Adut Akech and other women of colour on being misidentified by magazines

Adut Akech walks the runway at the Victoria Beckham show during London Fashion Week
Adut Akech walks the runway at the Victoria Beckham show during London Fashion Week

Supermodel Adut Akech is the most recent prominent voice to speak out against being misidentified in print magazines. Australia’s WHO Magazine that is known for celebrity news published a feature on Adut, but the main image they used for the article was model Flavia Lazarus, another model, with her name attached to it.

Adut took to her Instagram to voice her dissatisfaction with the magazine, saying she felt “very disrespected”.

View this post on Instagram

I’ve have 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. 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. 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 narrowminded that they think every black girl or African people looks the same. I feel as though this would’ve not happened to a white model. My aim for this post is not to bash Who Magazine -they have apologised to me directly - but I feel like I need to express publicly how I feel. This has deeply affected me and we need to start an important conversation that needs to happen. I’m sure that I’m not the first person that’s experienced this and it needs to stop. I’ve been called by the name of another models who happens to be of the same Ethnicity, I find it very ignorant, rude and disrespectful towards both of us simply because we know that this doesn’t happen with white models. 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 rumors. 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

A post shared by Adut Akech Bior (@adutakech) on

After receiving support from her fellow industry professional including models Duckie Thot and Selena Forrest, designer Prabal Gurung and seasoned model Bethann Hardison, Adut has spoken out again on why she thought it was important to say something publicly.  

Speaking to the Australian Associated Press, Adut says: “Honestly I didn’t care about who was going to agree with it and who was going to disagree because I know that the people that know there is a problem were going to agree with it and that’s what matters to me.”

READ MORE: Naomi Campbell opens up about still battling with racial barriers in the fashion industry

Welcoming all the support she has received she says: “We have a lot of work to do and changes need to start happening now. I feel that I have gotten my point across and now it’s time to do the work.”

The magazine and the public relations agency that organised the interview with Adut reportedly apologised for the “administrative error".

In a statement quoted by ABC OPR's says: "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."

View this post on Instagram

An important message from the M/FW team.

A post shared by Melbourne Fashion Week (@melbfashionweek) on

Magazines misidentifying women of colour is unfortunately a repeated offence. Adut’s case follows a constant misnaming of the Crazy Rich Asians cast members and journalist and activist Noor Tagouri.

In January, Vogue featured Noor Tagouri but misidentified as a Pakistani actress named Noor Bukhari. She took to Instagram as well to share her devastation.

READ MORE: When you're black your name doesn't even have to be Marijauna Pepsi for you to be a victim of racial profiling

“I have been misrepresented and misidentified MULTIPLE times in media publications - to the point of putting my life in danger. I never, EVER expected this from a publication I respect SO much and have read since I was a child,” says Noor on her Instagram page.

Vogue sadly is a repeat offender in this regard, the publication has been called out by Diet Prada, the Instagram page dedicated to ousting the fashion industry’s indiscretion, and by multiple other social media users.

Tan Kheng Hua

People magazine was called out for the same offence.

Human errors are understandable and happens to all, well, humans but these incidents of misidentifying people seem to affect black people and other people of colour in at a disproportional rate. Unfortunately, the issue not only in publications abroad, South Africa sees the same problem.

And as Adut says, we have work to do.

Have you ever been misidentified on any document? Tell us your story here.

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