We’ve all heard about the classic modelling meet-cute: a young girl walks down the street, gets scouted by an agency through sheer luck, and the rest is catwalk history. For 25-year-old Malika Louback, however, the journey was less about luck and more about finally taking a shot at her childhood dreams. “Modelling was always one of my aspirations. I contacted IMG as soon as I graduated with my degree,” the Djiboutian model recalls. She submitted an online application via its website. The odds may be small, but it can’t hurt to try, right?
To her surprise—given that this was one of the largest and most famous agencies in the world—she got an immediate callback. “At our first meeting, the team made me feel I had potential. I signed a few days after.” That was September 2019—a few months before the COVID-19 outbreak. But Louback’s energy and star potential is so clearly evident that even a global pandemic couldn’t stop her. A scant year after signing with IMG, Louback made her first magazine cover debut—on Vogue Paris’s September 2020 issue, no less. Talk about dream fulfilment.
Louback, who now lives in Paris, believes that her success has a deeper meaning. “Being a model is to inspire, to make people dream and to promote diversity at the same time,” she muses. “What really pushed me to be a model is to represent my country, Djibouti, in this industry. To be the first Djiboutian woman represented on the cover of this prestigious magazine is a tremendous source of pride for me.” And to be able to achieve it in the middle of a pandemic, of all times, is no mean feat indeed.
To be sure, Louback has much to be proud of. In her short stint as a model, Louback has walked in shows for Saint Laurent, Chanel and Hermès, amongst others, in the spring/summer 2020 season. “The most outstanding show I’ve walked for is Saint Laurent. The whole staging and the energy throughout the show was unique and electrifying.”
But aside from her achievements in fashion, Louback is also an accomplished academic, with an impressive three degrees to her name: one in industrial maintenance, a bachelor’s degree in physics and another degree in material science engineering. “I always wanted to have several strings to my bow,” she says, of her decision to study the sciences and pursue a career as a model. “And I always wanted to be an engineer. Probably because I have been fascinated by the knowledge and reasoning abilities of my father ever since I was a child. He is also an engineer.” Modelling and engineering, according to Louback, are two halves of what make her complete and what make her happy.
Happiness and inner peace were absolute essentials for Louback during the pandemic lockdown, which she spent in Paris in a small apartment with her roommates. “I did a lot of yoga and meditation daily. Despite the chaotic environment outside, I spent my time cultivating my inner peace.” Like the rest of the world, Louback also felt that the lockdown gave her a lot of time to do some personal reflection and self-care. “The most important thing for me right now is simply to be aware that every day is a new blessing; going to bed at night with the feeling of having done my best for the day and being grateful for what I have. I stayed connected to my loved ones and kept doing all the things that made me feel good: dancing, laughing, cooking, reading and working on my projects.”
Given that she has spent the entire lockdown— and the preceding six years studying her engineering degree in Paris—away from her family, Louback mentions that they are her priority when the pandemic finally reaches its end. “I would love to go back to Djibouti to spend time with my family. Or go to Cape Verde with some friends like we planned before all this started.”
I ask her what advice she would give to herself a year ago, when she was starting out in the industry. “The best advice is to always be yourself. Beauty is authenticity. The most important thing is to accept and love yourself as you are.” But it doesn’t hurt to keep your eyes open for any opportunities that may arise. “Being attentive to every environment and request is very important too,” she adds.
Louback feels lucky to be where she is right now and attributes at least some of her success to her loving upbringing. “Since my childhood, I have been raised surrounded by love and compliments that have helped me boost my self-love. The fashion industry has the same effect for a professional model. It’s empowering. Fashion is about acceptance and diversity. The more experience you have, the more self-confident you become.”
Featured image credits: Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini white jumpsuit with black rhinestone braid details, white sheer blouse with ruffles on the collar, and white feather shawl.
Photographer: Nathaniel Goldberg
Fashion: Daniela Paudice
Hair: Marc Lopez / Audrey Petit-Grand
Make-up: Lloyd Simmonds / Carole
Manicure: Anais Cordevant
Models: He Cong and Malika Louback / IMG Models
Fashion production: Michael McDowell
On-set assistance: Thomas Santos
Casting director: Piergiorgio Del Moro