South Sudanese-Australian modelling star Adut Akech says the media industry needs a “wake-up call” after a celebrity magazine published a profile about her featuring the photo of another model.
Akech, who was named one of Time magazine’s ‘Most Influential Teens of 2018’, felt “angry” and “disrespected” after Who magazine this week used the photo of Flavia Lazarus, 22, claiming it was her.
“Not only do I personally feel insulted and disrespected, but I feel like my entire race has been disrespected,” the 19-year-old international star said in a long statement on her Instagram account.
“I feel as though this would’ve not happened to a white model.
“To me [it] is unacceptable and inexcusable under any circumstances.”
But while “sincerely” apologising for the image mix up, Who deflected responsibility.
“Unfortunately the agency that set up our interview with Adut Akech supplied us with the wrong photograph to accompany the piece,” a spokesperson told The New Daily.
“Who spoke directly with Adut to explain how the error occurred and have sincerely apologised.
“We also apologise to Flavia Lazarus for the misprint.”
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Akech, who spent part of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to Adelaide, attracted media attention in 2017 when she appeared in the 2017 David Jones spring/summer campaign.
A year later, she was handpicked by Karl Lagerfeld, who called her a “dream of a picture-perfect young girl”, to be Chanel’s bridal finale during 2018 Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris.
“Cannot believe I just made history by being Chanel’s second black couture bride, this is one of my most proudest achievements!” she said at the time.
In Who, Akech – who finished high school in 2018 – spoke about how people view refugees and people’s “attitude to colour in general”.
A model since she was signed exclusively for St Laurent at age 16 – she has since worked for Valentino, Burberry and Chanel – Akech said on Instagram she was “deeply” affected by the mistake.
“Whoever did this clearly thought that was me in that picture and that’s not OK … By this happening I feel like it defeated the purpose of what I stand for and spoke about,” Akech said.
“It goes to show that people are very ignorant and narrow-minded that they think every black girl or African people looks the same.
“I’m sure that I’m not the first person that’s experienced this and it needs to stop.
“Australia you’ve a lot of work to do and you’ve got to do better and that goes to the rest of the industry.”
Akech, who will appear at Melbourne Fashion Week which starts this week, confirmed the magazine had apologised to her but did not say she had accepted it.
“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.”
Akech’s agency listing at Chadwick’s says she is one of the industry’s “most popular and intriguing fashion stars.”
She has also modelled for Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein, Prada and Versace.
“Adut is more than just a model,” Maria Grazia Chiuri, artistic director of women’s wear at Dior, said.
“Her radiance and positive energy is the reason why she stands out.”
Akech is also working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on issues affecting refugees.
“Our intention was to share Adut’s inspiring story and highlight her achievements,” said the Who spokesperson.
“Hopefully the result of our misprint will be more people talking about this issue in the industry and tackling it head-on.”