Sudaneseborn Ataui Deng has slowly , quietly & steadily with an all encompassing ferociousity captured the high end fashion world from the most coveted runways , to editorials and Ad. campaigns much like her countrywoman Alek Wekdid when she became the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle in 1997- six years after Ataui was born. There is a great new crop of African models blazing trails in defining their Africa- one nation at a time- models who have never forgotten their African roots and sense of responsibility to cultivating those roots for the future.
While the ubiquitous and never ending conversation amongst Black models maybe the fact that the fashion industry is often less inclusiveof them, you rarely find models like Ataui and the crop of new African model trailblazers amongst the conversation. Ataui and her fellow African models often come into the industry with completely different attitudes in knowing greater obstacles of the impossible in exclusion from people whom share their same pigmentation and often look just like them, to be focused on what is often seen as the lesser level of the impossibilities brought by humanity’s ignorance in lack of exposure because of their greater sense of what can truly happen to dreams deferred based on their own real life personal experiences amongst those whose responsibility should be and is to see that there is a path paved for the dreams of their own future to be realized. These models detour from the impossibility of industrial politics and rather focus on doing everything in their power toward toppling those hurdles & obstacles thrown in their way to stifle their dreams because they know that every achievement they accumulate will be put in the memory banks of young African girls all over the world to be able to dream bigger knowing that they have the collateral to back it up. Africa’s greatest commodity is its people and trailblazing women continue to honor the legacy of the great women who came before them by setting the example and building future greats one achievement at a time.
As much as we spend time talking about the obstacles and hurdles of Black inclusion in a White dominated industry, we should spend just as much time and energy cultivating the importance of achievements, expansion and betterment in and of our own industries and people. Why should Alek Wek whom at her time was such a different model of Black beauty to the global fashion industry be introduced to the world on the cover of Elle instead of those magazines like Ebony and Essence who claim to be their global Black counterpart- who often follow suit after mainstream as defined for them what “Black” is beautiful.
“Every model that basically is a model in NY is there because she is a beautiful girl, but personality counts quite a bit- it sometimes is what distinguishes 1 girl from another. This girl really has that personality & importance. There is not 1 person that doesn’t meet her that she doesn’t immediately charm. Anywhere she goes whether it’s in the industry, whether she’s outside on the street, whether she’s on the train- people immediately radiate toward her, they start up conversations with her- she’s very open to everybody…I laugh sometimes because you’ll be in a taxicab & all of a sudden the taxi cab driver starts talking to her…” This is Africa -the rest of the world is just catching on 2 Authentic African beauty & personality….
“Dark-skin toned girls who are younger than me write me [saying] how they feel comfortable with themselves because of what I’m doing. That makes me happy because I understand where they’re coming from. That’s another reason why I’m doing it [modeling]. I feel like a role model, kids looking up to me sending all of these nice messages how they feel about themselves… telling me keep doing what I’m doing… it’s really helping most of them… I have girls 12 years old writing me and I am like Wow!”
Ataui Deng’s Career Highlights
3 November, 1991 Born in Khartoum, Sudan
Immigrates to San Antonio, Texas
Signs with Trump Management in New York
Debuts on the New York runways for the spring Jeremy Laing, Kai Kuhne, L’Wren Scott, Proenza Schouler, and Zac Posen shows in New York
Jeremy Kost films Deng backstage at Zac Posen for New York magazine Video»
Skips Milan and Paris Fashion Week to finish school in Texas
Steven Meisel requests Deng
Walks the fall African Fashion Collective and Christian Siriano shows in New York
Models the resort Zac Posen presentation in New York
Appears in Teen Vogue editorial, photographed by Arthur Elgort
Chadwick Tyler photographs Deng for the fall cover of Lurve
Walks the fall Malandrino, Rosa Cha, and Sophie Theallet shows in New York
Models for the fall Catherine Malandrino presentation in New York
Appears in two editorials for V
Closes the spring Lanvin show in Paris, alongside Ajak, Jeneil Williams, Melodie Monrose, and Jourdan Dunn
Appears in Harper’s Bazaar editorial, photographed by Daniel Jackson
Closes the spring Hermes show in Paris; also walks for Christian Dior