Alek Wek changed my life. She opened up many perspectives for me, especially how I perceived “the industry”.
I remember it like yesterday…I was at home watching one of my three* favorite fashion programs, Style with Elsa Klensch on CNN (*the other two: Fashion Files with Tim Blanks and FashionTV, Style Network). This show aired Saturday nights around 2am… a perfect nightcap after a great night of partying. I would do other things during her commentary, and tune in for the fashion shows. One typical night, I looked up to catch the runway segment, and I saw history being made. Alek Wek walked for the first time into my fashion history.
I’ve been watching fashion shows for as long as I can remember and I knew them all: Iman, Beverly, Naomi…you know the girls who seem to be the only representations this loved industry could find for Black women all over the globe. So to see Alek for the first time, I was immediately fixated. Her presence might be the reason I can’t remember the designer or the collection at this time. It was such a surreal moment in my life because before then I had truly accepted that the runways would never reflect “me” in the physical form.
Being discovered nearly 18 years ago, Alek Wek is a bona fide super-model. She’s a Sudanese/British refugee, survivor, designer, humanitarian, and SUPER-MODEL that’s revolutionized the fashion industry’s perception of beauty. I love saying that about her because I’ve watched her do so much with this opportunity. As a philanthropist and a member of the US Committee for Refugees’ Advisory Council, she has become a big advocate on behalf of Sudan and continues to support the improvement of her home country. When she was “discovered,” she was studying fashion technology and business at the prestigious London College of Fashion and has since gone on to create her own line of designer handbags, Wek 1933. More importantly, since entering the industry, she has paved the way for a more dominant display of beautiful African/American models, reflecting the diverse beauty of multiple cultures. Now today’s generation of young girls are witnessing their beauty also gracing covers, ads, and runways.
I love Alek Wek for so many reasons. Her smile is what had me first. I’ve seen many fashion shows where, when she recognized someone in the audience, she would break typical runway protocol and actually acknowledge that person. There have even been times where she has waved at someone during her walk! When I saw that I remember thinking: She is %100 herself.
It is that same spirit and warmth that has carried over into her work outside of fashion.
She is my kind of beauty because I see her when I look in the mirror. I am grateful that other women and girls can relate to her as well. Balance is a beautiful thing!!!