Article Sep 14, 2018

You are no longer passing

Alek Wek recalls first nude shoot: 'I was a virgin and didn't want to be naked in front of a man'

Alek Wek’s iconic 2000 Pirelli Calendar shoot nearly didn’t happen as she felt uncomfortable posing naked.

The Sudanese model, who settled in Britain as a teenager after civil war broke out in her home country, was scouted in 1995 and has gone on to enjoy more than 20 years in the fashion industry.

Among her most iconic images is the photo for the Pirelli Calendar, where she posed for Herb Ritts completely nude with her body, painted by Joanne Gair, shimmering in the light, and her hair styled into a mini spiked mohican.

“I was still a virgin and didn’t want to be naked in front of a man,” she recalled to ES Magazine. “But my agents said to me, ‘You’re good, you’re safe, and they’re going to celebrate you’.”

Alek’s other achievements include being the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle, and she has also been lauded for being the first black model who didn't conform to a Caucasian aesthetic.

Asked about the diversity in modern day fashion, the 41-year-old echoes what lots of other models have stated; that while things have got better, there's still a long way to go.

“Let’s see what happens in the next five years, in the next 10 years even,” she mused. “What has been realised is black (culture) makes a lot of money — our music, our style — and it’s a big freakin’ market. And because of social media, if you don’t put black people in your magazines, you’re gonna be exposed. You don’t find black beautiful, you’re gonna be exposed. We can’t be excited because all of a sudden we’ve seen small steps towards diversity. I think it’ll take time to see if things (in fashion) really change.’