It’s been a phenomenal time for Adelaide, Australia’s rising star model Adut Akech. Launched as a Saint Laurent exclusive beginning in September 2016, she became the second black woman to ever close a Chanel fashion show, finding herself center stage with Karl Lagerfeld in the Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2018 presentation. In between these major fashion career milestones, Adut was center stage in Tim Walker’s 2018 Pirelli calendar, with its first all-black cast.
Now the former refugee finds herself on the cover of Vogue Australia’s December issue, in a feature about her life, her friends and family, even her school. Adut is also one of four models covering separate issues of British Vogue’s December issue.
Full stop. Back up Anne. Adut Akech corrects you, telling CNN:
“Even if I become the richest model in the world I will still be a refugee. I am a refugee.”
AOC doesn’t care about Adut’s favorite makeup tips. Backstage snaps of Adut at a runway show are not our motivating life force. Her family life and history as a South Sudan refugee in Adelaide, Australia do get our attention, and Adut’s Vogue Australia December cover editorial adds rich soil to her personal global story.
Born in a refugee camp in South Sudan — at war with Sudan in the north since it achieved nation status in 2011, Akech grew up in Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp, before moving to Adelaide with her mother and five siblings. Note that Kakuma was also home to rising star Halima Aden.
"Even if I become the richest model in the world I will still be a refugee. I am a refugee," Adut tells CNN. This full stop from Adut is one I will not forget soon. ‘Refugee’ is not a past-tense identity. Rather, it’s a primary part of your psychological DNA.
Adut still remembers those early years in Kenya, and her mother's struggles to support her family. "When I first moved to Australia at age six, I promised my mother I would finish school, buy her a car and make something out of myself."
Still, I didn’t know until tuning in to CNN Style that Adut Akech has a number of dreams: “ One: Earn a business degree and open and open schools in her native South Sudan. Two: Become a journalist and inspire other women to lead. Three: Build her own empire by the age of 30, so she never has to work for anyone else ever again.”
The beauty of Adut Akech is that she continually reminds us that two seemingly disparate notions can be true. She dreams of building schools in South Sudan and creating her own global empire. At the same time, Adut offers the simplest, superb holiday advice to humans drowning in the sadness of primarily materialistic lifestyles.
US president Donald Trump comes to mind in America, as someone who could reflect on Adut’s advice, words that are profoundly insightful to someone who was born in his list of s-countries: