Sudanese supermodel and former refugee Alek Wek is to share her views on fashion, entrepreneurism, education, AIDS humanitarianism, role models, brain drain and her love of Nigerian culture in the third episode of the new season of MTV Base Meets…with MTN.
US style bible Elle magazine took a leap of faith when they first featured a dark-skinned, Sudanese model on the cover of their November 1997 issue. However, the result was a phenomenon with thousands of readers writing letters of support, thrilled to see different standards of beauty in the fashion industry. US talk show host Oprah Winfrey later commented to Alek on her show, “If you’d been on the cover of a magazine when I was growing up, I would have had a different concept of who I was.”
Born in Wau, in southern Sudan, Alek was raised as a part of the Dinka tribe. At fourteen, she was forced to flee to London to escape the civil war. By chance, Alek was discovered by a top model agent on a London street, and she quickly rose to the top of the modelling industry. She was named “Model of the Decade” by i-D magazine; one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” and as one of the “50 Most Influential Faces in Fashion”. New York magazine also named her one of the “50 Most Beautiful New Yorkers”.
Alek’s influence transcends the world of fashion and challenges the traditional concepts of beauty. She has spoken at the International Black Caucus Foreign Affairs as a member of a panel, which included Hilary Clinton, Congressman Daniel Payne, Danny Glover and many other distinguished speakers. She also serves on the advisory board for the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. She speaks at schools in NY to bring attention to the famine in Southern Sudan and to educate children on the importance of nourishment. She has also launched the Bracelet of Life campaign in conjunction with Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders. Alek also works closely with AIDS awareness benefits, children’s charities, and breast cancer research.
Alek remains one of the most iconic catwalk faces and regularly models for Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Christian Dior, Gucci, Fendi, Jean Paul Gautier, Vivienne Westwood, Chanel, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Helmut Lang.
Among the youth panellists meeting Alek Wek in New York’s iconic 5th Avenue fashion district are:
Nigerian gender rights activist and visual artist Akwaeke Emezi (24). Akwaeke runs the blog www.soginaija.com and is finishing her Masters degree at NYU in International Public Policy and Non-Profit Management. She would like to eradicate the stigma that exists in Africa around sexual orientation.
Ghanaian student Kwamena Brew-Hammond (22) lives in Queens, New York City. He is studying Economics and International Trade, as well as Marketing, Advertising and Communications. Kwam is passionate about exploring creativity through one’s cultural roots and feels that improving the education system in his country would be vital to fostering Ghana’s growth.
South African fashion trend forecaster Jacqueline (Jacqui) Molotsane (24) studied in Italy and now works for a French company in NYC. She is passionate about her country of birth and would like to return to South Africa to plough her talents into the fashion industry there. Jacqui’s other passion is children and she works with youth NGOs.
Nigerian stylist and image consultant Ugo Mozie (21). A former-model and contributor to three fashion publications, Ugo’s celebrity clients have included the likes of Beyoncé, Larry King and Nicki Minaj. Ugo is passionate about eradicating poverty and providing accessible public health care to young Africans.
Zambian fashion intern and blogger Mazuba Kapambe (23) and works for the trendy on-line African fashion company www.heritage1960.com (named in honour of the year in which several African countries gained their independence). Mazuba writes her own blog, African Pride, and is also a blogger and radio correspondent for Radio Afro Australia. She is passionate about providing accessible quality education for all Africans.
Ghanaian MBA student and part-time model Rhodaline Wright (22), who would like to return to Accra to improve public health care in her home city. She feels that Accra offers a vibrant and dynamic culture that cannot be matched in the States.
MTV Base Meets Alek Wek with MTN premieres on MTV Base (DStv Channel 322) on Wednesday 15 August 2012 and terrestrial stations across the continent, including STV (Nigeria), Spectrum TV (Cameroon), Viasat (Ghana), Rwanda TV (Rwanda), Swazi TV (Swaziland), Muvi TV (Zambia) and NTV (Uganda).