• International supermodel Adut Akech has shared an emotional plea on social media. (Getty Images Europe)Source: Getty Images Europe
"This has upset me, has made me angry, it has made me feel very disrespected and to me is unacceptable and inexcusable under any circumstances."
By
Samuel Leighton-Dore

26 Aug 2019 - 1:47 PM  UPDATED 28 Aug 2019 - 8:33 AM

International supermodel Adut Akech has called out those in the Australian media and fashion industries, asking them to take better care when telling the stories of women of colour.

The post came after Australia's WHO magazine published a feature interview with Akech, 19, but accompanied it with a full-page photograph of another model. The magazine instead published an image of fellow model Flavia Lazarus, reports The Age

According to the Akech, who is in Australia for Melbourne Fashion Week, the editing failure highlights the issues she'd discussed in the interview, namely "how people view refugees and peoples attitude to colour in general." 

She shared her thoughts in a post on Instagram on Sunday night. "I’ve given some deep thoughts the past few days on how to approach this situation that isn’t sitting well with me.

"For those who are not aware, last week @whomagazine (Australia) published a feature article about me. In the interview I spoke about how people view refugees and peoples attitude to colour in general. With the article they published a large photo saying it was me. But it was of another black girl."

Akech, who this month was one of the 15 'forces of change' appearing on the cover of British Vogue, edited by The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, said that although she had received an apology from WHO, the mix-up "is unacceptable and inexcusable under any circumstances.

"Not only do I personally feel insulted and disrespected but I feel like my entire race has been disrespected too and it is why I feel it is important that I address this issue. Whoever did this clearly the thought that was me in that picture and that’s not okay. This is a big deal because of what I spoke about in my interview. By this happening I feel like it defeated the purpose of what I stand for and spoke about. It goes to show that people are very ignorant and narrow-minded that they think every black girl or African people looks the same."

Akech, who has close to 500,000 followers on Instagram and appeared on three international Vogue magazine covers this month, said the glaring error "would’ve not happened to a white model" and labelled the mix-up as "ignorant, rude and disrespectful."

She wrote that it's time for the fashion and publishing industries to take care. "I want this to be somewhat of a wake up call to people within the industry.

"It’s not OK and you need to do better. Big publications need to make sure that they fact check things before publishing them especially when its real stories and interviews and not just some made up rumours.

"To those who work at shows and shoots it’s important that you don’t mix up models names. Australia you’ve a lot of work to do and you’ve got to do better and that goes to the rest of the industry."

Melbourne Fashion Week, whose PR agency supplied the photo to WHO magazine has apologised for the mix-up. 

"Both Adut and Flavia have expressed their disappointment and we support them," the statement read. "This error is unacceptable, and both Who Magazine and our public relations agency, opr, have apologised."

WHO magazine has also issued an apology. 

WHO sincerely apologises for the incorrect image that appeared in this week’s magazine,” a spokesperson for the magazine told Yahoo7 Lifestyle. “Unfortunately the agency that set up our interview with Adut Akech supplied us with the wrong photograph to accompany the piece.

“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.”

RECOMMENDED
Raising my African-Australian son in the face of racism
I want to teach my son that although racism has no excuse, he can’t educate people about his culture by reciprocating their outbursts or with violence.
My mum's sari was a subtle challenge to the racism we encountered on a cruise
Wearing a crimson-coloured sari paired with a matching, glittery hijab, my mother could not look more out of place during the ‘formal night’ on board.
Why racism is so hard to define and even harder to understand
Black people, Indigenous people, people of colour, Muslims and Jews regularly report being lectured to on racism – and what constitutes racism – by people who have never experienced it.
Minority stress theory: why racism is a mental health hazard
The toxic cocktail chipping away at a migrant's psychological well-being.