Meghan Markle graced Us with an epic British Vogue cover filled with incredible female trailblazers like Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek and Yara Shahidi. One of the names you might not be as familiar with though is Adut Akech. But it’s time to change that.
At just 19-years-old, the up-and-coming model not only has an inspiring story but continues to prove herself a positive change-maker.
After escaping South Sudan at 6 years old, she has built an impressive career that includes an exclusive contract with Saint Laurent. Through all of this she has been outspoken on issues like refugees and diversity, making the world a better (more fashionable) place.
The cover star took to Instagram on July 29 to share her excitement and appreciation for being included on the September 2019 British Vogue issue.
“A few nights ago I got one of the best surprise, a phone call from The Duchess of Sussex herself to tell me she was the guest-editor of this issue,” she wrote in the caption. “She told me that she finds me and my story so inspiring and those words I will never forget for the rest of my life. The thought of being chosen by HRH The Duchess of Sussex @sussexroyal and @edward_enninful as one the fifteenth amazing women looked as the #Forcesofchange completely blows my mind!”
Keep scrolling to learn more about this incredibly impressive young woman.
She Was a South Sudanese Refugee
After growing up in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp during the ongoing conflict in South Sudan with the north, she fled to Australia at 6 years old with her mom and five siblings.
“Even if I become the richest model in the world I will still be a refugee. I am a refugee,” she told CNN back in January. “When I first moved to Australia at age six, I promised my mother I would finish school, buy her a car and make something out of myself.” Oh man, did she!
She Was Bullied a School for Her Appearance
When she moved to Australia, she spent a year learning English at a school for refugees. Then she moved around to different suburban schools where she often experienced bullying.
“I was bullied by the popular girls about my skin tone, my hair and especially my gap [teeth], which I’ve grown to love,” Akech told Allure. “I’m not gonna lie — that made me feel a little insecure, then an ‘I don’t care’ mindset kind of kicked in for me, and I told myself I was beautiful.” She credits this learning experience to her success as a model.
She Got Her Start With an Exclusive Saint Laurent Deal got her start with an exclusive Saint Laurent deal
After being scouted at 16 years old in Australia, Akech’s big break came when she was cast in Saint Laurent’s September 2017 show. Afterwards, she signed an exclusive three-season deal with the design house. Since then she’s walked for some of the biggest designers in the world including Chanel, Valentino, Dior, Givenchy and Versace.
She’s a Big Advocate for Diversity and Inclusivity in the Industry
She told Allure that she’s struggled backstage working with makeup artists and hairstylists who aren’t sure how to work with her skin tone or hair texture.
“I have Afro hair, and you can’t use the same products or put the same amount of heat on my hair as you would with a Caucasian girl’s hair, but a lot of [hairstylists] fail to understand that,” she explained. “Last season, I let [the hairstylists] do what they wanted to do, and my hair got so heat-damaged. This season I didn’t let anyone touch my hair with heat at all, and a lot of people were offended, but if a model is not feeling okay, they should understand.”
She Guest-Edited CNN’s Online Style Section
Along with modeling and working with the UN to promote causes to support refugees worldwide, she also had a short stint as the guest editor for CNN’s online style section. The 19-year-old oversaw a series of stories that explored the definition of family. This was inspired by her relationship with her mom and siblings as well as the people she’s met in the industry.
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