Alek Wek is a South Sudanese British model who first appeared on the catwalks at the age of 18 in 1995, sparking a career lasting to date.
Read on to learn more impressive facts about Wek:
1. Born in Wau in Sudan (now South Sudan), in a two-bedroom house without electricity or running water, and is the seventh of nine children.
2. Wek is of the Dinka ethnic group.
3. In 1991, she along with family members fled to Britain to escape the civil war in Sudan. She later moved to the United States.
4. Suffered from the skin condition psoriasis from infancy until age 14.
5. After arriving in London at age 14, Alek’s psoriasis immediately cleared, possibly due to the damp climate.
6. Discovered at an outdoor market in 1995 in Crystal Palace, London by a modeling scout.
7. Appeared in the music video for “GoldenEye” by Tina Turner that year, and shortly thereafter began fashion modeling.
8. Signed to Ford Models in 1996 and also appeared in the “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” music video by Janet Jackson that year.
9. She was named “Model of the Year” in 1997 by MTV, and was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle that year.
10. Alek has walked for many notable fashion houses including: Ralph Lauren, Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Christian Lacroix, Vivienne Westwood, Chloé, Gucci, DKNY, Jean Paul Gaultier, Michael Kors, John Galliano, Christian Dior, and numerous others.
11. Alek also designs a range of designer handbags called “Wek 1933”, which are available throughout selected Selfridges department stores. The name honors the year her father was born.
12. Alek has been an advisor to the U.S. Committee for Refugees Advisory Council, which helps to raise awareness about the situation in Sudan, as well as the plight of refugees worldwide.
13. She is a missionary for World Vision, an organisation which combats AIDS, an ambassador for Doctors Without Borders in Sudan, and devotes time to UNICEF.
14. Released an autobiography in 2007, entitled Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel, documenting her journey from a childhood of poverty in Sudan to the catwalks of Europe.
15. Appeared as a guest judge in the sixteenth cycle of America’s Next Top Model in 2011.