Alek Wek

Known for her mile-long legs and gorgeous skin, Alek Wek is a veteran of the catwalk and one of our ultimate role models. This striking Sudanese supermodel first hit the scene in the ’90s, dominating the runway for McQueen, Chanel, Vivienne Westwood…the list goes on and on and on. A total music addict, she learned how to play the piano, drums and guitar when she wasn’t busy modeling, acting, or publishing her autobiography. Yet the main reason she’s such an inspiration to us is that she’s an activist for charity organizations including Refugees Advisory Council, World Vision, and Doctors Without Borders. We’re still in awe that she managed to find time to chat with us about everything from her beauty secrets to her true passions, but then again, she can do everything.

What makes you happiest?

I’m pretty easygoing. I like to cook, travel (obviously!), and spend time with friends and family. My career keeps me so busy that it’s the simple things that really make me happy and content.

What makes you dance?

Upbeat music and good, fun friends. With those two things, I can dance all night.

Where is your favorite place to wake up?

I’ve been some fabulous places and have stayed in some of the best hotels in the world, but believe it or not, my own bed is my favorite place to wake up. Home is my most treasured place.

What does summer mean to you?

Birds singing, beautiful sunshine, having brunch outside in a neighborhood spot, and being able to walk my dog in the park near my home without having to put on a coat and boots. I absolutely love the summertime.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Oh yes! Haagen-Dazs Coconut Macaroon ice cream. It’s a limited-edition flavor, but when it’s on the shelves, I scoop it up!

What’s your beauty secret?

Lots of sleep, hot milk (it’s not just for kids!), drinking as much water as possible, and eating healthy – especially green, leafy veggies.

What has been the most significant moment in your career?

When the ELLE Magazine cover came out in 1997, it really changed everything for me and perhaps even for the fashion world. I received so many encouraging and uplifting notes from men and women of all ethnicities. I was so very proud and it set me on a path in my career to where I am today.

What means friendship to you? Do you have a BFF?

I have really good friends, who I call “good peeps.” There is no one person. Friendship means that you have people who have your back, and you have theirs. You can share the ups and the downs, the good and the bad, with no judgment.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a model?

Modeling and fashion is not only about fun travel and great clothes. It’s a real opportunity to have a voice and to do good things. For me, I’m using my voice to bring awareness and raise dollars to help rebuild my native South Sudan, which just celebrated its first year of independence as a new nation. I just returned from the region on my first mission with UNHCR, which was such a profound journey for me. The people of South Sudan do not want handouts; they want to be able to sustain and thrive as a community and nation, just like any other country in the world.  I’m excited about doing all that I can to help make it possible for them to move forward with their lives, especially the refugees, who like me, had to leave our country to seek safety because of the Civil War. Many of them are returning to South Sudan, and it’s a joy to see them going home, but it’s going to take a lot of work and support for them to get everything in order the way it should be.  If people want to help me help South Sudan, they can learn more and donate here.