Alek Wek is a champion in the fashion industry. The Sudanese model’s looks defy conventional American standards of beauty and she’s never allowed herself to be defined solely by her gorgeous, ebony hue.
She tells BET.com skin tone “is not what defines you as a beautiful woman.” Wek says that discrimination against dark-skinned people, especially women, puzzles her. “I don’t even know where to start in terms of people having such an issue about color, especially being dark. I just think on different levels it's ignorance, it’s no belief, no confidence, it’s insecurity, so you want to inflict it on somebody else.”
Does she love her supple, chocolate skin? Of course. She took that fierce confidence and blazed a path. “When I started modeling it was like ‘Oh, she’s too dark’ and I kind of looked at them like ‘You’re too daft.’” She says many new models are given a box to fit into, but Wek knew she had something special. “I’m going to prove you wrong,” she said to the naysayers who tried to tell her exactly what kind of model she could be. “So I went with the people who truly believed in me.”
Falling deaf to critics, she rallied around a supportive glam squad that believed in her look — a signature buzz cut and high cheekbones — and used the runway to inspire little Sudanese girls. “There are so many young girls, it would be awful for them to think that they would never see themselves as beautiful and grow into being the women they could be.”
With an inspiring story and a smile to die for, we can’t even count the many ways Alek Wek rocks. Neither can she. “Black girls, I feel, rock, in so many ways, especially coming from five girls. My mother always has embedded in us that you guys rock in different ways, and to be able to celebrate that with each other is just beautiful.”
(Photo: Moises de Pena/PictureGroup)