FAMED CAYMANIAN MODEL NIK STEWART TAPS INTO HER ROOTS TO ESTABLISH A SECOND CAREER IN COOKBOOKS.
NIKStewart, who recently re-branded her professional name from Treveen Stewart, is riding a wave of success with numerous magazine features under her belt and high-profile campaigns with Nike and Kohl’s.
Nik was 15 and gearing up to train for the Cayman Olympics team in track and field when a New York agency first noticed her natural beauty and raw talent at a modelling contest in Jamaica. This event would propel her toward a glamorous career in high fashion, runway and print. Stewart’s spreads alone are impressive, with magazines including iD, Essence and Fantastics among them.
But she is not content to sit still; she has plans to challenge herself and branch out into other areas in her personal and professional life. Having recently moved to Chicago, Stewart spoke to Cayman Airways Skies about her career, her love of cooking and staying grounded.
YOU RECENTLY RE-BRANDED YOURSELF AND CHANGED YOUR NAME FROM TREVEEN TO NIK STEWART. WHAT BROUGHT THAT ON?
Nik comes from my middle name — Neikita. When I moved to New York with the agency [after “Caribbean’s Next Top Model”], we decided that changing my name was a good move to create a professional name in the U.S.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH MODELLING?
I won a local competition in Cayman and the prize was to go to Jamaica to compete in the Faces of the Caribbean. I was second runner-up, and there was a New York agency there who met me backstage and told me they would love to represent me. It took me a year to make my mind up, because I had to finish high school first. And I moved straight to New York after high school.
YOU FINISHED HIGH SCHOOL IN THE BRITISH SCHOOL SYSTEM, SO YOU MUST HAVE BEEN 16 OR 17 WHEN YOU WENT TO NEW YORK, CORRECT?
Yes. I was pretty young, but I was very happy to leave the Island and experience new adventures and see what the world was really like. I got a little taste of that in [that] modelling competition in Jamaica, so I really wanted to see if I could do this. In New York, I was staying in a model apartment with a few other girls, but I was basically on my own. I have no problems moving to a new city or state and starting over from scratch.
BEFORE YOU BECAME A MODEL YOU WERE QUITE SERIOUS ABOUT SPORTS.
I competed for Cayman in track and field. I used to be a sprinter in the 100 and 200 metres, and I was starting to train for the Olympics in my last year of high school. That was right before I got a modelling contract. I had to decide whether I was going to stay and take the scholarship for track or go to New York.
YOU HAVE BEEN MODELLING FITNESS CLOTHING LINES FOR BOTH NIKE AND KOHL’S. WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WORK FOR THESE BIG CLOTHING BRANDS?
First of all, I love sports and modelling, so if I can do both at the same time, that is two loves in one.
Nike are perfectionists, because everything has to be perfect for them. Shooting their ads is the best part, because I get to work out and take photos at the same time. Kohl’s is very easy. They want you to be happy and you can just be in your element.
IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, YOU GET TO WEAR A LOT OF DIFFERENT CLOTHES. WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL STYLE WHEN YOU ARE NOT MODELLING?
My style is very comfortable. I could just put on jeans and a v-neck T-shirt and some sneakers every day and I am fine.
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF PUBLICITY AROUND YOUR WIN AS “CARIBBEAN’S NEXT TOP MODEL.” WAS THIS THE CAREER BOOST YOU’D HOPED FOR?
I did the show, but it actually took two years to air, so I lost two years from my career just sitting and waiting. I had other opportunities come up that I couldn’t take, because I had a contract with them. After it aired, I did what I planned before the contest, which was sign with another New York agency. HOW DO YOU STAY GROUNDED IN THE FAST-PACED LIFE OF MODELLING?
I try to surround myself with very grounded and positive people. Grace [Gealey] is here in Chicago, and we hang out all the time, so that keeps me grounded. Grace reminds me of home. And my dad is here as well. I am not about the crazy party life. I am just trying to evolve and learn new skills.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR LOVE OF COOKING?
I want to do a cookbook. That is in the planning stage right now. It grew out of my personal blog and personal experiences. Being a model you have to be on a really good diet, but you don’t want to have to eat salad all day, every day.
For my cookbook, I am reinventing Caymanian recipes to make them a little bit healthier. I have also created my own recipes and am working on converting them to vegan and gluten-free recipes. I will still have the normal recipes for people who don’t have diet restrictions, but I am trying to make them healthier.
I am also working on producing YouTube videos with me cooking these recipes, and that will be a part of the blog and cookbook as well.
WHERE DID YOU LEARN TO COOK?
I learned to cook from my grandmother, grandfather and my dad. My grandmother would cook for the whole family every day, and we looked forward to going to her house for lunch, after work, on the weekends or she would do a big cook for the holidays. My grandfather was a cook for a sea merchant ship and he would cook for hundreds for people. I will be dedicating my cookbook to my grandparents.
IS THERE A RECIPE THAT YOU ARE WORKING ON NOW?
There is a recipe I have been experimenting with — it’s called ackee and saltfish dip, and another version is ackee and bean dip, which uses white beans, saltfish and ackee.
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR FREE TIME IN CHICAGO?
I work out, play sports or take classes. Chicago has some good cooking classes. I play flag football with a league here. We play in the snow sometimes and that is amazing. I also compete for the Cayman Islands Flag Football team and we travel to Atlanta, Tampa or Barbados, so I look forward to that every year.
WHAT DO YOU DO PROFESSIONALLY WHEN YOU ARE NOT ON A MODELLING JOB?
If I am not working, I am always preparing or trying to learn something new. I don’t feel like you should be good at just one thing, so I am always trying to learn new things. The modelling world has completely changed; they don’t just want pretty faces. You have to have a story behind you other than just looking the part; you have to be the part.
At the end of the day, modelling is not everything. There is a certain time frame for it, and you have to be ready to do something else after it ends. You don’t want to wait until it is too late and then jump into something else.
TELL US ABOUT THIS GORGEOUS PHOTO SHOOT YOU DID IN GRAND CAYMAN.
I realised that I shoot in New York and Chicago all the time, but I had nothing from the Islands, so when I go home I like to do these photo shoots around the Islands. I get to choose who I want to work with and we just make magic.
For this photo shoot at Pedro Castle, Cortez Vernon was the photographer. He has a really good eye and picked the location. [Cayman fashion designer] Tigerlily picked out the clothes, and my agent — who is one of my best friends — helped to direct the shoot. My boyfriend was there to help organise things.
We only had two hours to play with, so it was almost like a challenge. Each look has to be 10 shots so that is what we did. We went to a little lagoon around the back of Pedro Castle. I was in the middle of that, fighting the waves, trying not to float out to sea. It turned out to be amazing.
The next time I go back home, I want to set up another photo shoot in the new cave system that just opened up, [Cayman] Crystal Caves.