by Ali Berman
Categories: Causes, Fashion, People
Tags: .
Photo: Flickr/Eduardo Sciammarella

Sudanese model Alek Wek knows what it feels like to be hungry. So do many of her fellow models. But the difference is, Alek never chose to be hungry as a child growing up in Southern Sudan, while many in the modeling world choose to be hungry to maintain a certain weight.

Wek has walked the runway for Chanel, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein to name a few, but her upbringing certainly wasn’t one where fashion took the main stage. She put together a hunger diary for Newsweek and talked about her childhood before she left for London at age 14 as a refugee. As a child she and her family stayed in their home and survived on the food grown in their yard: vegetables, grains and peanuts. As Wek wrote, “To leave home meant the risk of rape, or kidnapping, or death.”

When she moved to London and was discovered by the fashion world, the newly minted model found a very different kind of relationship with food. She wrote, “In this world, I found, many people were hungry too, but for different reasons. They wanted their bodies to look a certain way, whether their bodies were meant to or not. They chose not to eat.”

Now living in the USA, Wek notes yet another strange way that people consume food. One of excess. The model wrote, “Today, I live in the U.S., where restaurants serve huge portions on even huger platters, and people are tempted to eat too much. Many live to eat, instead of the other way around. In restaurants in my Brooklyn neighborhood, I always ask for a doggie bag, to bring the leftovers home. My ex-boyfriend suggested more than once that I cut this out, as he found it embarrassing. (Perhaps that’s why he is no longer my boyfriend.) I told him, ‘What’s embarrassing is that I should have so much more than others.'”

These three very different perspectives on food make the model a great person to be able to talk about food issues and hunger around the world. As an advocate for the United Nations’ refugee agency, Wek is now visiting school children in her community to talk about famine and get kids to start “thinking globally.” She hopes to start skyping with youth around the world to tell her story and talk about hunger.

To read Wek’s full post, go to The Daily Beast.

About Ali Berman

Ali Berman is the author of Choosing a Good Life: Lessons from People Who Have Found Their Place in the World (Hazelden) and Misdirected (Seven Stories Press). She works as a humane educator for HEART teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. Her published work can be found on her website at aliberman.com. In early 2012 Ali co-founded flipmeover, a production company with the mission to use media to raise awareness of social issues.

View all posts by Ali Berman →
  • http://herwinsvegancafe.blogspot.com/ herwin

    nothing wrong when people go hungry voluntarely, :-) people do it for various reasons including fasting for relicious reasons, ethical reasons, and for keeping the body weight they want. Its self countrol of your body, the oposite of glutony.

    Doggy bag at the restaurant ? Thats very cool. :-) lets hope that will become the fashionale thing to do in the new year .

  • http://www.africa.com/blog/blog,africa_style_daily_nykhor_paul_models_formara_hoffman_,526.html Sudan Fashion

    Sudanese models are really lighting up the catwalks more and more. There is a new gal to look out for – Nykhor Paul. We just had a piece on her with Africa Style Daily. Beautiful!