July 24, 2015

Moguls of Inspiration | Alek Wek

Hello Beautiful People.

Todays's Moguls of Inspiration takes us 38 years back in time to a city called Wau in the Southern part of Sudan.

On this day, 16 April 1977 a great child was born to the Dinka ethnic group in South Sudan to mother, Akuol and father, Athian... As the seventh of nine children, she would be on major magazine covers and walk side by side with some of the biggest names on runways across the globe. Alek Wek is this child.

Now known as a South Sudanese British model and designer, Alek began her life in fashion at the age of 18 after she fled to Britain in an effort to escape the Sudanese Civil War in 1991. She comfortably resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Alek has a very humble story to her life, even to the extent that her name means 'Black Spotted Cow'. She grew up with multiple siblings in a two-bedroom house with no running water and electricity. She has admitted suffering from Psoriasis from infancy to age 14. 

When the Civil War began in Wau in 1985, Alek and her family had to flee. During the journey on foot over long periods, her father's hip got infected, he then became paralysed and endured a haemorrhage which led to his death.

Due to the moisture in the climate, Alek's Psoriasis cleared upon arrival in London. She then enrolled in London's College of Fashion where she did a major in Fashion Business and Technology.

Wek was discovered at an outdoor market in 1995 in Crystal Palace, London by a Models 1 scout. She appeared in the music video for "GoldenEye" by Tina Turner that year, and shortly thereafter began fashion modelling. She was signed to Ford Models in 1996 and also appeared in the "Got 'Til It's Gone" music video by Janet Jackson that year. She was named "Model of the Year" in 1997 by MTV, and was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle that year.

Wek has modelled, either on runways or in print advertisements, for Issey MiyakeMoschinoVictoria's SecretCliniqueShiatzy ChenJohn GallianoChanelDonna Karan,Calvin KleinJasper ConranAlexander McQueenGivenchyArmaniFendi and Christian Dior. She has also been featured in articles in American and British Vogue. And has been on the cover of Elle magazinei-D Magazine, Canadian, German and Japanese VogueCosmopolitan magazineGlamour magazineForbes Magazine Africa, and Ebony magazine. In 2002 she made her acting debut in The Four Feathers as Sudanese princess Aquol.

Herb Ritts photographed her for a 1999 calendar in a Joanne Gair body painting that was a highlight of Gair's first retrospective.

Dark-skinned models were rare, if not unheard of, in the high fashion industry. Wek was "the first black model who didn't conform to a Caucasian aesthetic, the first with an uncompromising, sub-Saharan beauty... her industry saw her as new and exotic – a savage beauty." As a result, Wek's mainstream success was celebrated by black women all over the world. Oprah Winfrey commented that “if [Wek] had been on the cover of a magazine when I was growing up, I would have had a different concept of who I was.”

While giving a speech on beauty and self-perception, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o mentioned Wek, stating that she had been a self-conscious, insecure teenager before seeing Wek in the spotlight: "When I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny,” she added, “Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far-away gatekeepers of beauty".

Wek also designs a range of designer handbags called "Wek 1933", which are available throughout selected Selfridges department stores. The name refers to the year her father was born. Her inspiration for the designs came from the brass-clasp briefcase carried by her father.

Since 2002, Wek has been an advisor to the U.S. Committee for Refugees Advisory Council, which helps to raise awareness about the situation in Sudan, as well as the plight of refugees worldwide.

She is a missionary for World Vision, an organisation which combats AIDS, an ambassador for Doctors Without Borders in Sudan, and devotes time to UNICEF.

In 2007, she released an autobiography, entitled Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel, documenting her journey from a childhood of poverty in Sudan to the catwalks of Europe.

In 2011, she appeared as a guest judge in the sixteenth cycle of America's Next Top Model.

In July 2012, she returned to South Sudan with the UN Refugee Agency to highlight the stories of refugees returning from the north and the massive efforts needed to build and stabilise the country.

In 2012 Alek teamed up with Amarula as the face of their campaign African Originals.

Wek has been in a relationship with Riccardo Sala, an Italian real estate developer, since 2003. She is aunt to the runway model Ataui Deng

If there's someone you'd like me to write about, please leave it in the comment section and I'll be sure to work on it... It could even be you :-)


This is You, This is Beautiful.
Stay True



Photography Courtesies:

Portions of this article were orginally published HERE.

1 comment:

  1. It very interesting!
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