Who Magazine has been forced to issue an apology for publishing a photo of the wrong model alongside an interview with Australian supermodel Adut Akech.
The interview, which featured commentary from Adut on race and identity, was accompanied by an image of a completely different model, Flavia Lazarus. Lazarus happens to also be a person of colour in the modelling industry, but the pair look noticeably different. So, there is no real excuse for the mix up.
Adut, 19, is the face of this year’s Melbourne Fashion Week, and is a prominent model in Australia and overseas.
Despite Who apologising to her directly, the 19-year-old took to Instagram to discuss the issue and what it means for women of colour everywhere.
“This would’ve not happened to a white model,” she said in the lengthy caption.
View this post on Instagram
I’ve have given some deep thoughts the past few days on how to approach this situation that isn’t sitting well with me. For those who are not aware, last week @whomagazine (Australia) published a feature article about me. In the interview I spoke about how people view refugees and peoples attitude to colour in general. With the article they published a large photo saying it was me. But it was of another black girl. This has upset me, has made me angry, it has made me feel very disrespected and to me is unacceptable and inexcusable under any circumstances. Not only do I personally feel insulted and disrespected but I feel like my entire race has been disrespected too and it is why I feel it is important that I address this issue. Whoever did this clearly the thought that was me in that picture and that’s not okay. This is a big deal because of what I spoke about in my interview. By this happening I feel like it defeated the purpose of what I stand for and spoke about. It goes to show that people are very ignorant and narrowminded that they think every black girl or African people looks the same. I feel as though this would’ve not happened to a white model. My aim for this post is not to bash Who Magazine -they have apologised to me directly – but I feel like I need to express publicly how I feel. This has deeply affected me and we need to start an important conversation that needs to happen. I’m sure that I’m not the first person that’s experienced this and it needs to stop. I’ve been called by the name of another models who happens to be of the same Ethnicity, I find it very ignorant, rude and disrespectful towards both of us simply because we know that this doesn’t happen with white models. I want this to be somewhat of a wake up call to people within the industry it’s not OK and you need to do better. Big publications need to make sure that they fact check things before publishing them especially when its real stories and interviews and not just some made up rumors. To those who work at shows and shoots it’s important that you don’t mix up models names. Australia you’ve a lot of work to do and you’ve got to do better and that goes to the rest of the industry
She also mentioned that this isn’t the first time she’s been mistaken for someone else during her modelling career, which really says a lot about our ignorance on the issue.
Not to mention, Adut is a huge name in the modelling industry. I mean, she attended this year’s MET Gala, and you don’t just see every model in the world at the fucking MET, do you?
“I’ve been called by the name of another models who happens to be of the same ethnicity, I find it very ignorant, rude and disrespectful towards both of us simply because we know that this doesn’t happen with white models,” Akech said.
According to a Sydney Morning Herald article, the public relations company OPR is to blame for the mistake. They allegedly supplied Who with a file of images of Flavia instead of Adut, which meant the wrong image was used.
Regardless of who is technically at fault, it appears from Adut’s comments that this isn’t exactly a once-off problem. And frankly, when you’re the face of Melbourne Fashion Week, you’d want to hope that a magazine that’s interviewing you can at least pick you out of a lineup of people.
She concluded the lengthy post with a plea for greater awareness about diversity and education in the fashion world. Adut claims that Australia and the rest of the industry has “a lot of work to do” and must “do better” when it comes to the treatment and recognition of people of colour.
The 19-year-old model and her family fled South Sudan for Kenya, before eventually coming to Australia as refugees in 2008. Since then, she’s walked runways for Saint Laurent, Valentino and Chanel and is now considered one of the world’s most sought-after models.
To overcome adversity and go from growing up in a refugee camp, to being one of the world’s most popular supermodels is a huge achievement and it fucking sucks to see something like this happen to her.