SUPERMODEL, a term that tends to be given when a model has reached his or her career peak.
Considered the dream title for many runway and editorial models, the job Supermodel is rewarded once he or she gains a worldwide reputation. With the use of a unique strut, a fierce smize and a determined attitude, very few make the cut. They must have a healthy background in haute couture, commercial modelling. Not to mention, they must remain highly paid through esteemed endorsements, campaigns and contracts. Many aspire to gain many of these things, but the ultimate gain comes from the impact that is made on society. This happens to be the very thing that many participants in the fashion industry constantly forget.
As the first South- Sudanese-British Supermodel, Alek Wek has been influential throughout her extensive career. She has remained consistent with her impulse to change society’s perception of beauty.
She began her modeling career at the tender age of 18, Wek was recruited by a Model 1 scout after escaping Sudan during the civil war. After working shortly in music videos, she was quickly signed to FORD models in 1996. Gaining a following and demand, Alek transitioned well into her new role as a model. Being that she was one of the first models encompassing her look, she began booking shows and editorial work at a fast pace. One of her first major gigs happened to be for Elle Magazine. She hailed as the first African model to cover the magazine in 1997.
Entering the fashion industry, dark skinned models were shunned and unheard of.
Wek began breaking boundaries and ideologies left and right. Transforming the minds of many fashion professionals, Alek gave the industry a different perception of beauty. Known for the strength in her strut, she commanded attention on the runway. Giving African and African American women throughout the world a reason to feel ‘beautiful’, Wek appeared in various runway shows from notable fashion designers including John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, Moschino, and Chanel. As her success became mainstream, Black women all over the world were celebrating the fact that she broke so many barriers based off of how one thinks a model should look.
Being featured in such highly esteemed runway shows, Alek was able to set a new beauty standard.
She redefined what is acceptable, desirable and appealing. Refusing to change her physical appearance to calm the minds of the conservative beauty critics- Wek challenged the status quo. With black skin, short hair and a lengthy body full of self confidence, she became the ‘exotic beauty’, who remained different from the rest. Continuing through her career, she became more sought after- gaining her more exposure, higher pay and a bigger spotlight.
She has paved the way for young African and African American women.
Alek Wek has not only become one of the top paid supermodels. She is also deemed a well-known author, philanthropist, and businesswoman. Alek continues to show women all over the world that beauty is not defined by one typical look. She also teaches us to embrace who we are and to push the envelope. Looking in the mirror would never be the same after young black girls took a look at her work. You ultimately never know who is watching. Alek’s work remains unmatched and she has paved the way for many Black models hereafter her. Remember the name and the face, as she represents a small piece in all of us.