If you ever saw Onyeka Deborah walk a fashion runway, you know that it’s truly beautiful art in motion. Blessed with exotic African features, the stunning beauty has been turning head ever since she burst onto the modeling and fashion scene.

Between runways and photo shoots, Onyeka Deborah took the time to talk about her modeling career with Industry Rules. During her interview, she explained some of triumphs, inspiration and how she’s able to keep her physique intact.

AF: How did you get started in the modeling industry? 

OD: I was tall and awkward, and American kids made fun of my African features in Jersey City, where I spent most of my childhood. But I always loved fashion. I started to realize that my features were actually a strength after producing a runway show at my high school with my sister and walking in the show. I haven’t looked back since.

AF: What were some of your early inspirations? 

OD: As a Nigerian American, I definitely grew up watching Oluchi Onweagba, hoping someone would discover me at age 17 like they did for her. I watched Iman and Naomi, and Alek on the runway. Of course, the popularity of America’s Next Top Model and it’s black female host was also a huge motivator. At that time there weren’t many high profile black models so it was amazing to witness Tyra’s success.

AF:  What were some obstacles you face early on in your career?

OD: I started a bit later in my modeling career than I would have liked which was a huge obstacle for me being that models start at a young age. Growing up with very strict, very traditional parents, I was taught that education and discipline came first. And although I agree that education is very important, the lack of support and not being able to pursue my dreams hindered me from exploring the fashion industry. So it took me a while to play catch up and I am happy with how far I have come.

AF:  What are your thoughts on the modeling industry and the direction it’s going?

OD: The modeling and advertising industries are rapidly changing with the incorporation of new technologies, apps, and Social Media. It has its pros and cons. There are so many “models” now and the agencies are even more selective than they used to be. But I learned all the way back in high school that if I really want to see myself on the runway, I might have to build my own. Social Media provides an opportunity for me to brand myself in a way that my predecessors couldn’t!

AF: Tell us one of your fondest memories on the runway or backstage at a fashion show?

OD: As I walked down the runway in a show two years ago for NYFW, I heard some yell my name “Onyeka;” at that moment, I got the confident boost I needed to know that I’m making progress in my career.

AF: When was the last time you visit your native country Nigeria? What was the experience like?

 OD: I was last in Nigeria two years ago for Christmas and New Years. It’s a great feeling anytime I can come together with my entire family and just enjoy each other’s company and celebrate.

AF: How do you manage to stay fit? What’s your preferred nutritional diet?

I will have to admit good genes run in my family, but my best advice would be to stay active. For instance, I prefer to sign up for dance or pliates, yoga classes and walk all around the city rather than being in my gym. I cook most of my meals so I know exactly what I’m putting inside my body. I’m big on greens and making my own smoothies and that’s a great balance to stay fit.

AF: What’s the next focus in your career?

OD: The next focus in my career is building “Onyeka Deborah” the brand. I do not want to limit myself to modeling. I am the Talent Coordinator for a fashion boutique company called Metropolitan Couture Media Group, and being a part of this firm gives me the opportunity to truly show my talent and skills while also working in the Fashion industry as a Fashion Model.

 You can follow Onyeka Deborah’s career via her Instagram.