Lined with villas and colonial architecture, the Tāmaki Makaurau suburb of Howick is the heart of the eastern bays. Quiet during the week, yet flip to Saturday morning, and you’ll find a wide spectrum of temporary residents. From the corporate couple sipping their flat-whites (with real milk, of course) or a Doc Marten decked teen rifling through the op-shops for treasure—there’s something for everyone.
If there's anyone who can divulge the details of this East Tāmaki Makaurau location, it's Kiwi model Ashika Pratt—it was this suburb that provided the backdrop for her first eighteen years of life, here that she just came back to visit, and here that the seed for her modelling career was planted. It all began for Ashika when she was scouted at the Miss Howick beauty pageant. A contest where she was criminally crowned runner-up. My, what a universe we live in.
Ten years in a city will make you a local though, and this striking beauty is now a native New Yorker. Years before that were spent bouncing between Mumbai, Paris, and London. In her heart and despite the often-nomadic requirements of modelling, she says Aotearoa will always be home. Ashika holds a controversial but obvious opinion—Hamptons beaches don’t compare to home’s sprawling list of options.
Although an upbringing in Aotearoa can be scenic in many ways, any POC will, however, tell you, it can also be unbearably white. With a Fijian Indian mum and English dad, Ashika looked around and became all too aware that at school, it was only her and her sisters that looked like each other. An eerie feeling, which put simply — if you know, you know. However, shifts in the modelling industry and her own hard grind has added some sparkly notches to her belt—sparkles that enable visibility to young women searching for people who look like them.
How lucky they are, as are we, to meet Ashika; there’s much to be learnt from her straight-up and grounded approach to life. Ashika is that friend your mum will always refer to with “their head screwed on right”. She holds a graceful sense of confidence, the kind that people probably try to buy with money. It ain’t up for grabs, though, baby… So, take a moment to sit with Ashika, prance through her New York and let her tranquillity soothe your day.
Where do you live now, and where do you consider home?
I live in Brooklyn, but my home will always be in New Zealand.
What do you miss the most about Aotearoa?
I miss my family, summer and our beautiful beaches! The Hamptons has nothing on even the worst beaches in NZ.
What’s been the most rewarding part of working in New York?
Moving to New York was such a huge dream of mine. I’ve been able to work for designers and brands I couldn’t even imagine someone who looks like me working for.
And the most challenging?
Modelling has a lot of challenges, but I find travelling alone can be one of the hardest. It’s nice to go to new places, but experiences are always better shared.
Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
Yes and no. I’m not religious, but I believe in karma.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
This too shall pass.
What is your idea of happiness?
Happiness to me is being content with what you have and being surrounded by people you love.
What would happen if you had to give up social media for a week?
Absolutely nothing, and I probably should do that.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Check my phone and drink coffee!
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
100% a morning person.
What’s the coolest or most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?
Apparently, Stephen Hawking deliberately ran over the toes of people he didn’t like. He denied it as a “malicious rumour” and said he’d “run over anyone who repeats it”.
How can we make the most of our time on Earth?
Help and be kind to those around you. Enjoy life, travel, follow your dreams and passions.
If you could say something to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?
Everything you’re worrying about doesn’t matter.
What are you most looking forward to this year in 2022?
I’m going to Paris in a few weeks and have a little trip to Venice planned between shoots. I just got back from New Zealand and Sydney, but I’m excited to go back at the end of the year.
What books are you reading at the moment?
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty.
Are there any social or cultural shifts you hope will happen in the next 10 years?
There are so many to name. Right now, women across America are waiting to see what will happen when/if Roe v Wade is overturned. A cultural shift towards women having autonomy over our own bodies would be amazing.
Why do you think friendships are so important?
The people we surround ourselves with have a huge influence on our lives. They affect our behaviours and attitudes, and so finding good friends that uplift and support you makes a big difference.
What values do you look for in friends?
Fun, kind, empathetic and honest.
The ideal New York day is...
Yoga class at Modo, coffee at Marlow & Sons, dinner with friends.
The best spot for first-time visitors is...
Central Park on a beautiful day or just walking around the west village and exploring.
The best place to unwind is...
Aire Spa in TriBeCa.
The best place to read a book/mag is...
The best spot for a cheap feed is...
Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop.
The best spot for an afternoon drink is...
The best place for a dance is...
The best place for brunch the morning after dancing is...
Cafe Mogador or the best pancakes ever at Chez Ma Tante.
And the cutest date spot is...
Rule of thirds in Williamsburg for dinner or a cocktail at Maison Premiere.