Supermodel Adut Akech feels 'insulted and disrespected' after photo mix-up


A public relations firm says it is deeply sorry for mixing up a South-Sudanese Australian model with that of a Ugandan-Australian colleague, resulting in the wrong photo being used in a magazine spread.

A major PR outlet has been left red-faced and questions are being raised over the media's editorial standards after a magazine story about a South-Sudanese Australian model featured the image of a fellow talent.

Adut Akech says she is deeply disappointed by the mix-up which saw her image replaced with that of Ugandan-Australian model Flavia Lazarus.

The case of mistaken identity was not picked up by PR representatives nor the media outlet, WHO magazine, prior to publication.

"Not only do I personally feel insulted and disrespected, but I feel like my entire race has been disrespected," Akech said.

The international supermodel believes it is a watershed moment for publishers and the fashion industry, demanding they take better care when covering the experiences of women of colour.

International model Model Adut Akech.
International model Model Adut Akech.

A spokesperson for the agency responsible for distributing the images, OPR, says the organisation is deeply sorry for the error.

“OPR Agency last week sent a file of images to WHO magazine which resulted in an incorrect image being used in an article about Melbourne Fashion Week Ambassador, Adut Akech. The error was administrative and unintentional and we sincerely apologise for this mistake and any upset it has caused to the models involved, and our client the City of Melbourne.”

Akech, who is in Australia for Melbourne Fashion Week, says the matter also highlights "how people view refugees and peoples attitude to colour in general." 

Ugandan-Australian model Flavia Lazarus, who was incorrectly pictured as Adut Akech.
Ugandan-Australian model Flavia Lazarus, who was incorrectly pictured as Adut Akech.

City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp has joined the agency in expressing her disappointment in the high-profile mix-up.

“I want to say how frustrated and deeply disappointed we are at the City of Melbourne regarding what’s occurred with our incredible MFW ambassador Adut Akech and MFW model Flavia Lazarus.”

“I will be meeting with Adut tonight, but I’d like to express my deepest apologies to her and offer whatever support we can provide," the Lord Mayor said.

WHO magazine has released a statement assuring readers it is sorry for the error and will be doing more to ensure there is no repeat in the future.

“Unfortunately the agency that set up our interview with Adut Akech supplied us with the wrong photograph to accompany the piece," the publication said. 

“Our intention was to share Adut’s inspiring story and highlight her achievements. We are committed to increasing the diversity in the pages of WHO, and arranged the interview in view of this. Hopefully, the result of our misprint will be more people talking about this issue in the industry and tackling it head-on.”

The backlash to the error has been swift, with some already offering advice on how to rectify the issue.


Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch