NO: Tell our readers a little about yourself.
AA: My name is Adut Garang Atem, I am from South Sudan born in a small town in central Equatorial in South Sudan. My parents left South Sudan in 1996 for certain circumstances based on war, political and systematic oppression from the Northern part of Sudan. I was raised in South Africa. When my mum and siblings arrived at Pretoria in February 1997, my mother was scared and alone. My mum and siblings had walked for a full month across South Sudan’s hard landscapes every single step of their journey on foot, fleeing the violence and horror they had encountered more than 900 kilometers away from my birthplace. During our journey, we all witnessed the deaths of villagers and passed many corpses along our long dangerous journey to safety. In the chaos of an armed attack in our hometown – Aweil, most of my cousins became separated from their parents and siblings. They were all alone and unsure whether their family members are still alive, but my mum took the burden and took care of all of us although we had no food nor shelter and not sure whether will be able to make it out safe. I was one of approximately 30,000 who managed to escape. We found safety and some measure of relief when we crossed the border into the Northern part of Uganda and arrived at Pretoria after so many months. “ People welcomed us and asked how we felt,” My mum explained with a grateful glint in her eyes. I was always reminded of the anguish of having to flee my country every single day. I couldn’t escape the memory of what happened to my country and having to spend my childhood without a dad, whom I desperately missed to see again safe and sound.
In the face of the hardships, I continued to ensure, that I had a clear sense of what I really hoped to achieve in the future. I also realized the importance of friendships, and the potential of achieving peace through education. My mother always told us that, “ we need to return to our country, and we need to change it through education.” she says it with determination.
NO: When did you decide that you wanted to become a model?
AA: When I turned 19 years I left home and moved to Malaysia when to law school. During my second year, I thought of joining some local modeling agency in Kuala Lumpur. This was the first time I decided I could be a model. People always asked me to model when I was younger, but I’m South Sudanese. I guess in a black family it’s not really a real job, so my parents were always like, “Yeah, haha. She’ll never really do that.” I never took it seriously until I went to “DFC” with my dance team. One of the judges there told me I should consider modeling. So, I went for casting in Kuala Lumpur for basic models, one of the agents saw me in the line and he asked one of the photographers to call me, they put me in these shoes that were your typical dominatrix-inspired pointy-toed stilettos. They were so tall, and I didn’t have enough experience in heels and I couldn’t stand in them. The agent told me one thing, “fake it until you make it girl,” he told me to be confident and just play around the camera. They took my head shots and told me to go home. I knew one thing to that ‘being a model isn’t about showing people how to look like you, but being a role model is about using your freedom to show other people it’s safe to be themselves. I am not gonna lie tho, it’s not easy. I was bullied, in high school, about my skin tone, my hair, and especially my height which I have grown to love because “beauty is not in the face; beauty is in the light in the heart.” but guess what? Society creates certain expectations of the perfect experiences and many individuals set a definition of beauty for themselves. When people are unable to live up to those standards, they can easily lose confidence in themselves or feel left unworthy and ugly, which could have severe mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
NO: Do you feel the society helps women embrace their beauty?
AA: Women have been taught to compare their body types. There are signs everywhere, at every corner, flashing the words “you aren’t beauty” to every teenage girl in the globe. No matter how much self-confidence one possesses, it is almost impossible to ignore what society defines as beauty. Social media, movies, and commercials have spoon-fed girls with the idea that they can only be beautiful if they have long legs, great hair, and curves in all the right places. According to modern day society, girls should walk and talk pretty, have perfect skin, and cake on makeup; they should watch their weight and keep up with the newest trends in fashion. The question is, how does an intelligent, attractive woman in today’s society adjust to these unrealistic messages around her.? Rather than building our society on principles of physical beauty, our society needs capable minds to make the world a better place.
NO: What’s your favorite beauty trend for Spring and Summer?
AA: My favorite beauty trend for spring and summer would be a 70’s staple, the denim skirt makes for a spotlight-stealing festival my favorite. A little rough around the edges, it pairs well with a breezy blouse and a sweet-as-can-be pink trucker jacket. Round it out with a straw cross-body bag to keep my hands free (and my wallet, ID and phone safe). tennis shoes and I am ready to jam.
NO: Why did you want to become a fashion model?
AA: When I was 13 years old, I walked for a fashion show for teens. “ from the minute I stepped on the runway, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. but I’m South Sudanese. I guess in a black family it’s not really a real job, so my parents were always like, “Yeah, haha. She’ll never really do that.” but I am grateful that my parents finally gave in and I am now living my dream, studying law in Howard University and rocking runways in DMV and in New York. My grades are up that’s why they allowed me to do that…..
NO: Define a LUXE BEAUTY.
AA: “LUXE BEAUTY” Is facilitating and creating a culture that inspires and encourages men and women so they grow up with confidence and self-esteem. Doing so by establishing healthier families and relationships, strengthen global economies and everyone will benefit from it.