Alek Wek

Born: Wau, South Sudan, 1977

Jaffilm / The Kobal Collection / Buitendijk, Jaap

Alek Wek was born in 1977 in Sudan and has become one of the most successful ethnic models of all time.

Alek and her family moved to Britain in 1991 to escape the civil war in Sudan. Four years after moving to England Alek was discovered at an outdoor market in London by a scout for famous agency, Models 1. The next year Alek travelled to Paris and was signed by Ford Modelling Agency. From this Alek walked in both Milan and New York fashion weeks that year and her unusual look began to cause a stir.

It was through appearing in the music video for ‘Golden Eye’ by Tina Turner in 1995 that Alek started to gain international recognition, from there it was an easy transition into the fashion industry. She was soon making waves in the modelling world, becoming MTVs ‘Model of the year’ in 1997 and later that same year she was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle.

Alek has an impressive catwalk history including walks for John Galliano, Chanel, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Jasper Conran and Ermanno Scervino. As well as finding success on the catwalk Alek has also been the face of many high profile brands including Issey Miyake, Moschino, Victoria’s Secret and Clinique. Alek has a close working relationship with the designer Christian Lacroix and has walked as the ‘Bride’ in many of the designers shows.

Alek has been photographed by an iconic repertoire of photographers but one of the most notable shoots was Herb Ritts shooting her for a Joanne Gair body painting calendar in 1999. These images have gone on to be some of Gair’s most respected.

Throughout her career Alek remains a highly influential model, continuing the work of models such as Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks in normalising the presence of ethic women in the fashion industry. She is very public about her belief in the need for a diverse opinion on beauty. Alek said: “I believe that true beauty comes from inside you and that always shows through. I have no problem with whatever the next look is, whether it’s big blonde hair and blue eyes or green hair and dark eyes. That’s fine so long as there isn’t just one ideal image.”

As well as modelling Alek has also worked as an actor, most notably she played a Sudanese princess in the film ‘Four Feathers’ in 2002. She has also guest stared on ‘The Tyra Banks Show’, ‘Americas Next Top Model’ and ‘The Janice Dickinson Modelling Agency’.

More recently Alek has spent more time working as a designer and launched a collection of handbags ‘Wek 1993’ which sell at Selfridges. Today, Alek Wek remains a symbol of strength, beauty, and resilience. Her impact on the fashion industry has transcended trends and continues to pave the way for greater diversity and inclusivity. Through her advocacy, philanthropy, and remarkable career, she has left an indelible mark on the world of fashion and serves as an inspiration for generations to come.As Alek Wek continues to champion representation and make a positive impact, her legacy as a trailblazer in the fashion industry remains as relevant and influential as ever.

Alek Wek Biography

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Written by Roanna Price

Roanna Price, fascinated by the escapism, imagination and conversation that can be conjured in the glossy page of fashion writing. Journalism graduate in Liverpool Roanna is responsible for our Top Model Biographies section.

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