Adut Akech is on her way to becoming one of the most famous models of the moment. She was chosen as the model of the year by the fashion industry, where Naomi Campbell was the big winner according to the public. It marks an important moment in fashion: for the first time in history, solely black models have won the prizes. Why is underrepresentation still an issue? Let us explain.
Cover photo: © Unsplash
Adutch Akech Bior has officially named Model of the year 2019 by the British Fashion Council. When crowned on December 2nd, the shared her excitement on Instagram: “Meet the South Sudanese refugee who comes from nothing, who just become your 2019 model of the year. I F*CKING DID IT!!!!”
And yes, she definitely did. The model of the year is chosen based on his or her global impact on the fashion industry during the past 12 months. Akech contributed to the industry without doubt. From the numerous catwalk shows to campaigns for Valentino, 5 (!)Vogue covers and her active presence on social media. Akech was there.
On Instagram, Akech shared an emotional post:
“This can’t be real! ??
I’ve been waking up to the best news lately. I’m so honored to be @modelsdot 2019 “Model of the year” by industry’s vote again for the second year in a row!!! ?
And to be right beside this iconic woman, congratulations mama I’m so proud of you! @naomi ?♥️? From the bottom of my heart thank you so much to everyone in the industry who has been a part of my journey this year. Without you I would not be living my dream. ??????
Although personally it’s been a challenging year, I can honestly say this has been the best year of my entire life. I’ve done more than I ever imagined I’d do in my career and 2019 has been proof of that. I’m so proud of all my accomplishments this year.
I remind myself every single day how blessed and grateful i am for everything and everyone I have in my life.”
Naomi Campbell was thrilled as well. On Instagram she shared the following:
“What an honor to be @modelsdot 2019 ‘Model Of The Year’ by readers choice ! ?? This is such a wonderful surprise, and I am so touched and thrilled. I wouldn’t be who I am without all of you readers ♥️ I thank you all deeply, and am so grateful for your continuous support, it means so much ♥️ And I am so happy to be alongside my divine , graceful beautiful daughter @adutakech who deserves this recognition, hands down!! And massive congratulations to @altonmason who absolutely earned the ‘Model of The Year: Male’ honor. So incredibly proud of you both ♥️♥️♥️”
Model of the year
Good news: not only is Adut Akech model of the year (industry’s choice), Noami Campbell has been chosen by public as model of the year – at an age of 49. The male model of the year is Alton Mason, meaning that for the first time in history, solely black models have been chosen by both the industry and the public.
Find the list of former winners below. Names between brackets were the public’s choice.
2019 – Adut Akech (Naomi Campbell)
2018 – Adut Akech (Gigi Hadid)
2017 – Adwoa Aboah (Bella Hadid)
2016 – Bella Hadid (Kendall Jenner)
2015 – Anna Ewers (Gigi Hadid)
2014 – Edie Campbell (Cara de Levingne)
The question rises: why is this still so important in 2019? You would expect that in modern times like these, diversity and inclusion would be a matter of course. Unfortunately, it’s not. In her speech, Akech underscored this painful fact:
“It is important for all of us to remember that someone like me winning this award is a rarity. This is for the young women and men who found representation and validation in my work. I want them to never be afraid of dreaming big like I once did.”
The struggles black models face in today’s fashion industry are unacceptable. Where Tyra Banks openly speaks about her early years as a model where casting directors told her they “already had or didn’t need a black girl”, things have become more complicated today. Black models are booked more often, but still don’t get recognized for their full potential. Above all, most successful black girls meet the standards of the holding white beauty ideals.
Each season, we’re seeing an increase of 2% in models of color, meaning that the runways are becoming increasingly diverse. But is 2% enough? Why can’t these number increase (a lot) faster? Underrepresentation still is a serious problem and harms the way (young) girls see themselves, according to a recent study. Underrepresentation causes feelings of devaluation of ethnic groups, both on societal as well as on individual level. After all, representation has a long way to go, but fortunately people like Adut Akech, Naomi Campbell and Alton Mason pave the way for others to be seen.
Let’s hope for progression in the ’20s. We’re looking forward to a new decade full of diversity, inclusion and a place for everyone.
To honor this year’s model of the year, we collected our favorite photos of Adut Akech.