Alek Wek can remember times her family went hungry while she was growing up, so the Sudanese model couldn’t believe that people “chose not to eat” when she started out in the fashion industry.
Wek was born Southern Sudan during the civil war and her parents and eight siblings survived off of what they could grow in their garden, which was also shared with neighbors. “It’s an awful feeling, being hungry,” she wrote in a “Hunger Diary” story she did for Newsweek. After fleeing to London as a refugee at 14, she was scouted and launched her modeling career, but she was baffled to learn that hunger was a problem in her new industry...by choice.
"In this world I found many people were hungry too, but for different reasons,” she said. They wanted their bodies to look a certain way, whether their bodies were meant to or not. They chose not to eat."
Now that Wek lives in America, she’s also amused by all the excess: the temptation to “eat too much” or waste food.
"Restaurants serve huge portions on even huger platters, and people are tempted to eat too much. Many live to eat, instead of the other way around," she said. "In restaurants in my Brooklyn neighborhood, I always ask for a doggie bag, to bring the leftovers home. My ex-boyfriend suggested more than once that I cut this out, as he found it embarrassing. (Perhaps that's why he is no longer my boyfriend.) I told him, 'What's embarrassing is that I should have so much more than others.'"
The model is currently an advocate for the United Nation’s refugee agency, and she tries to share her perspective with food to help people think globally.
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(Photo: John Sciulli/Getty Images for Reca Group)
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