Alek Wek Talks About Her Road to the Runway

The supermodel wants us to celebrate the beautiful qualities that set us apart.

Posted: 02/14/2012 07:00 AM EST

In StyleBlazer's recent episode of its Web series How I Made It, supermodel Alek Wek talks about how she went from a Sudanese refugee in Britain to one of the most recognized Black models on the runway.

Wek grew up as one of five girls, and though they chatted about makeup, clothes and shoes, they had no magazine fashion spreads to flip through in South Sudan. It was when she reached her teens that she discovered what fashion was truly about and was then picked up by the industry soon after.

"Beauty is deeper than just what you look at in a picture," Wek says. "You could fancy what you'd like, but as a woman, my mother always raised us to believe in ourselves. I am very grateful that my mother brought me up that way. So I think beauty is not just about what we put on our heads or on our faces or what we wear, it's deeper than that and if we can celebrate that, celebrate the women not just the superficiality…I think it would be really gorgeous."

In England, Wek was criticized for her looks and had trouble being accepted and once she entered the high-fashion world, she says they didn't know what to do with her.

"I mean it's not like I can hide that I'm Black!" she exclaims laughing. "I have short hair, it doesn't make me more unattractive than a woman or my sisters that have more longer hair and a bit lighter. I think that's where it becomes a bit miscommunication or a bit bizarre that we don't want to define what is beautiful. But I think as Black women we should celebrate the fact that we can come in different colors and different hair, but the head doesn't define who we are; the woman we are defines who we are."

Wek's 2007 memoir Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel also described her journey before and after being discovered at an outdoor market in London's Crystal Palace when she was only 18 and how despite her incredible successes, she remains thankful for her blessings. In How I Made It, Wek says she wants every woman to feel beautiful, follow her own destiny and focus until that goal is reached.

"To be able to just be a woman and express myself 100 percent, I think that's incredible and people to celebrate that I think it's beautiful beyond words."


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