How A Sudanese Refugee Became An Indomitable Model

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Africa has some amazing talented people whether its fashion, music or art we have it. I want to see more, hear more. I want us to support each other and empower each other. I want parents/families to support their children with their dreams. We are very blessed, we are rich, I want us to be able to share our talents with the world!

There isn’t any stopping Mari Malek. Though she has experienced environments that few of us ever will, she is not a victim but a storm of resilience and empowerment. At five, Mari, with her mom and two sisters, escaped to Egypt from her home country, Sudan, which was in the midst of their second civil war. There, while her mother tirelessly worked, Mari raised her two sisters and battled the grown Egyptians who spit and threw things at them due to their dark skin.

Having survived so much loss and so much hatred, she eventually emigrated to Newark, New Jersey, living in a low-income housing complex filled with drugs, violence, prostitutes, and other problems that made the transition feel “even scarier than our home in Sudan.” After locating family in San Diego, Malek went to school in California and had a child at age 20. She eventually was asked to model and, on a whim, moved to New York to pursue fashion. There, Mari wasn’t about to stand idle while the fashion industry ripped off her truth. “Every Sudanese girl has to look like Alek Wek and every black girl has to look like Chanel Iman,” Mari says. “Fuck everybody who thinks I should suppress my identity. No! I’m gonna go off. It’s time for the world to look at one another not as a black race or a white race but as a human race.”

Mari is a rarity in her field for her humanitarian work in Sudan. As the co-founder of Southern Sudan Initiative, Inc. (a non-profit organization that simultaneously informs people about Sudan’s genocide and helps victims of it), Malek used her fame as a platform to bring light to an often ignored plight. In fact, the Sudanese transplant is widely respected for her charity work with Sudan’s “Lost boys” and “Lost girls.”

If you are starving and you only have one piece of bread, you share it with others. That’s just how it is and I think that is where my interest of philanthropy work comes from.

In an interview last year, when asked her opinions on the future of Sudan, she replied, “I am very optimistic about the future of South Sudan. I believe in us. I believe we can rise above this. Sometimes it takes for things to fall apart so things can come back together. At some point we are all going to have to step back and look beyond our egos to fix this never-ending violence and negativity. ”

Mari Malek-AMari Malek-BMari Malek-C

(Courtesy of StyleLikeU: http://stylelikeu.com/the-whats-underneath-project-2/one-woman-modeling-agency-standing-identity/

(Sabrinah Boasman: http://www.letagemagazine.com/bio-mixd-mari-malek-model-citizen/)

(Zach Sokol: http://www.vice.com/read/their-side-of-the-south-sudan-story-mari-malek-refugee-turned-supermodel)

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