Adut Akech was born on Christ­mas Day. How fit­ting then that her first Vogue Aus­tralia cover is our De­cem­ber is­sue cel­e­brat­ing the fes­tive sea­son – and her 19th birth­day, too. Happy birth­day, Adut. She is dressed in pink Schi­a­par­elli haute cou­ture and is joined by her 20-month-old baby sis­ter Ak­oul in the most joy­ous cover I think we have ever pub­lished. This cover makes me smile for so many rea­sons.

Adut is the fash­ion world’s newly crowned model su­per­nova, whose me­te­oric rise to fame saw her close the Chanel haute cou­ture show along­side Karl Lager­feld in July this year, af­ter at­tend­ing the Met Gala as a spe­cial guest of Valentino in May, and then walk 33 shows from New York to Paris dur­ing the ready-to-wear sea­son in Septem­ber. She will fea­ture in so many up­com­ing cam­paigns this sea­son that men­tion­ing them all would take up most of this let­ter, but need­less to say she has the fash­ion world at her feet.

Al­though she now lives in New York, Adut al­ways has her fam­ily in her heart, which is why it was such a priv­i­lege to bring her home to Ade­laide to cap­ture her among those she loves. This home­com­ing was made all the sweeter by Adut’s ex­cite­ment when she came into the Vogue of­fices in Syd­ney to dis­cuss the shoot be­fore­hand. She has that X-fac­tor – some­thing you can’t quite put your fin­ger on, but when you see it it’s un­de­ni­able. To pos­sess such in­tel­li­gence, ma­tu­rity and ad­mirable qual­i­ties while also re­main­ing down to earth and ded­i­cated to her fam­ily is a tes­ta­ment to her mother, Mary, and the home in which she has been brought up. It should also make Aus­tralia very proud that we can call her one of our own.

Adut grew up in the United Na­tions Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya af­ter her fam­ily fled the vi­o­lence and up­heaval in South Su­dan. Her older sis­ter, Kim, was the only child in the fam­ily to at­tend school in the camp, and she taught Adut to write. When their fam­ily moved to Ade­laide in 2008, when Adut was eight, they made up some of the 13,412 Hu­man­i­tar­ian Pro­gram visas granted that year.

It’s timely, con­sid­er­ing the neg­a­tiv­ity and stigma at­tached specif­i­cally to ‘African youths’ in the me­dia at the mo­ment, to re­mind our­selves that refugee pro­grams save and im­prove lives, and en­rich our com­mu­ni­ties. And just how im­por­tant ev­ery one of those lives – and smiles – are.

And so Vogue ar­rived at Adut’s home where her fam­ily and friends warmly greeted – and fed – the crew. We also met her best friend Bri­anna Lang, who fea­tures in these images, and vis­ited their for­mer high school. We played dress-ups, built cub­by­houses and vis­ited the fam­ily’s lo­cal salon, and the Vogue team left even more in love with Adut. I’m sure the re­sult­ing images will cap­ture your heart, too.

Vogue’s Zara Wong will also cel­e­brate her birth­day this month, just a few days af­ter Adut, but be­fore the New Year, mak­ing her a De­cem­ber baby. Her witty piece about shar­ing her birth­day week with Je­sus is se­ri­ously en­ter­tain­ing. From close hand, I can as­sure you there are worse dates than be­ing de­liv­ered be­tween Christ­mas and the new year: be­ing born on New Year’s day, which my part­ner was.

So while we are all in the mood to party and cel­e­brate, let’s en­joy.

Adut Akech, far left, pic­tured here with her younger sib­lings in ‘A star is born’, from page 150.

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