Alek joins our team as the lastest Shudu muse, enabling us to collaborate with artists across the world from her home base in Kenya.
My name is Alek Deng Malek, I am twenty-three years old and originally from Khartoum, Sudan. When I was eight years old, I was brought to Kenya to live in the Kakuma Refugee Camp with two of my four siblings; we left our parents in South Sudan so we would be able to go to school.
My passion for modelling began when I was around ten, it started out with me wearing my elder sisters’ heels and would walk around really feeling myself. With my newfound passion, at age thirteen I started doing both local and community beauty pageants, I was always in the top three. In July 2018, my now mother agency, held an audition in Nairobi and I decided to go, it was between me and about eighty other models; I was lucky enough to have been chosen by Isis Models Africa and they signed me. Two days after the audition, I was placed with a Silent agency in Paris. They had planned for me to go to Paris Fashion Week that September, but unfortunately, I didn’t have an international passport. I applied for a passport back in Nairobi, but my uncle who believes modelling is a form of prostitution, forbade me from going and intervened, causing me to miss the opportunity to go to PFW 2018 – but that never stopped me from pursuing my dream of modelling. My drive is hard work and perseverance, being able to look back at the trouble I’ve faced in my career that could have made me quit, but I never did.
In 2019, I went to one of the UN Officials in charge of refugees in Kenya and reported the problem., after processing all my papers I was finally given a travel document for refugees, to allow me travel for work. I was so excited for PFW 2019, I had finally made it to Paris, however, I didn’t book a single job and my agency decided to send me back to Nairobi. Luckily, I was able to walk for nine designers at Arise Fashion Week in Nigeria and gained a lot of experience. A few days after returning home, I was signed with PRM agency in London, and two months later they organised my working visa and flew me to London for LFW2019.
While in London, I was able to walk for a few smaller shows and PRM pushed hard for me to get jobs, even after fashion week was over. I decided to stay in London for a while as more jobs were coming in for me. I remember it was a cold morning and I had received an email from one of my bookers, Alice, she said to go see a client at Adrenalin Photographic, and that is how I was introduced to Shudu. Many years ago, Cameron was represented by Adrenalin when he was a fashion photographer; I was told to get in contact with Cameron, and once I did, Cameron was eager to arrange a shoot where I would soon become one of Shudu’s muses and stand alongside her in an editorial. The shoot took place in Nigeria with an amazing photographer, Emmanuel.
On the day of the shoot, I was more than excited, I can’t even describe how I felt, I was not nervous at all! At first, I didn’t know exactly what to do, this shoot was all about imitating Shudu, the whole time I was doing the shoot I was asking myself what would Shudu do? I had so much fun on the day and couldn’t wait for Cameron to see the pictures.
I believe the industry should give Shudu and Cameron more recognition for the amazing work. I feel that Shudu is not only reinventing the industry but has also positively impacted the lives of real-life models. I can’t wait for people to see me alongside her; if I tell you I still don’t believe Shudu is digital… you wouldn’t believe me.
From my point of view as a model, progressing technology has had a positive influence in the industry. With platforms like Instagram and Facebook, models can be discovered across the world everyday – everything is now a product of technology, and Shudu is the personification of fashion, art and technology. I can tell it’s going to blow people’s minds when they see Shudu and I together, helping me get exposure and furthermore, opportunities.
We are all striving for something better, and I would really appreciate if when it comes to the models in the industry, the fashion industry could take a closer look at some of the invisible and vulnerable people. Most people in the industry are judging models by their appearance and following, rather than their talent. They think certain models don’t deserve certain jobs because they’re not popular enough or because they have not worked with any big designers before. They should focus on making all the models productive irrespective of what their position is in the industry.