The second Sudanese Civil War broke out in 1983 between the North and South of the country. It was a struggle between The Sudan People’s Liberation Army in the South and the Sudanese government, who tried to abolish the South’s autonomy. By 1989, the military took hold of the power in Sudan, as cease-fire agreements beforehand failed.
When the civil war started, Alek Wek was 9. Alongside her family, she fled the village. Later on, her mum only sent Alek and her sister to London, both unable to speak English. As she describes, when the war broke out, “Life as we knew it came to a devastating end.”
Having fled South Sudan to London, Wek was scouted as a model there. She started her career by making an appearance in Tina Turner’s “Golden Eye” music video in 1995. By the age of 19, Alek Wek opened and closed Ralph Lauren’s “Maasai” themed collection in the Spring of 1997. She made history when she was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle magazine in 1997 and was soon after named Model of the Year by MTV.
In 2001, she made her Victoria Secret Debut, making a statement on how important it is for girls to own their bodies and sexuality. Wek ended up creating her own handbag line, Wek 1933, having attended the London Fashion School in her youth.
She then wrote her memoir, “Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel” in 2007, where she recounted her story as a refugee. She became a great activist for refugees, acting as a Good Will Ambassador to the UNHCR and sitting on the advisory board for the US Committee for Refugees. As a former refugee herself, Alek continues raising awareness using the platform she has created, making her inspirational in many ways.