Not everyone can pull off a floor-length Hello Kitty dress, oversize floral scarf and combat boots. Then again, not everyone is Ataui Deng. “Hold on, I’m going to do something real cute,” the 21-year-old model says, standing in the WWD offices as she ties the aforementioned scarf into a giant bow-headband. Born in Sudan, Deng grew up in Texas before signing with Trump in 2008. These days, she can be found in the pages of Interview, i-D and V magazine, or walking the runway for Hermès, Vivienne Westwood and Kenzo, among others. While her CV is packed, she’s not exactly counting favorite jobs. Or as she puts it: “I’m not much of a hoarder of my gifts and blessings. I take it in and I let go.”
WWD: Were you interested in fashion before you became a model?
Ataui Deng: I’m into life, which is also fashion and music and food and many other things.
WWD: Who is your favorite designer right now?
A.D.: I love Hermès. And I love Proenza Schouler, oh my God. And DVF. I love so many! I can’t say I have a favorite because there is so much out there.
WWD: How would you describe your style?
A.D.: A bumblef–k of inspiration. It all depends on how I feel. I could go down the street right now, buy anything and just be like, “Oh, this is how I feel now.”
WWD: Who is your favorite musician?
A.D.: I don’t have a favorite musician, but I have a favorite person: Rihanna.
WWD: What was it like working with her on her River Island show and campaign?
A.D.: There’s not a word. She’s indescribable. She’s just…everything. And I love her for that. I’ve been a fan of her my whole life. I mean, it’s not like she just popped up. I met her on set, and it just makes me happy to be around her energy.
WWD: Have you had any other jobs that really stand out in your mind?
A.D.: I don’t know…you make me want to Google myself. I’m not much of a hoarder of my gifts and blessings. I take it in and I let go.
WWD: What about this last runway season?
A.D.: It went great, actually. I had so much fun in Paris, as usual. I had fun in New York. It was a blast to have that opportunity once again. I’m just grateful.
WWD: What have you been up to since then?
A.D.: I’ve been taking care of myself and just waiting for the sunshine to come out. I want to go outside and run on the track and have brunch with my friends.
WWD: What are your favorite things to do in New York in the summer?
A.D.: I like to swim. I don’t belong to a pool, but my friends will be like, “Hey do you want to go swim?” You can always go get a drink by the pool. There are hotels.
WWD: Do you have any post-modeling plans?
A.D.: I’m going to model until I can’t do it anymore. It’s never the end. But I like to do other things also. I’ll definitely fall in love with another part of me. I like to create and be creative. Right now I’m focused on what I do best, and if I fall in love with something else, I’ll let you know. You’ll definitely know, honey.