South Sudanese-Australian supermodel Adut Akech has called out a high-profile magazine after it printed an interview with her, but featured the image of another black model.
Who magazine, a weekly celebrity and entertainment title in Australia, last week printed an article about Akech, but with a photo of Flavia Lazarus instead, wrongly captioning the image. Ironically, the interview included quotes from Akech about attitudes towards refugees and people of colour.
On Monday, Akech posted a comment to Instagram about the mix-up, saying that, after "some deep thoughts", the situation "isn't sitting well with me".
"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," she wrote. "Not only do I personally feel insulted and disrespected, but I feel like my entire race has been disrespected, too."
She goes on to say that she feels the mistake defeats the purpose of what she was speaking about in the interview. "It goes to show that people are very ignorant and narrow-minded that they think every black girl or African people looks the same."
Most importantly, she says, this would not have happened to a white model.
Melbourne Fashion Week, of which Akech is an ambassador and Lazarus is a campaign model, has issued a statement on the mistake. "We are extremely disappointed," reads a post shared on Instagram. "Both Adut and Flavia have expressed their disappointment and we support them. This error is unacceptable, and both Who magazine and our public relations agency, opr, have apologised."
"This is why it's so important to continue conversations about diversity and inclusion," it continues. "We look forward to doing so throughout the event and beyond."
Akech, 19, who made her fashion week debut for Saint Laurent in 2017, was born in South Sudan and moved to Australia as a refugee when she was seven. She had spent the first years of her life in Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp.
In 2018, Akech became the second black model to close Chanel's haute couture show, 14 years after Alek Wek became the first. Today, she's one of the most in-demand models in the world, regularly working with high-profile brands such as Chanel and Valentino. Last month she was chosen as one of 15 women to be featured on the cover of Meghan Markle's guest-edited issue of British Vogue, of which the theme was "forces for change".
While Akech points out that her Instagram post is not to bash Who magazine specifically, as the team has apologised, she still felt the need to share her feelings publicly.
"This has deeply affected me and we need to start an important conversation," she wrote. "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."