Alek Wek (born 16 April 1977) is a Sudanese model who first appeared on the catwalks at the age of 19 in 1995, sparking a career lasting to date. She is from the Dinka ethnic group in the Sudan, but in 1991 she and some family members fled to Britain to escape the civil war between the Muslim north and the Christian south of the Sudan. She later moved to the United States.
She was born the seventh of nine children in Wau in Southern Sudan in 1977. The exact date is unknown. When she was preparing to emigrate from Sudan, her mother picked the date April 16, which occurs in the rainy season during which she was born. She says her name means "Black Spotted Cow".
Wek was discovered at an outdoor market in London in 1995 in Crystal Palace, south London, by a Models 1 scout. She first received attention when she appeared in the music video for "GoldenEye" by Tina Turner, in 1995 and from there entered the world of fashion as one of its top models. She was signed to Ford Models in 1996 and was also seen in the "Got 'Til It's Gone" music video by Janet Jackson that year. She was named "Model of the Year" in 1997 by MTV.
Amongst other things she has done advertisements for Issey Miyake, Moschino, Victoria's Secret and make-up company Clinique as well as walked the runway for high-profile fashion designers John Galliano, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Ermanno Scervino. In 2002 she made her acting debut in The Four Feathers as Sudanese princess Aquol.
Wek also designs a range of designer handbags called "Wek 1933", which are available throughout selected Selfridges department stores. The year refers to the year her father was born.
She is a member of the U.S. Committee for Refugees' Advisory Council, and is helping to raise awareness about the situation in Sudan, as well as the plight of refugees worldwide.
In 2007, she released an autobiography, entitled Alek, documenting her journey from a childhood of poverty in Sudan to the catwalks of Europe.
In Herb Ritts photographed her for a 1999 calendar in a Joanne Gair body painting that was a highlight of Gair's first retrospective.
Wek has also been a guest on Tyra banks show.