Wek, Alek 1977-
Wek, Alek 1977-
Born April 16, 1977, in Wau, Sudan; daughter of Athian (an educator) and Akoul (a social worker) Parak; immigrated to England, 1991. Education: Studied in London, England, mid-1990s.
Model. Ford Models, New York, NY, model, 1996; IMG Models, New York, NY, model, 1997—; Alek Wek 1933 Ltd., founder, 2001—; Working to Educate Kids, founder, 2006—. Activist with the Refugees Advisory Council.
Model of the year, Music Television, 1997; model of the decade, i-D Magazine, 1997.
Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel, Amistad (New York, NY), 2007.
Alek Wek is a Sudanese supermodel. She opened her own fashion line, Alek Wek 1933 Ltd., in 2001 and was named model of the year at the 1997 Music Television (MTV) Awards. Wek published an autobiography in 2007 titled Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel. In it she tells her story of growing up in civil war-torn Sudan and fleeing to England as a refugee. There, she was approached by a scout and got her start in the modeling industry, gaining supermodel status within a few years. Wek then took her newfound popularity and voice to bring attention to the horrific conditions of the Sudan to the international community.
Wek spoke to the press quite a bit about her modeling career, fleeing her native Sudan as a refugee, and the publication of her memoir. In an article in USA Today, Wek stated that her story of becoming a supermodel was secondary to the plight of current affairs in the Sudan, saying that "this story has to be told." Lynette R. Holloway asked Wek about her reasons for coming forward with her memoirs at the time that she did, in an article in Ebony. To this Wek replied that she felt "strongly about raising awareness about the Sudan, especially Darfur," adding that "if anything, the fashion industry has given me a platform to use my voice." Wek found her inspiration in a trip back to her country, noting: "I went back to my hometown two years ago with my mom. It was intense for my mom, who hadn't seen her family in twenty-two years. It really touched me and … my mother, who always showed us strength and hope. Seeing her really break down was a side of her I had never seen. So, for me the memoirs represent closure." To this extent, Wek related to People reviewer Charlotte Triggs in 2007 how her career is beneficial for all those she left behind in the Sudan, stating: "Let fashion not fool you. There's a bigger world out there than our small bubble where we feel so fabulous. The best thing that this industry has given me is a voice. So in a way, it's my responsibility to give back and shed light on a place where the people are voiceless."
A contributor to the Jamati Web site noted that "the rags to riches story of the African is not a new one," but added that, "to sum it up, Alek's journey has been triumphant." The same contributor concluded that Alek "is one of her ways of giving back to the country which will always be her home. Alek will not only inspire but educate you about dreams, pain, love, glory, and dedication." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews commented: "Before she walked a runway, the author walked for weeks to escape civil war," going on to describe Alek as "a celebrity autobiography with substance and political punch." Tiffany Blackstone, writing in Essence, remarked that readers would "be riveted by the story of how a model scout spied 19-year-old Wek at a London market and changed the face of modeling. And you'll applaud Wek's can't-stopwon't-stop spirit."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 63, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2008.
Wek, Alek, Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel, Amistad (New York, NY), 2007.
Ebony, September, 2007, Lynette R. Holloway, review of Alek, p. 32.
Essence, September, 2007, Tiffany Blackstone, author interview, p. 104.
Hello Magazine, February 14, 2008, author profile.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2007, review of Alek.
New York Magazine, February 14, 2008, author profile.
People, September 3, 2007, Charlotte Triggs, author interview, p. 101.
Times (London, England), October 14, 2007, author interview.
USA Today, June 14, 2007, Deirdre Donahue, Carol Memmott, and Bob Minzesheimer, review of Alek, p. 07.
Alek Wek Home Page,http://alek-wek.com (February 14, 2008), author biography and interview.
Alek Wek 1933 Ltd. Web site,http://www.alekwek1933.com (February 14, 2008), author business Web site.
Fashion Gates,http://www.fashiongates.com/ (April 19, 2005), Sue Tam, author profile.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (February 14, 2008), author profile.
Jamati,http://www.jamati.com/ (October 12, 2007), review of Alek.
Supermodels.nl,http://supermodels.nl/ (February 14, 2008), author profile.