Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Alek Wek: Fashion industry is baffling

Alek Wek

Alek Wek couldn't believe people "chose not to eat" when she started out in the fashion industry.

The model was born in Southern Sudan and remembers going hungry when she was growing up because of the civil war there. She has eight siblings and they had to live off what they could grow, which they also shared with their neighbours.

At 14 she fled to London with one of her sisters, which is where she was scouted by a modelling agency. She initially thought it was a joke, but was even more amazed when she started working.

"Suddenly I was posing for photographers and facing a new kind of terror - high heels and runways. I remember at one rather avant-garde show, I had to wear clothes stained with fake blood and pretend to fight with another model on the catwalk while wearing towering heels. I just tried not to fall, to get to the end of the runway and back while on my feet," she told Newsweek, as posted on dailybeas.com. "In this world, I found, many people were hungry too, but for different reasons. They wanted their bodies to look a certain way, whether their bodies were meant to or not. They chose not to eat."

Alek now lives in America and is once again amazed by food. She thinks the portions in the US are too large and refuses to waste food when she goes out.

That means she often asks if she can take leftovers home, which doesn't always go down well.

"Restaurants serve huge portions on even huger platters, and people are tempted to eat too much. Many live to eat, instead of the other way around," she said. "In restaurants in my Brooklyn neighbourhood, I always ask for a doggie bag, to bring the leftovers home. My ex-boyfriend suggested more than once that I cut this out, as he found it embarrassing. (Perhaps that's why he is no longer my boyfriend.) I told him, 'What's embarrassing is that I should have so much more than others.'"

Alek has now started talking to school children all over the world in an effort to educate them about famine.

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