Alek Wek has been in the modeling for over 20-years after breaking into the industry in 1995. All the way from South Sudan, you could imagine the discrimination the dark-skinned beauty was subjected to considering the low rate of diversity in the fashion industry at the time. But like as a determined woman who was aiming for success, Wek kept pushing and ignoring the external forces that were positioned to discourage her self-esteem.
Today, the 40-year-old British-Sudanese model has come a long way and she is proudly celebrated, so we’re not surprised she was among the 14 faces who were chosen to star in the Gap’s new campaign, Bridging the Gap, “which is a celebration of diversity and the optimism of those who embody American culture today.”
Wek stars in the riveting campaign alongside Priyanka Chopra, Christie Brinkley, Wiz Khalifa, Yara Shahidi and Adwoa Aboah, which according to the director Edward Enninful, “This project is about authenticity and people living their truths.” In the campaign, the 14 cast who represent diverse backgrounds, colors, ages, and genders are seen dancing and singing along to Boney M’s “Sunny”. They all wore the brand’s blue denim with a white t-shirt and as the brand explained, “The iconic Gap basic white T-shirt serves as a blank canvas for each of the cast to take and make their own, offering a glimpse at how their differences unite them.”
While this concept is undoubtedly changing the perception towards diversity in the fashion industry, model Alek Wek made inspiring statements every up-and-coming model should archive in their story books. “You are always going to face rejection, that’s just life,” she said. “But I don’t take it personally, I believe it should strengthen you. If I was the kind of person who got discouraged, I would never have continued. If I felt that I shouldn’t have been in the business just because I had never seen a woman in a magazine with features like mine or had never seen a model on the catwalk from South Sudan, then I would have quit immediately. But I never thought like that. You can’t think like that.”
She also talked about skin color and how staying true to yourself is worth embracing. “I am so grateful that I never had to alter myself,” she says. “I am really humbled looking back and am grateful for the friendships I have had and to the people I have worked with that have celebrated me for who I am and for truly being myself. This is the most important piece of advice I would give to any model – make sure that you are being true to yourself.”