How Alek Wek Went From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel

It wasn’t always red carpet.

Image: Vogue

Back when I was obsessed with Ftv, every time Alek Wek came up on the runway my heart did some serious backflips. My aunt brought home copies of fashion magazines and I’d keep copies of the ones with pictures of Alek. I grew up obsessed with her. So, when I saw her on the shelf at Prestige Bookshop I knew she had to come home with me.

In Alek: My Life from Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel, Alek Wek takes us through her journey from Sudan, to England, and to the world. This is not an all glitz-and-glamour journey as we often think the supermodel life is. She shares her simple childhood, the seventh of nine children and how things were before and during the Second Sudanese Civil War. We also get to know a bit about the Dinka tribe and a few history lessons on Sudan.

Alek takes us through the changes that came with the war; when her hometown Wau became a military zone with lawless militias robbing, molesting, raping and destroying everything around them, with soldiers in town and rebels on the outskirts. Her family had to flee Wau to her extended family’s village where life was very different from the one she’d been accustomed to, then had to separate and flee to Khartoum.

Through the hardships they had to endure, the loss of her father, separating, fleeing to London and all the challenges she had to face, one can tell how tough, humble and tenacious she is. Before the red carpet she was stacking shelves in a supermarket, and cleaning toilets at a salon she worked in.

My favourite part of the book was her take on race, skin colour and beauty standards. She shares how her skin colour has both helped and hurt her in the modeling industry. The challenges she faced included being found interesting but not interesting enough for the industry players to take a chance on her because of the fear of how everyone else, the audience, would respond to someone so outside of the so-called normal beauty standards.

Alek has made a statement in the fashion industry, challenged the notion of beauty and opened the gates for women who are different to be seen and to see themselves. I appreciated some of the life lessons she shared, the humility and authenticity of her voice. And, of course, the cover and some of the gorgeous photos of her inside the book are a bonus for me.

How to Build Your Personal Brand with Branding Expert Kubi Springer

Find and promote your unique voice, unapologetically.

The perfect toolkit to help women create and grow their brands.

Kubi Springer has over 23 years of brand experience and has worked with big names such as Diddy, Rolls Royce, Nike, Facebook, MTV, Aston Martin, and many other big-deal brands.

In her book, I AM My Brand, she offers an ample supply of tools to find and build your personal brand. She not only goes into the details of what you should be doing but also digs deep into the how part of it.

The book is a practical one, structured with easy to follow exercises and steps. Springer pulls from techniques used by different badass women across different sectors who have built successful brands.

She structures the books according to what she calls the ‘8 Pillars of Personal Branding’, which are Decision, Vision, Clarity, Strategy, Tactics, Metrics, Ownership, and Be Unapologetic. Under each one she focuses on what it is, how it applies to building your brand, and has exercises that will help you create a good structure.

There is just an abundance of information in this book. You will learn about having a full understanding of the direction you want your brand to take and the people you need to get there. There’s advice on having clarity on your brand messaging and how you want the world to see you. She delves into strategy and linking it to your tactics.

I Am My Brand is thorough and there is a lot you will learn from her expertise. It will help you become unafraid of your dreams, unearth the challenges you will face along the way,e and how to deal with them. It is empowering and great whether you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer, or in employment. Kubi Springer is also a refreshing voice and her advice is relevant and easy to follow and apply.


The Beauty of Strong Female Relationships in Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple’

Celie narrates her life through letters to God, where she lays out her journey from her traumas to when she finds a sense of empowerment. As a young girl she is abused and raped by her father, and after giving birth twice her father takes away both babies and lets her believe they’ve been killed. She also loses her mother and when the widower, Albert, comes over to their house wanting to marry her younger sister Nettie, her father refuses and offers the “ugly” and uneducated Celie instead.

It is an abusive and unhappy marriage, where she spends all her time looking after Albert and his litter of children. Nettie stays with them for a little while but Albert’s interest in her causes her to flee, for so long that at some point Celie believes she’s dead.

Celie forms a bond with the woman her husband is in love with – Shug. There is also her step-son’s wife Sofia. As the story progresses, we see how the passive Celie learns how to assert herself and change the tone of her personal story. The friendship she has with these women become a good place of refuge, she finds ears that listen, voices that encourage and their presence and the bonds they share play a role in her growth and confidence.

The Color Purple is a significant and vital book which explores themes which have been and are still necessary to be heard. There is the strength of self-expression, language and how one can assert themselves, eventually freeing themselves through finding and using their voice. Race and oppression are also big themes of the story, as well as abuse and the distorted beliefs about relationships between men and women.

The form of letters to tell the story, along with the rural English Celie uses, help create a genuine narrator, one we can feel for and journey with. It’s an impressive book, keeps you turning its pages and has such a strong and powerful message to share.

The book was adapted into a film in 1985, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah, Danny Glover, Desreta Jackson, Margaret Avery, and other incredible actors.