By Sirin Kale
Adut Akech’s rise from Kenyan refugee camp to the international catwalk has been remarkable. She talks about her ‘fashion dad’ Edward Enninful and why she wants to see proper diversity in the fashion industry
All the best supermodels have fairytale origin stories. They are bullied at school: too tall, too flat-chested, too strange-looking. Boys prefer their more comely peers. They grow up believing themselves to be unlovable, even social outcasts. And then an outsider swoops in – perhaps at an airport (Kate Moss), in Primark (Jourdan Dunn), or McDonald’s (Gisele Bündchen). The scout plucks them from obscurity and drops them into a life of international travel, money and acclaim. Their self-doubt is sloughed away like dead skin. Bullies stand chastened. The supermodel triumphs.
Moss and co don’t have anything on Adut Akech’s origin story. Their childhoods are the Pixar remakes of her Grimms’ fairytale. Akech was born as her mother fled civil war in South Sudan and raised in a refugee camp in Kenya. At seven, she moved with her family to Australia. When she arrived, she didn’t speak any English, “I was this tall, super-shy, awkward kid,” she says. “I had a weird name, and a gap tooth.”