinctive parts — the sound of bombs, the weight of death after death.
“It was scary because you didn’t know if you were going to die… there were a lot of diseases and war,” Riek said.
She grew up during a time of internal conflict in Kenya. There were many violent raids, attacks, and resource shortages. The crisis was sparked by the civil opposition of government and their fight against a newly elected leader. Many Kenyan civilian lives were lost, and many kids sent to other countries, leaving their parents behind.
Riek was one of the lucky ones. She made it out alive, with her hopes and dreams yet to be discovered and achieved, and was able to come to America with both her mother and brother by her side. She unfortunately had to leave her father behind since her refugee camp was meant only for women and children, but he eventually found his way to Canada, and to safety.
However, it wasn’t all positive. The plane ride meant leaving the only home she ever knew. It meant new fears and anxieties, it meant having to build a new life from the ground up. For a seven-year-old, these ideas were all too overwhelming.
“I hate flying. I was silently crying,” Riek said.
After years of settling in and growing up in Utah, Riek found her way to Highland, making friends and living life bright side up despite her past. She is very successful in school, taking both honors and AP classes, and laughing every day.
That success isn’t limited to academics either. She has been a successful model for Urban Talent management for a year and a half, and absolutely loves it. Her inspiration? Not the American dream of becoming famous, but something much closer to her heart: family.
“I have cousins that model in Australia, they inspired me,” Riek said.
That family bond is not distant either, coming here with her close relatives allowed for closer ties and emotional connections between them all. Her family values are strong, and her love for them shines through even in the worst times.
“[The most important thing to me is] my family and my mom, I do all of this for them,” Riek said.
She has such an incredible success story and it pulls at the heartstrings of everyone that hears it. The wild twists and turns of her past shine through, but it’s the ability she has to be constantly smiling and expanding her social circle that shows what an incredible person she really is. Shyamamohini Diana, a friend of Riek, vividly recalls hearing the story in class.
“I was surprised… It made me have so much respect for her,” Diana said. “Everyone was talking about wanting to be a basketball player, and then she goes and tells her story. You never know what someone’s going through I guess. ”
Even though Riek is living every teenage girl’s fantasy of being a model, she has her own dream. One more focused on helping people, on improving others’ lives. She wants to be a nurse anesthesiologist, a big part of so many life-saving procedures. She wants to give back and heal whoever she can.
Though her life may have started out in pain and fear, Riek has overcome everything and she is so much more than the story of her past. She is giving, kind, funny, and beautiful. “Refugee” is just one of the many adjectives that describe this wonderful girl.
She has been able to cross borders, both physical and metaphorical. She is no longer in need of American charity, like many others in her situation will be for years, she has broken out of the labels and the hardships that came with her to Utah. She is now a success story in every sense, not strictly for a refugee, a success story for anyone.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Left
  • Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City

    Feature

    Senior Night Prepares Swim Team For Season’s End

  • Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City

    Feature

    Climbing To Success

  • Feature

    Frosty’s Winter Wonderland

  • Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City

    Feature

    Why Tri?

  • Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City

    Feature

    Sierer & Son Living A Dream

  • Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City

    Feature

    Halfcourt Hero Makaui Tackles Leadership Role

  • Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City

    Feature

    No Fear In Her Faith

  • Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City

    Feature

    Barton Finds His Place On The Stage

  • Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City

    Feature

    Alone At The Top

  • Feature

    This is the Place’s Christkindlmarkt Celebrates German Heritage

Navigate Right
Modeling Success: Nya Riek Left Kenya’s Uncertainty And Found Success In Salt Lake City