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The BoF Podcast | Adut Akech’s Journey From Refugee Camp to Runway

The South Sudanese model reflects on her path from a Kenyan refugee camp to travelling the globe as an international top model.
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Background:

South Sudanese model Adut Akech has made her mark on fashion, having appeared on countless international magazine covers and on the runway for brands including Chanel and Prada. But Akech’s story begins worlds away from fashion shows and Vogue cover shoots: The model was born while her family was fleeing war in South Sudan and spent her early years in a Kenyan refugee camp.

“I will always be a refugee, because that’s who I am,” she told BoF’s editor-at-large Tim Blanks on stage at BoF VOICES in 2018. “No amount of money or my status or how famous or whatever the case is... I’m always going to be a refugee and I’m proud of who I am.”

This week on The BoF Podcast, revisit Akech and Blanks’ conversation, where they discuss Akech’s childhood and journey to the fashion industry.

Key Insights:

  • Though she spent part of her childhood in a refugee camp, Akech recalls those years being mostly happy. “I didn’t know I was in a refugee camp, I had cousins there, I had friends… some of the best memories are just running around and playing,” she says.
  • Her first experience modelling was in a small fashion show put on by her aunt, who was a fashion designer. That moment made her realise she wanted to model professionally. “I just fell in love instantly,” she says. “When I’m on the runway, I’m a whole different person.”
  • Growing up, Akech idolised Black models Naomi Campbell and Alek Wek. Now, she serves as a source of inspiration for the next generation of Black models. “I have people messaging me saying I inspired them to love their Black skin, that I inspired them to chase their dreams,” she says.

BoF VOICES, our annual gathering for big thinkers, returns from November 28 to November 30, 2023, uniting the movers, shakers and trailblazers of the fashion industry with the thought leaders, entrepreneurs and inspiring people shaping the wider world. The entire event will be livestreamed for BoF Professional All-Access members. Register now to join us.

Additional Resources:

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