Adut Akech Vision to Change Modelling in South Sudan

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Adut AkechWith Naomi Campbell as her “second mum” and Steven Meisel encouraging her to be exactly who she is, South Sudanese model Adut Akech is on a mission to support the beautiful women of her homeland who don’t have the resources to make it in the industry.

With a nomination for Model of the Year at the 2018 Fashion Awards recently tucked under her belt, Akech, whose Christian name is Mary, is taking it all in her stride. “You like me, you like me, you don’t, you don’t,” she told Vogue earlier this year. “There’s nothing I hate more than being around fake people. I always stay true to myself.” 

Adut Akech’s star has been in the ascendant since Saint Laurent booked her exclusively for its spring/summer 2017 show. By the autumn/winter 2018 season, she was everywhere. Her status as catwalk queen was cemented only further when Karl Lagerfeld selected her to close Chanel’s Haute Couture show as his bride – the second black model in history to do so.

Adut Akech

Adut Akech

Pretty shy, Akech has surrounded herself with nurturing role models, from family to the “great people she’s met along the way”. It was her boutique-owning aunt in Australia, the country Akech’s Kenya-based family emigrated to when she was six, that first asked her to walk in a fashion show at the age of 12. “The minute I stepped onto the runway I was like, ‘This is it, this is what I wanna do’,” she recalled. She looked to Naomi Campbell and Alek Wek for inspiration, and climbed the ladder from local beauty pageants to Australia Fashion Week, where an agent from Elite signed her in 2016. Campbell, she shared, is now like her “second mum”. “We met on the Pirelli calendar shoot styled by Edward Enninful in April last year, and I never thought there would be a friendship – but we got along instantly… Now, she checks up on me all the time in New York, like, ‘Hey baby, are you eating? Are you sleeping?'”

As her CV and social media follower count grows, Akech continues to look back. “I don’t want to sound up myself, but it’s nice to hear I’m making a positive impact on girls,” she explained. Elite signed four other black models off the back of Akech’s success and many young women come to her for career advice. “I would love to start my own modelling agency back in South Sudan in the future. There are so many beautiful dark-skinned girls that have the potential, but they just don’t have the connections or the resources.”