Alek Wek is an African SuperModel born in 1977 in Dinka granted
asylum in Great Britain during the Civil War between the Muslim
north and the Christian south of the Sudan, and moved to London.
In 1995 she was approached by a fashion agent from ModelsOne
at a street market in London.
Within a year Alek Wek has become a significant part of fashion
industry, modeling in Paris, Milan, and New York.
She appeared on November 1997 Elle magazine cover, and despite
all concerns that a dark-skinned girl on the cover would not sell
issues brought the historical moment to fashion industry when the
standards of beauty in fashion were redefined.
In 1997 Alek Wek was named "Model of the Year" by MTV.
She was ranked in global fashion and beauty lists such as “50 Most
Beautiful People” and “50 Most Influential Faces in Fashion”, and
“World’s Greatest Supermodel”.
In 2002 Alek Wek was considered to be one the most expensive
top models in the world.
Alek Wek launched her own handbag line “Wek1933”.
Alek Wek is a member of the US Committee for Refugees'
Advisory Council, helping to raise awareness about the situation in
She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
In 2007 Alek Wek released an autobiography: “ Alek: From
Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel” (HarperCollins
“I was packing for the flight to London when my driver called to say he was waiting outside. I hurriedly went through my “toss bag” of beauty
products and grabbed some small bottles of moisturizer. Every week cosmetics companies send me free products, and I set aside the ones that
don’t work for me and give them to my sisters and friends- I don’t really use much makeup, except when I am working. I put the bottles into
one of the kit bags from WEK 1933, the line of bags that I design. It always feels funny, yet good, to carry a bag with my father’s name and
year of birth engraved on the brass zipper tags- like being home again, though it’s hard to say where, exactly, home would be for me…”
“Sudan was the country of my ancestors, the soil where our cattle grazed, the land where our spirits lived, but I had no desire to return.
Now I was officially a refugee, with only a small bag, a passport, a ticket, and a little bit of money.
I was fleeing a place where soldiers, militias, and rebels killed each other and anyone- men, women, or children- who got between them and
their quest for power. I’d seen enough dead bodies, like the ones that went putrid on the hillside above the well where I used to gather water
back in Wau. I didn’t want to see any more corpses, or become one myself…”
“Looking around, I observed one other aspect o f the cityscape- the billboards. It was exciting to look out of the train window. There were
hundreds of advertisements. I didn’t think about the models who had posed for these photographs, because I was too busy trying to figure out
what the pictures were selling. It certainly never occurred to me that one day I would be up there too…”
“I always had my mother in the back of my mind, saying,” What are you doing wasting all your time? Get to work, girl!” I remembered my father,
too. He’d always say,”Look, Alek, you don’t have to be a scientist, or a doctor or a solicitor. But whatever you choose to do, you should really
love it. You should focus on it and you must stick with it. Life is not a game, although it can be fun”.
I had a good time and I got good jobs. And, though, I didn’t know it, I was about to change the face of beauty and modeling in America.”
“What is this obsession with pigment? Scientists say skin pigment is largely a matter of geography; people who live in sunny areas, such as
along the equator, will, over generations, develop darker skin as protection for the sun. People who live in the northern areas will develop
lighter skin as a more effective way of using the sun’s limited rays to manufacture vitamin D. The biology is really simple. Unfortunately, the
sociology is not”.
“I noticed that journalists often like to say that I’d been discovered in “the bush”, in Africa. As if Had been a primeval innocent afoot in the
forest when the great model agent plucked me from the muck and tamed me, without destroying my savage beauty. I mean, I was wearing
jeans in Crystal Palace Park when I was “discovered”. The closest bush was a well-manicured azalea”.
“I had a voice, and I was using it. It made being a model worthwhile”....
Alek Wek. (from the autobiography: “ Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel” HarperCollins Publishers. First Edition. 2007)