Alek Wek (born 16 April 1977) is a South Sudanese British model who first appeared on the catwalks at the age of 18 in 1995, sparking a career lasting to date. She is from the Dinka ethnic group in South Sudan, but in 1991 she and some family members fled to Britain to escape the civil war in Sudan. She later moved to the United States.
She was born the seventh of nine children in Wau in Sudan (now South Sudan) in 1977. 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 born to her mother (b. 1946), a housewife, and her father Athian Wek (1933-1985), an education official. Alek Wek has stated that physically, she resembles her father, who also had unusually long limbs. Athian Wek had once broken his hip in a bicycle accident; his hip was repaired with metal pins. When the civil war broke out in Wau in 1985, the Wek family had to flee from both rebel and government forces. Long periods of walking caused Athian Wek's hip to get infected, and upon the family's return to Wau, he became paralyzed and endured a hemorrhage. He died in the hospital of Khartoum.
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