South Sudanese Refugee Supermodel Adut Akech Covers ELLE’s August 2021 Issue

Posted on July 14, 2021

Supermodel Adut Akech coverd the August 2021 issue of ELLE magazine, on newsstands July 27th. Akech opened up to ELLE about her childhood as a South Sudanese refugee, the bullying and racism she endured after emigrating to Australia as a child, what being named an Estée Lauder global brand ambassador means to her and how her she sees her modeling work as a step toward creating a world in which people like herself won’t have to question their worth: “I never, ever, in my wildest dreams, thought I would have achieved half the things that I have now. I do this for my little sisters. I do it for little Black girls all around the world. I do it for refugees. I do it for people who are not seen and not heard. That’s my responsibility.”

 


Akech was born on Christmas Day in 1999, somewhere along the route between her mother’s native South Sudan, where a civil war raged, and the Kenyan refugee camp they called home for nearly eight years: “I was a very switched-on kid,” she says over Zoom, draped in a vibrant orange scarf. “When you grow up in an environment like that, you don’t really have a choice but to be switched on.” But memories of having to pack quickly due to fears of kidnapping marauders are tempered by more innocent recollections of playing with a ball she and her cousins made out of rubber bands. “We were still kids at the end of the day,” Akech says.

On the bullying and racism she endured after emigrating to Australia at age 7: “It was the first time I was in a space with people who didn’t look like me, people who weren’t used to seeing people like myself. From a young age, I just told myself that I needed to grow a tougher skin to avoid all this outside noise, but also to accept that this is who I am. This is how God made me, and that’s not going to change anytime soon, or ever, to be honest.”

On how her she sees her modeling work as a step toward creating a world in which people like herself won’t have to question their worth: “I do this for my little sisters. I do it for little Black girls all around the world. I do it for refugees. I do it for people who are not seen and not heard. That’s my responsibility.”

On being named an Estée Lauder global brand ambassador: “I feel like this is my moment to show people—and to show the world— that yes, Black women are beautiful.”

On how the past year has given her a new appreciation for life: Despite checking off more career goals in a handful of years than most hope to achieve in a lifetime, Akech isn’t looking to rest on her laurels: “Last year opened my eyes and made me realize, (1) Don’t take anything for granted, and (2) our time in this world is not promised. Anything can happen.”

 

Style Credits:
Cover: Dress by Prada | Harry Winston Ring
Image 1: Dress by Tom Ford | Earrings by Cartier | Tights by Emilio Cavallini | Boot by Prada
Image 2: Coat by Khaite | Earrings by Cartier | Boots by Prada
image 3: Coat by Michael Kors Collection | Boots by Prada
[Photo Credit: Chris Colls for ELLE Magazine]

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