QUARANTINE DIARIES 2 with : AKUOL DENG ATEM
Please can you tell us where you're from and the best thing to do there.
I’m originally from South Sudan, born in Ethiopia and grew up in Nakuru, Kenya. I have lived in many places with many different things to do. In Nakuru, where I’m currently based, I love hiking with friends especially at Menengai crater, and enjoying what nature gives. I also enjoy going to concerts and eating every kind of food except the “silverfish” for me, but most of all I love spending time with family.
How long have you been modelling for and what has been a career highlight for you?
It’s been 11 months since I started modelling. A highlight for me has been working with different amazing designers and photographers such as Sarah Burton, Olivier Rousteing, Demna Gvasalia, Rafael Pavarotti, Joan Braun etc. It feels so great and I’m grateful to have met and worked with all of them.
What was the biggest surprise for you when you first started working in fashion?
Opening my first show JUUN J in Paris during Men’s fashion week was a big flex for me. I remember being told to go back a few minutes after I did my fittings. So I did the fittings again, walk and then they told me I’m opening their show! My booker also called me and said, “Akuol you’re opening JUUN J show tomorrow!” I was happy and freaking out at the same time!
And what do you wish people knew more about when it comes to the world of fashion?
I think people should know that it’s a reflection of who we are and what we believe. You know what clothes you feel good in regardless of branding, cost, you find yourself in a better mood and in turn people will begin to see you differently. We just have to allow ourselves to be free.
Drawing from your personal experience, what have you gleaned from working in fashion?
I have learned quite a lot, especially on what I used to think of models rocking the runways with their magical looks not knowing there was a lot of behind the scenes.The most important thing you should know is that you should never get out of your apartment without your phone charger! I’m forever getting lost in cities when my phone dies! It is also really easy to spend your pay check but learning how to budget is the key. Being myself have a great impact, determination and a good attitude are necessary at all times. The little things you do counts at some point. You just have to keep it real, period!
Covid 19 has undoubtedly transformed the way the world now works, the fashion industry included. How would you like to see the industry change for the better in the future?
The fashion industry is gradually changing in many ways for the better. It would be great to hire professional Hair Stylists and to provide models with more privacy on set.
What have you discovered about yourself throughout the struggles of this year?
I have discovered that I’m really a great cook! I don’t know if this is normal but I can also stay in my room for days without talking to anyone, just with my playlist and watching lots of movies.
Who do you look up to in the industry and why?
Alek Wek inspires me in so many ways. She is the human that made me realise that you don’t have to go with the crowd if you don’t want to, and she sticks to that even now. She has so much self belief, confidence and is the ultimate dream chaser. She deserves everything she wishes in life!
Who do you think we should be watching/admiring when it comes to up and coming talent right now?
Shout out to Olivier Rousteing, his work is perfectly splendid and to Laiza Moura too.
What would your advice be to young, up and coming models now?
My advice to the young, up and coming models is that learn how to embrace yourself, show your true colours, always be who you are and never forget where you came from, respect that. Love what you do and be humble.
Lastly, with the closing of 2020, what do you hope 2021 brings?
Hopes that 2021 gives each and everyone peace of mind, a loving heart, prosperity, good vibes, good health and I just wish we don’t wrap nature in plastic this time. Big up to everyone who gonna keep pushing hard!
Akuol appears courtesy of UNO Models.