With Tonikali Yepthomi: American Eagle’s 2013 model

Here’s a story about the girl next door, who joins the popular American clothing brand American Eagle Outfitters Spring 2013 Fashion campaign “Live Your Life” contest just to win a $500 gift card and get some pairs of new cloths for her little brother, mom and herself. And how she actually ended up becoming one Cinderella.

Yes the fairytale was right, the magical spell of distant dreams do turns into reality for people who believe in it. Something make-a-wish luck every girls dream about!

Meet Tonikali Yepthomi, a native of Dimapur (Nagaland) who now resides in Belvedere, Illinois (USA) with her parents. She is one of the 12 models to be named the face of American Eagle’s Spring 2013 campaign. Her ad campaign is also displaying on LED screen billboards in New York city’s Times Square currently.

Here’s what American Eagle says about her unique style.

She uses everything from canvas and pastels to customizing her own clothes. Tonikali gathers inspiration from everything – her travels, people around her, and nature. Creating is Tonikali’s way of expressing herself and showing her individuality. Her personal style is unique and individual. Tonikali wears what feels good and doesn’t adhere to trends or fads. She can take a denim jacket and make it her own by adding studs, jewels, or sewing on some lace. Tonikali is rarely wearing something she hasn’t personalized. “I’m different, I should just embrace it.”

Well enough, lets take a stroll and discover her secrets and happiness as well.

How is modelling for American Eagle going on so far?
So far so amazing. One of the best experiences in my life and I am still cherishing the ride.

Is it going to be a full-time modelling contract with them or just for one season?
The contract is for a year. And I was one of the faces for the spring campaign.

How does it feel to be the chosen Face for such a major international brand?
It all feels kind of surreal for now. I cannot imagine that a year ago I was playing Warcraft in a basement cafe and now I am on a billboard in Times Square. I am so grateful and thankful for everything that has happened so far. This is so much more than I could have ever asked for. All I wanted was to make a positive impact on people’s lives no matter how big or small. And I am so thankful I got this opportunity with American eagle.

Where did you do schooling?
I did my schooling in Pine Mount School, Shillong and Livingstone Foundation School in Dimapur.  And did junior college in Tetso College, Dimapur and pursued a bachelor degree in business at IIPM in New Delhi.

Your hobbies?
I like to read and write. It serves an escape for me just as much  as painting does. I also like to play video games, camping, singing, swimming, learning how stuff works, and messing around with musical instruments. Another hobby of mine is adding my own touch of beauty of clothes and accessories I wear.

Having any sort of outlet for my creativity is very gratifying and I seek for it in any way I can.  I just know I am love with the possibilities I’m creating—not necessarily possibilities for growth tomorrow; rather possibilities for joy today.

Tonikali gathers inspiration from everything – her travels, people around her, and nature.

Tonikali gathers inspiration from everything – her travels, people around her, and nature.

And your story so far?
Well, American Eagle had this competition going on with the slogan #liveyourlife; where America gets to vote for the next cast members of their spring campaign. And there I realized Hey “Live your Life” is also my motto in life. Well not really, but yeah, I joined the contest hoping to win the consolation prize so I could get some new clothes. What’s there to lose right? Then I go on and bug all my friends to vote for me; who out of their kindness took the time to vote for me and put me as one of the finalist.

Thank you so much to everyone who voted.  So, then I was made one of the finalists and won a $500 gift card (free clothes at American eagle store outlets! What??!! Yayyy) and went shopping with my mom and younger brother. I was elated and happy. Then I forgot about the whole contest, and the whole American Eagle phase. Until one day, I suddenly got a call asking if I’d like to be a part of their ad campaign! I was so excited! Of course I said yes. They flew me out to LA in California where we shot in Malibu and Venice beach.  I met so many amazing people, and their talent is so overwhelmingly inspiring.

All I wanted was a gift card. And then I got to go to Los Angeles and be a model, and even saw myself on Times Square! It’s crazy! And I feel so so blessed for everything that has happened.



Future plans?
Upon arriving to United States , I’ve learnt so much and grown so much having left all that made who I am, It truly has made me realized how much more love our world needs. Being here I feel helpless and sad about the socio-political situation and all the suffering our people have to go through back  in the Northeast India. But I want to make a change, a difference. I read this quote by the tennis champ Arthur Ashe “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can”.

So In my own little way I realized can make a difference although being thousands of miles away, just by simply being the best version of who I am and trying to serve as an inspiration to my peers; even if its as small as spreading the message of peace and love trough a Facebook status update or by being a larger than life character on a billboard on Times Square. I don’t really know what’s next. Never really have, but things work out anyway. And I will grab any opportunity I get to make a positive impact on society, which are plenty! We just get to live this one life, there’s limitless ways to live it. Life is short. I intend to do it all and live it all.


Check out Tonikali in American Eagle Spring 2013 photo shoot to get to know her and see what she can’t live a day without. Also don’t forget to follow her on Instagram (@thelovehustler) and Pinterest (@thelovehustler) for regular updates.

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