Adut Akech is electric
Modesty might be the universal language of cover stars, but when Adut Akech says, “I never, ever, in my wildest dreams, thought I would have achieved half the things I did. have now, “you believe her. In addition to an extremely rapid career rise, from a first international show for Saint Laurent in 2016 to being named Model of the Year by the British Fashion Council three years later, her life trajectory has been quite extraordinary.
Akech was born on Christmas Day 1999, somewhere along the route between her mother’s native South Sudan, where a civil war raged, and the Kenyan refugee camp they lived in for nearly eight years. “I was a very horny kid,” she said to Zoom, draped in a vibrant orange scarf. “When you grow up in an environment like this, you really have no choice but to be turned on. ”
But memories of having to pack her bags quickly due to fear of kidnapping marauders are tempered by more innocent memories of playing with a ball she and her cousins made from rubber bands. “We were still kids at the end of the day,” Akech says.
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With the help of an aunt who lived in Adelaide, Australia, Akech and his mother were finally able to obtain visas. At the age of seven, Akech boarded a plane for the first time and flew halfway around the world. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew you could go to school [in Australia], and that was one of the things I wanted to do so badly, ”she says.
On the car ride from the airport, she turned to her mother and made a wish: “Now that we’re here, I’m going to study. I’ll buy you a car and a house. I’ll do something on my own. Akech, now 21, stops to examine this long list of commitments and smiles, revealing her gaping smile. “Yeah,” she said. “I made all of these things happen.”
At 13, Akech took part in his first fashion show, a local production put on by his aunt. A meeting with a modeling agency during a trip to Melbourne a few years later set her on a path that would include campaigns with Chanel, Valentino, Givenchy and Prada. In a real loop moment, Akech began working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the very agency that runs the camp where she grew up.
Her most recent career move: being named Global Ambassador of the Estée Lauder brand. “I feel like this is the time for me to show people – and show the world – that yes, black women are beautiful,” she says.
This is something Akech has always known, despite the intimidation and racism she suffered in Adelaide as a tall, lanky South Sudanese refugee with dark brown skin. “It was the first time that I was in a space with people who didn’t look like me, people who weren’t used to seeing people like me,” she explains. “From a young age, I just told myself that I needed a harder 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 won’t change anytime soon, or ever, to be honest.
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Now celebrated for her beauty around the world, Akech sees her modeling work as a step towards creating a world in which people like her don’t have to question their worth. “I’m doing this for my little sisters. I do it for little black girls all over the world. I do it for refugees. I do it for people who are neither seen nor heard, ”she says. “It is my responsibility.”
Stéphane de La Faverie, who is president of The Estée Lauder Companies and president of the global brand of Estée Lauder and AERIN Beauty, cites Akech’s “charisma, charm and beauty” as qualities that set her apart. . “Adut is one of the biggest stars in fashion,” he says. “We believe she will become a beauty icon of her generation as well.”
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Friend and mentor Naomi Campbell remembers the exact moment she first laid eyes on Akech while working alongside Sean Love Combs on the 2017 Pirelli Calendar. “I was in front of the makeup mirror. and I looked up and saw this girl behind me. [Diddy] and I both gasped, like ‘Oh my God, that girl is amazing’, ”she recalls. “I was just mesmerized by his face and his aura.”
Over the years, the two have forged a close relationship, taking the time to go out whenever they’re in the same city. “It was not at all surprising to me how quickly she has skyrocketed,” Campbell said, adding how happy she was to learn about Akech’s contract with Estée Lauder and what it not only means. for inclusion but also for equal pay and treatment for color models. “I am proud of her. Every editorial I see makes me smile, makes my heart smile. Actor and close friend Jeremy Pope agrees, “Adut is a light and has such a special energy in her. My hope is that she has everything her heart desires.
Although she’s ticked off more career goals in a few years than most hope to achieve in a lifetime, Akech isn’t looking to rest on her laurels: “Last year opened my eyes and opened my eyes. ‘made realize: (1) Take nothing for granted, and (2) our time in this world is not promised. Anything can happen. “In my early forties, Akech relished the chance to take a break and spend time with his family.” I was like, ‘Okay, cool, I’m tired, I need to of that ‘, because the previous years had been just non-stop, “she said.” The second week came up and I was like,’ Okay, that’s weird. ‘In fact, I started renovating my mom’s house, that’s what kept me busy and my mind busy.
As the world slowly continues to reopen, Akech is excited to resume her modeling job and some passion projects that she cannot yet reveal. “When things start to get better,” she said, “I’m going to go. But like many of us, she’s not quite ready to give up her midlife wardrobe of sweatpants and slippers. “I see my heels and I want to throw them all in the trash at this point,” she laughs. She holds up her hand, almost touching her thumb and forefinger. “If I wear heels now they’re like, this high. “
Hair by Hos Hounkpatin and mawakened by Frank B., both at The Wall Group; manicure by Honey at the NY show; sand designed by Cooper Vasquez at Frank Reps; pdirected by Philippa Serlin at Serlin Associates.
This article appeared in the August 2021 issue of ELLE.
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