Sudanese-born Australian supermodel Adut Akech was mistaken for another black model by Who Magazine this week, sparking a racial controversy.
While Adut, 19, publicly claimed that the blunder ‘disrespected her entire race’, the reception online has been mixed, with many calling the incident ‘an innocent mistake.’
The model’s Instagram page has been flooded with comments from polarised people over the last few days.
Backlash: Sudanese-born Australian supermodel Adut Akech has been criticised online over Who magazine’s photo mix-up controversy
‘An innocent mistake,’ commented one. ‘It was not racist intent. You have gone way too far.’
Another wrote: ‘While I understand you’d be upset in these circumstances, I am sure that it is an error that had nothing to do with your ethnicity, culture, background or any malice towards you.’
‘Racism means showing prejudice or discrimination against another race due to feelings of superiority,’ explained another.
‘This situation is a human error mistaking one model for another who looks similar. They have exactly the same hairstyle and hair colour for one. This mistake isn’t racist. Get a grip!’
‘While I understand you’d be upset in these circumstances, I am sure that it is an error that had nothing to do with your ethnicity, culture, background or any malice towards you,’ wrote one
‘Racism means showing prejudice or discrimination against another race due to feelings of superiority,’ explained another
While Adut, 19, publicly claimed that the blunder ‘disrespected her entire race’, the reception online has been mixed, with many calling the incident ‘an innocent mistake’
The backlash comes after Kerri-Anne Kennerley defended Who magazine over the awkward mix-up – comparing it to editors mistaking her with 60 Minutes star Liz Hayes.
The magazine was criticised for publishing an in-depth interview with South Sudan-born model Akech – next to a photo of model Flavia Lazarus, who is also black.
While the magazine blamed an administrative error for publishing the wrong photographs on Friday, Akech has said the error is an example of racism in Australia, and said the same mistake wouldn’t have happened to a white model.
But Kennerley disagreed with Akech, saying on Studio 10 on Tuesday that it was a simple mistake and had nothing to do with racism.
The stuff-up has been blamed on an administrative error while Akech has labelled the magazine racist and said it wouldn’t have happened to a white model
‘I just think she’s [Akech] taking this way too far, if she thinks it’s all about racism … somebody just made a mistake,’ she said.
Kennerley admitted that while the error could be seen as a ‘big mistake’ – she had been mistaken for 60 Minutes journalist Liz Hayes on several occasions in different magazines.
Studio 10 co-host Angela Bishop was quick to challenge Kennerley as to whether the two mix-ups could be compared.
‘Was yours in just a social pages snap, opposed to an entire article about Adut, featuring on her success, the fact that she’s the face of Melbourne Fashion week and currently the hottest model in the world?’
WHO IS ADUT AKECH?
Adut Akech is a 19-year-old supermodel who grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya before moving to Adelaide with her family.
She was initially scouted by modeling agencies as a 13-year-old, but didn’t start her career until she was 16, when she joined prestigious Chadwick Models in Australia.
From there her career skyrocketed.
She has worked alongside some of the biggest brands in the industry, including Saint Laurent, Valentino, Calvin Klein and Tom Ford.
She is now the ambassador for the 2019 Melbourne Fashion Week.
Akech has modelled for some of the biggest brands in the world, including Prada, Miu Miu, Tom Ford and Valentino.
She also recently featured on the prestigious September cover of British Vogue, guest edited by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.
Her interview with Who magazine touched on diversity and acceptance in the fashion industry, and took a deep dive into Akech’s views on accepting refugees.
She spoke of issues close to her heart, having been born in South Sudan and raised in a Kenyan refugee camp before she and her family moved to Adelaide, which she said made the mix up all the more hard to handle.
Bishop called into question whether a mix-up of photos was excusable, considering the scale of the article.
‘If it’s a social pages photo, I can get that will happen. But when you’re doing the article specifically about this person, specifically about her achievements…’
A firm Kennerley insisted it was an innocent mistake that could not be fairly pinned to the journalist.
She said the sub-editor or artistic director’s job was to make sure the photo fit the page and that they might not have read the article to make sure the right photo was being used.
The magazine has been dragged over the coals after it published an interview with South Sudan-born model Adut Akech next to a photo of model Flavia Lazarus
An image of Flavia Lazarus (pictured) was mistakenly used in a feature piece about Adut Akech
Kennerley spoke to Studio 10 on Tuesday to say she believed it was a simple mistake and had nothing to do with racism
Host Joe Hildebrand even stepped in to support the view and said he did not agree the photo was an attack on entire culture.
‘For me it’s a bit like Cate Blanchett having a go at the cameraman who takes a shot at her dress and saying how dare you, you sexist.’
A clearly fed-up Bishop said she did not ‘equate’ it as she tried to speak over Hildebrand and Kennerley.
‘If you’re doing a story on her, it kind of matters to get the picture right.’
Model Flavia Lazarus (left) was published in the magazine when they meant to share pictures of Adut Akech (right) who they interviewed
Liz Hayes (left) and Tara Brown (right) attend the 2019 Nine Upfronts into 2018 in Sydney
The verbal stoush on screen comes after Akech slammed the magazine and called it out for racism, saying the bungle wouldn’t have happened to a white model.
‘It is racist but obviously I know it was not intentional,’ Akech told Daily Telegraph. ‘It was a mistake.’
‘But it does come across … you wouldn’t mix up two white models’ names or use another white girl.
The mishap has been blamed on an administrative error, with public relations agency OPR saying it had sent the wrong image to Who.
‘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,’ OPR said in a statement.
Akech said it was ‘not the first time I have had a racist incident happen to me in Victoria’ on ABC radio on Wednesday morning.
Speaking to Today, she said the blunder illustrated how ‘big’ a problem racism was in Australia.
‘The entire industry is improving but there is still a long way to go and I think Australia is very behind.
‘When I saw it, instantly I felt so many emotions at once. I felt disrespected, I felt hurt, you know, I felt angry.’
Strong women: Adut (top left) was one of 14 women who appeared on the cover of British Vogue’s prestigious September edition, guest edited by Meghan Markle
The verbal stoush on screen comes after Akech slammed the magazine and called it out for racism, saying the bungle wouldn’t have happened to a white model
Though Akech spoke to Today and said the blunder illustrated how ‘big’ a problem racism was in Australia
ADUT AKECH’S FULL STATEMENT
‘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
‘Who Magazine (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 narrow-minded 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.’