Adut Akech Criticizes 'Who' for Confusing Her With Another Black Model

Supermodel Adut Akech blasted an Australian magazine after it published a feature on her with an image of another Black model. Akech said she felt as if the mix-up “would’ve not happened to a white model.”

Who Magazine, an entertainment publication, used a photo of model Flavia Lazarus in an article about Akech in its latest issue.

“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 people’s attitude to color in general,” Akech wrote on an Instagram post. “With the article they published a large photo saying it was me. But it was of another Black girl.”

Akech said she was upset, angry, and felt disrespected by the magazine’s actions. “Not only do I personally feel insulted and disrespected but I felt like my entire race has been disrespected too and it is why I feel it is important that I address this issue,” she wrote. The supermodel added that the photo mix-up “defeated the purpose” of what she spoke about in her interview.

Who Magazine apologized directly to Akech, she said in her Instagram post, but she felt it was necessary to address the issue publicly.

“I’m sure that I’m not the first person that’s experienced this and it needs to stop. I’ve been called by the name of another [model] who happens to be of the same Ethnicity, I find it very ignorant, rude and disrespectful towards both of us simply because we know that this doesn’t happen with white models,” she wrote.

“I want this to be somewhat of a wake up call to people within the industry it’s not OK and you need to do better.”

The 19-year-old supermodel is a former child refugee from South Sudan. For the first eight years of her life, Akech lived in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp before migrating to Australia.

Akech is one of the most in-demand models in the fashion industry. She has walked the runway for Chanel, Valentino, Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and Prada. According to Buzzfeed News, she was named Model of the Year in 2018 and serves as the current ambassador for Melbourne Fashion Week.

In a statement on Instagram, Melbourne Fashion Week published a post from its public relations agency, OPR, who apologized for the mistake.

“We are extremely disappointed that a photo of one of our campaign models, Flavia Lazarus, was mistakenly printed instead of a photo of Adut,” the statement read. “This is why it’s so important to continue conversations about diversity and inclusion — we look forward to doing so throughout the event and beyond.”

According to Australia’s ABC, OPR said that it sent a file of images to Who Magazine, which then used the wrong image. “The error was administrative and unintentional and we sincerely apologize for this mistake and any upset it has caused to the models involved, and our client the City of Melbourne,” OPR said in a statement.

Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Sally Capp took to Twitter to express her disappointment in the mix-up. “I want to say how frustrated and deeply disappointed we are at the @cityofmelborne regarding what’s occurred with our incredible @melbfashionweek ambassador Adut Akech and MFW model Flavia Lazarus. Adut is right, we need to do better,” Capp wrote.

“Respect for all people from all backgrounds is fundamental to our city and our culture. The diversity of our community is precious and something we truly value and celebrate,” Capp added in a statement to ABC.

“We are working to identify ways we can make a positive impact so that these acts of discrimination, whether intentional, blasé, or blindly [made], do not keep happening.”

From 2016 to2017, the Australian Human Rights Commission received 1939 complaints, including 409 which fell under the Racial Discrimination Act. Most of those complaints were made on the grounds of race (329), national or ethnic origin (189), or racial hatred (159), according to The Conversation.

A 2016 report by Reconciliation Australia found that perceived and actual experienced racism was on the rise in Australia. In general, 39 percent of Australians said Australia was racist. While 57 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians said the country was racist, up from 48 percent in 2014.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.