Australian celebrity magazine Who stepped in it big time last week with a feature titled “Model Moves” that in part highlighted model Adut Akech‘s challenges as both a black woman and a refugee. While multiple images in the story featured Akech, the story’s largest photograph was of model Flavia Lazarus.
Born in South Sudan, Akech spent her early childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp and eventually migrated to Adelaide, Australia where she began modeling at age 16. The 19-year-old Akech is currently experiencing quite the moment as a model, having landed four different Vogue September issue cover stories.
While Who apologized to her privately, Akech ultimately chose to speak out about the case of mistaken identity on Instagram where she wrote, “For those who are not aware, last week @whomagazine (Australia) published a feature article about me. In the interview I spoke about how people view refugees and peoples attitude to color in general. With the article they published a large photo saying it was me. But it was of another black girl.”
Akech pointed out that part of the struggle of being a black model is dealing with staff who view all African models as undifferentiated. Akech wrote, “It goes to show that people are very ignorant and narrowminded that they think every black girl or African people looks the same. I feel as though this would’ve not happened to a white model.”
Akech received support from Melbourne Fashion Week, which wrote on Instgram, “Last week an article was published in Who Magazine profiling our ambassador Adut Akech. We are extremely disappointed that a photo of one of our campaign models, Flavia Lazarus, was mistakenly printed instead of a photo of Adut.”
Designer Prabal Gurung also weighed in on Instagram Stories where he wrote, “This is what ‘privilege’ and micro racism looks like, when they pick and choose a certain part of our experiences to make them look ‘diverse’ and ‘woke” but not care enough about the rest.”