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INTERVIEW : Top Model Adut Akech reveals she wants to Change the Stigma around Refugees

August 22, 2019

(MELBOURNE) – Having walked in every fashion show, from Alexander McQueen, Givenchy and Versace, gracing a number Vogue covers herself, South-Sudanese Australian model Adut Akech has made a major indent on the international modelling scene. So much so, she garnered the attention of Meghan Markle, who opted to include her in the September issue of British Vogue based on her force for change. The outspoken 19-year-old is well beyond her years, and WHO caught up with the beauty ahead of her role as the face of Melbourne Fashion Week. She spoke to Pacific Magazine:

How do you think Melbourne Fashion Week compares to Paris or New York?

It’s more laid-back. The vibe is different, fashion week in Australia is more enjoyable. Not that the other ones are not enjoyable, but they’re very hectic. In New York or Paris, you run from one show to the next, you’re being screamed at being left, right and centre. When you’re in demand, everybody wants you in their show and if you don’t, if they don’t have you, they’ll be upset – so you’re trying to please brands and designers and make everybody happy. Like I said, it’s a little bit more laid-back. There’s not as many shows compared to say Paris Fashion Week. And, you know, you don’t run from venue to venue to venue. A lot of shows in Melbourne are usually in the same location, [and in Paris and New York] they’re a little bit more spread out.

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Akech Adut Vogue Magazine Cover
Akech Adut Vogue Magazine Cover Photo: Instagram

It’s not the first time you’ve been on the cover of Vogue, but how did you react to being chosen by Meghan Markle to be on the ‘forces of change’ cover?

I didn’t find out until a couple of days before the cover was coming out. But when she called me, I didn’t know how to really act; I was not expecting it. She was the last person I was expecting a call from, so it kind of caught me off-guard.

So she personally called you?

Yeah, she called me and I was like, “Who’s calling from the UK? This is weird.” No, previously before that [the editor] Edward Enninful had texted me and said, “Oh, I’ve got a big surprise. But you’ll get a call, you’ll find out soon,” and I was just curious and waiting and waiting. I was like, “He’s not gonna call, you know, like 2am in the morning.”

And what did she say?

She was like, “Yes, this is the Duchess of Sussex … hi, it’s me, Meghan.” I really didn’t know how to react, I was trying not to act like a fan because I really love her. But I’m very awkward when I actually get to meet the celebrities that I love. I don’t know how to act. So, I was just very quiet and listened.

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What else did she say?

What she said was really sweet. She said: “When I started working on this project, I was looking for who to put on this cover, and I was like, it made sense to have you on this cover just because your story is so inspiring, such an inspirational young lady who’s making so much change.’ And I was absolutely mind blown that she was saying that to me.

That’s so sweet. Did she say anything about Baby Archie or her husband Prince Harry?

I asked: “How’s the little one?” And she said: “He’s so good. I have to run back to him soon. I just wanted to come and have a chat – I’m so sorry that it’s taken this long for us to finally speak, but, you know, it’s just been really busy.”

In the past, you’ve said you love Naomi Campbell. What does your relationship with her mean to you?

Oh, I’m so grateful for our relationship. I always say I’ll call her mother; she is like my second mum. Honestly, when I first moved to New York, I would say she was the first person I could count as family. And the minute I got to New York – before I even got to New York – she went there before me. She texted: “You let me know when you get here and if you need anything, I’m here.” As soon as I went to New York, I texted her and she invited me to her house and went and had lunch and I would go over and [stay] for dinner and we’ll just hang out in the centre. So, I am very, very grateful for the relationship.

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Akech Adut and Naomi Campbell
Akech Adut and Naomi Campbell. Instagram

You’ve certainly proven refugees are amazing humans who are capable of doing great things. What’s one misconception people have about refugees that you would like to clarify?

Somebody asked me, “What’s a force of change that you want to make?” And I said for me to be a voice, not just a refugee. I am a refugee and I always say that that’s something I will never ever be ashamed of; that’s a part of who I am. I’m very proud of that and I own up to that. But I want to change the way people view refugees and the way people, think about refugees. And it’s really upsetting. It makes me angry at the same time. But, you know, [refugees] get treated so different, like they’re like aliens from a different planet.

(South Sudan NEWS PORTAL)

Editor’s Note: Additional reporting from WHO Magazine, Australia.


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