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.