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Alek Wek; Once Upon a Refugee…

Alek Wek

It is true that no one can determine the place of his birth; otherwise Alek Wek would have chosen a country devoid of wars and disastrous outbreaks with better climatic conditions. But destiny chose to take her on a journey; first, to the place where she was born on the 16th of April 1977, somewhere in the Sahara desert, called Wau in Sudan as part of a family of nine.  Alek Wek grew up to the kind of life everyone around her thought normal; one that was full of pain, depravity and utterly lacking in basic comfort.

The civil war a few years later didn’t make things better, people died everyday irrespective of the part of the country they lived in; most died from hunger and disease, incidental damage in a vicious war.

Alek Wek

5 ft. 11 inches tall, Alek Wek’s ebony features and long limbs were a gift from her father Attian Wek who also had unusually long limbs. The death of Attian Wek from paralysis and hemorrhage; the fall-out from a traumatized hip injury should have been the last nail on the coffin, but Alek Wek was not destined for a shallow, sandy grave in the Sahara.

In 1991, Alek had the opportunity to flee Sudan and get away from the disaster that was tearing her country and people apart. Arriving in London at age 14, destiny led her into the waiting arms of a model scout in an outdoor market in London in 1995. That was all the push she needed as the pains of yesterday were swept away by the winds of a brand new life.

Alek Wek

The first time Alek recalled getting any attention was when she was featured in the music video for “Golden Eye” by Tina Turner. That was her Launchpad into the world of fashion where she grew to become a Supermodel of note. She was soon signed to Ford Models in 1996 and featured in “Got Till it’s Gone” a music video by Janet Jackson. Barely two years later in 1997, she was named “Model of the Year” by MTV. She has also done several advertisements for many designers including Miyake, Moschino and Victoria’s Secret.

Walking the run way became a way of life for Alek, who has modeled for many top fashion designers like Shaitzy Chen, John Galliano, Chanel, Calvin Klein; to mention a few.

Any “not so emotional” and right thinking person would score Alek an A+ for being the answer to the question, “Can any good thing come out of Sudan?”

Alek Wek DIOR resortMonday may 14th _2007New york

Presently, this “black spotted cow” as her name implies, designs a range of designer bags called “Wek 1933” which are sold in select Selfridge departmental stores. The year 1933 refers to the year her father was born and she says her inspiration for the designs came from the brass – clasp briefcase her father carried.

She has now returned to the land of her birth to offer hope and a better future in consonance with the United Nations Refugee Agency; their mission is to highlight the stories of refugees and make efforts to build and stabilize the country.

If Alek Wek can make it, who can’t?

Alek Wek

Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor is a Journalist/Writer, Poet, Lawyer and God-Lover. She enjoys a good read and sees everyday as an opportunity to live and enjoy her calling whilst working towards perfecting it. She believes that someday soon, Africa will reach her full potential as the light-bearer of the world. You can find her on Twitter: @lovelyn_o

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  1. Did she make it? Not quite. I don’t think she did…someone picked her up and made her. It’s an example of the simplicity of divine intervention. We all in this life needs the help of God manifested through a person(s). Great story. Alot to reflect on. Thanks to you ‘Guest blogger’…smiles

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