19-year old South Sudanese model Adut Akech was named 'Model of the Year' at the star-studded British Fashion Awards in London, earning her one of the biggest accolades during this year's ceremony. She beat out the likes of Adwoa Aboah, Kaia Gerber and Winnie Harlow to claim the recognition.
Akech, who was born in South Sudan, raised in the world's largest refugee camp—Kakuma in Kenya—and moved with her mother to Australia at age 7 as refugees, used the spotlight to shine a light on the need for diversity. The model, who has faced racism in the fashion industry, said in her acceptance speech, "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. Don’t let the world convince you that it is not possible."
It has been an impressive year for Akech who, in 2019 alone, has appeared on five Vogue covers in one month, was featured in Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle's Vogue issue, starred in her very first fragrance campaign for Valentino, and earned a spot on the esteemed Time 100 Next list for "calling out racism and amplifying the stories of her fellow refugees".
Akech is aware that there is a long way to go in terms of ending racism in the fashion industry. She told Miss Vogue, "Me doing the things that I have done goes to show that there is change happening, but there’s still a long way to go. It just makes me so happy to see all these models of different skin colours being used for these big brand campaigns, editorials and magazine covers, which wasn’t happening when I started doing it, not that long ago in 2016. It’s a great achievement, but we haven’t reached our end goal yet."