Sahara Lin On How Modeling Made Her Feel Comfortable In Her Skin

Photographed by Dafy Hagai

Get to know the model below

The following feature appears in the February 2017 issue of NYLON.

A proper English accent and a salty, don’t-give-a-shit manner of speech might seem like Sahara Lin’s most incongruous traits. However, the 19-year-old Chinese/Welsh/Dominican/Puerto Rican model who was raised in Wales and Brooklyn is the product of many seemingly disparate ideas and influences that manifest themselves in an overall lifestyle defined by fearless opposition—beginning with her signature braces.

“When I was 16, I didn’t want to get braces because I loved my fucked-up teeth,” Lin says, sitting in the third-floor Williamsburg walk-up where she has just wrapped her NYLON photo shoot. “But then when I got them I was like, ‘Fuck, I love my braces.’ It was only once I got my braces that I felt confident in myself, which is strange because it’s not supposed to happen that way. Suddenly, the braces were like a cool accessory—they look like grills!” 

Dental hardware that most teenagers rue as the bane of their existence has become, on Lin, a fashion statement. And it’s this kind of latent quirkiness that makes her so eminently likable. The model is soft-spoken but bold—a rare mix of rough-around-the-edges attitude and sweetness—with a multiethnic beauty that has landed her modeling gigs with everyone from Calvin Klein to Kenzo (and a deal from Elite Model Management NYC). “Whenever they put me in a dress I feel strong as fuck,” she says of her approach to her work. “I don’t try to look dainty—I try to look tough. When I put on a dress I feel like I could fight someone in it.”  

Lin’s perspective on her own style is similarly idiosyncratic: “I buy all my clothes at thrift stores, and I don’t really post my outfits on Instagram at all, either, so when I show up to shoots people seem surprised. They’re like, ‘I love your outfit, where did you get it?’ and I’m like, ‘A person died in these clothes—and it was two dollars!’”

Lin proceeds to show off her pair of wide-legged snakeskin trousers, a furry zebra-print half-zip, and a bright yellow crop top from a pile of what looks like old-school J.Lo velour that is gathered up on the floor. “I always get 99-cent-store jewelry, too,” she adds, holding up a fringed rhinestone choker with hearts at the end of each string. On a nearby table, her purse has been dumped to display diamond-tipped fake nails from the dollar store, ’90s butterfly clips, and a tiny plastic baby whose position amid the accessories makes it unclear whether or not it is part of an outfit. 

Lin, a self-professed tomboy, also “doesn’t really like the internet.” Unlike most models, she doesn’t have Twitter, recently deleted her Snapchat, and only rarely posts on Instagram as @palefoxsahara—but that hasn’t stopped her from quickly accruing an enviable online following. Everyone has a friend that’s too cool for Facebook, and Sahara Lin is that person.

“I was always the kid in the corner just drawing with my hood up,” she reflects. “When friends in high school ostracized me, I sat at the table with the so-called ‘nerds’ and that’s where I had the best conversations, because they weren’t so involved in the internet and all this other bullshit.”

Lin’s mother, multimedia artist Choichun Leung, influenced both her sense of self and her tendency to follow her impulses—even dabbling in other forms of expression. “When I draw, I’m trying to get out an emotion, but if I can’t get it right, I’ll change it up—I’ll do sculpture, or I’ll make a beat instead,” Lin explains. The benefits of switching it up are true in modeling, too. “When they put me in outfits, it’s like I’m playing a character or a different version of myself—I get to try out different personalities,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll put on something unexpected like a suit and be like, ‘Shit, this looks good.’ So modeling has definitely made me more comfortable with me.”

Accordingly, when Lin brings up the fact that some internet trolls have said that her career will tank once she gets her braces off, she seems unperturbed, shrugging her shoulders with the same breezy confidence with which she mentioned being flown to Morocco for a photo shoot. “When I was younger, I couldn’t really find myself, but now I am so totally fine with who I am,” she says. “I’m going to do this shit because I want to do it—and that’s all there is to it.”

Photo courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Netflix

We're shook and shaking our heads

Awards season is indeed on the horizon. Today the nominees for the 71st annual Emmy Award nominations were announced, crowning the best in television programming over the past year—from June 1, 2018, through May 31, 2019, specifically. For some performers, creators, crews, networks, and fans, this is a time for celebration and congratulations. For others, it's a moment of disappointment; or at the very least, an opportunity to complain a little bit.

Here are my snubs, surprises, and the nominations that I'm so excited about I could scream.

Snub: Tracee Ellis-Ross in 'black-ish'

Three-time Emmy nominee Tracee Ellis-Ross was not nominated for her role in black-ish, and I would like to speak to the manager.

Snub: 'The Masked Singer'

The Masked Singer might seem gimmicky, but it's actually really good and has shaken up the monotony of other singing competition shows. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough for the Emmy voters.

Surprise: 'Surviving R. Kelly'

I was admittedly surprised to see Surviving R. Kelly validated as one of the most impactful docu-series of the year. It has changed the conversation about sexual assault and grooming and added pressure to law enforcement to hold the singer accountable. It was nominated for Best Informational Series or Special.

Snub: Julia Roberts in 'Homecoming'

Julia Roberts stepped off of her well-established film actress pedestal to bring a PODCAST to life, and this is the thanks she gets? She killed it in Homecoming, and yet it didn't get a single nomination.

Surprise: Beyoncé's 'Homecoming'

Speaking of Homecoming, Beyoncé's Netflix documentary about her 2018 Coachella performance—which doubled as a tribute to HBCUs—was nominated for Best Variety Special. All she has to do is win this, snag an Oscar for The Lion King soundtrack, and put Broadway in her GPS, and Beyhive, we have ourselves an EGOT!

Snub: 'Gentleman Jack'

Gentleman Jack didn't get a single nomination. It hasn't even been a full month since Pride, and we're already shitting on gay rights. Wow.

Snub: 'Grace & Frankie'

I know that Grace & Frankie went off the rails a little bit this year, so I get the show being absent from the Best Comedy Series category. But for neither Lily Tomlin or Jane Fonda to be recognized just feels… wrong.

Snub: 'American Horror Story: Apocalypse'

Jessica Lange is that bitch and deserves her nomination for returning to American Horror Story: Apocalypse. But Evan Peters should have received some recognition for wearing that terrible wig while he played a Satan-worshipping tech bro; Sarah Paulson carried the show; and nothing but respect to MY antichrist, Cody Fern.

Snub: 'Haunting of Hill House'

Another horror series that deserved a chance this year was Haunting of Hill House. It was scary as hell, but also a great drama about a family dealing with grief and trauma. It could be that the Emmy voters were too damn terrified to make it to the end, though. Fair.

Surprise: Billy Porter in 'Pose'

Billy Porter got a Lead Actor nomination for Pose, and I can't think of anyone more deserving. I can't wait to see what he wears on award night.

Surprise: Jharrel Jerome In 'When They See Us'

It cannot be understated how much Jharrel Jerome deserves his nomination for Lead Actor in a Limited Drama Series. His performance in Ava DuVernay's When They See Us still haunts me.

Surprise: Kit Harington In 'Game of Thrones'

Kit Harington as Best Actor. IKYFL.

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